Sunday, October 30, 2011
Four is a good number. Round and compatible. In a dog's life, four is no longer puppy—even for a golden. After many months of thinking perhaps he would never soften into legendary golden mellowness, one more time, he's fooled us. Four is the perfect number for him.
Toby is still playful. He loves his walks. He gets neurotically focused when we play ball in the back yard. He offers toys for tugging.
He is still self-possessed. He does nothing without a reason, never just out of obedience. He chases squirrels, barks at deer both real and imagined, and often decides he'd like to go outside in the middle of the night. No is not an answer he understands.
But more than anything now, he's affectionate. Finally, he's become something resembling the dog we thought we wanted. He frets if one of us comes home late, and grins with glee when the missing person finally arrives. After two years of having me home mostly full time, this fall has been hard for him. When I am home now he'll sprawl where I have to step over him, or follow me around and do his head-bury in my legs every chance he gets.
My birthday is Saturday. Sixty years ago in a hospital in Spokane, I was born to a nineteen-year-old girl already divorced from my father. While she didn't pick me, and her life definitely was not following the path of her dreams, she loved the baby who was me.
The girl I became was not what my mom expected or even understood. Outspoken. Curious. Fearless. Always asking questions and frustrated if the answers didn't satisfy. A nose for truth and not-truth. Challenging. Strong-willed. Impatient. Everything she was not.
And by the time I had mellowed enough to reach beyond the walls we both erected to survive our relationship, she was lost behind hers. I wonder sometimes, even now, if there might not have been a way for her to have found her way back to love.
Sixty is a good number. Round and compatible. Someone said recently that when we turned fifty it was easy to still believe we had half our life to go. It's not out of the realm of possibility to live to one hundred. That's not as easy to rationalize at sixty. One hundred and twenty seems neither possible nor desirable. I've spent this last year knowing it was coming, and uncertain how it would feel. It turns out sixty is the perfect number for me.
Like Toby, I still possess all those same qualities from my youth. And, like Toby, more than anything I've become the human version of a loyal and affectionate dog. I'm ready to be here, and eager for the adventure that is this next leg of my journey. Full of gratitude to have arrived healthy, surrounded by love, and able to love. Grateful for dreams demanding fulfillment. Joyfully grateful to be sharing this birthday season with Toby. My gift. My buddy. My teacher.