There's something about the day I decide to put up our Christmas decorations each year. I get excited initially - I LOVE how our house looks when it's festive - cozy, colorful, magical, even. But the process to get it like that, has become a cathartic release for me, and I don't know if I block it out after-the-fact or what (see last year's blog post on the exact same day)... but yesterday was that day for me. I put on my "Holiday Hipster" Pandora radio station, and started taking the plastic bins off our garage shelves. I decided to not get EVERYTHING out this year. The garlands, the table-top decor, and the tree, of course, but not all the little knick-knacky stuff. All of a sudden I felt this insane pressure to get it all done before the kids got home. I wanted them to experience the magic the second they walked in the door. I felt bad for the mood I was in before school. I was tired, hormonal, un-caffeinated, and all of a sudden unsatisfied with their level of productivity around the house - not practicing piano every day, not reading extra books, not keeping the playroom clean, etc. I took away Monday-Thursday iPad privileges, and told them we were going to revamp the chore list that they CLEARLY do not read on a daily basis. Not my finest hour, but the truth (which I told them after school) was that Mommy is a little overwhelmed emotionally, and I unleashed on them - so I apologized for it.
It's that time of year, sure - I miss my Dad of course, but the pain on my heart this Christmas is due to the fact that this will be Forrest's last Christmas season here on Earth. His prostate cancer is started to take it's toll. His back legs barely work. He hasn't walked with us to school in the morning for about two weeks now - he just can't keep up at the pace we need him to, and he doesn't have much desire to even hike up the hill that leads out of our street. He wears a makeshift "ninja belt" - a cut-up T-shirt with a maxi pad because he is a bit incontinent. His bodily functions are a chore, and there are some days when he's laying on his bed and just looks like he is "over it." But then there are the moments, like the cuddle sessions on the couch, or when we lift him up to sleep in our bed at night with us, that it feels like nothing's wrong. He still loves to eat, he just has a smaller appetite. And when the kids' piano teacher Paul comes over, you would never know that anything is wrong, he gets so excited. Solon and I both know we are holding on to those moments to justify keeping him around longer. But I realized this past weekend that that's not fair to him. So I got the decorations up, listening to Christmas music that all of a sudden just felt so depressing, as Forrest slept on his bed behind me. Forrest loves the Christmas tree - I have pictures throughout the years of him sitting on our (HIS) red couch, admiring the tree - and I want him to enjoy one last tree. I made some salt-dough ornaments and pressed his paw print into them, which he did NOT enjoy, but he has been such an integral part of our life for 12 years - I had to do something. I FaceTimed with my Mom, and we had a good cry. This is a hard time of year for her. Christmas was Dad's favorite. And it makes her sad to see her daughter sad, so we let it all out...
When Solon got home, we looked at our very full December calendar. How do you pick a day to say good-bye? Between the after-school classes I'm teaching, piano lessons and gymnastics, Quincy's birthday, and Christmas? This weekend? No way. Too soon. I'm not ready. Next week? Right before Quincy's birthday - wouldn't that be cruel? Is two weeks too long? Will Forrest be really hurting by then? So many reasons to consider... We decided on a date, but took the night to sleep on it. After everyone went to bed, I sat on Forrest's red couch with his head in my lap. The only light in the room, came from the mix of old twinkle lights and new LED's on my tree, and a single strand that hung on our fireplace. I stroked his ears as we sat there, and told him that I was going to make the next couple weeks special for him. Lots of snuggles, lots of treats, sushi for lunch on his last day. So now we have to tell the kids. They have known this was coming since June, but back then, it felt so far away. I decided to tell them on the walk home from school today. I had been crying all day, and I needed some fresh air. I picked the kids up, feeling a little embarrassed with myself as I passed the front of the school, where earlier this morning I had burst into tears TWICE when talking with friends who are both dog owners. (Sorry Phil and Chiaty)
Quincy asked me how my day was, and I replied, "Oh, it was okay..."
"What do you mean, 'Just okay'?" Quincy asked me curiously.
I thought to myself that now was just as good a time as any, so I answered, "I'm sad because I made an appointment for Forrest's last day."
"What do you mean, Forrest's last day, Mom?" Paloma wanted to know, but was cut off by Quincy, who simply asked, "When Mom? What day?"
I answered completely, "A nurse will come to our house on Saturday, December 16th at 3pm. She will stay with us for a little while until we are ready to let him go. She said she would put a blanket over him so we wouldn't see the needle. The first medicine will put him in a deep sleep. The second medicine will rapidly turn his body off. It will just look like he's sleeping when he takes his last breath. He won't feel anything but peace," I assured them.
Quincy looked at me and said, "I'm glad I'll still be able to snuggle with Forrest on my birthday, Mom." And then, Paloma burst into tears and sobbed (LOUDLY) for 2 blocks. It was rough. But I told her it was okay to cry. I had been crying all day, and when our minds and bodies need to cry, it's best to get all the tears out.
Since writing is my therapy, I sat down to get this all out of my system. This is another one of those moments that one day we'll look back on to see how we powered through, but I've got to say, I don't know which pain is worse. The pain that results from an unexpected death, or the agony of counting down the days until someone takes their last breath? It's BRUTAL. Forrest has been with us 12 years - since the beginning of our marriage. If you still don't understand just how much we love this dog, I'll share this: When I was pregnant with Quincy, a large percentage of people we know told us that once the baby arrives, we wouldn't be able to dote on Forrest as we had pre-kids. "You won't have as much time for him. You'll see," they said. Nine years later, Forrest is still the first one fed every day, my co-pilot on long car rides, Solon's weekend nap-buddy, and the last one to get my affection at night. He is our son. And we will miss him immensely.
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Some joy from the last few months
Camping fun with our AWESOME neighbors
Just delivered cookies and cards to the
Piedmont First Responders
Piedmont First Responders
who helped out with the Sonoma County fires
Halloween Fun - WonderWoman, (Kid) Deadpool, Frankenstein and his Bride
Thanksgiving with family down in Campbell
THE BEST DOG IN THE WHOLE WORLD
Forrest a.k.a. Daddy Boy a.k.a. Old Man Gully
Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers on December 16th. We will need all the strength we can get.