Slice of Life Day 5 of 31: Journeys (my March theme)
On Tuesday morning during my solo trip to San Antonio, I arose early to do my daily writing (Palindromic Poems for 2-22-2022 with my Open Write group at ethicalela.com) before Ubering over to La Villita, the meeting point for my tour into Texas Hill Country. I noted in the ticketing purchase that the tour had been cut back from a maximum of 14 people to 8 people, so I was even more pleasantly surprised when I arrived to see that there were only 3 of us signed up to go. I met Suzanne and Laura from Denver, Colorado at the designated spot and then our tour director arrived to take us to our first stop: Luckenbach, Texas, about 30 minutes outside of the city. We pulled out onto the freeway, and those awkward silences after introductions began a few minutes into the drive, where each of us was finished asking what we’d done on our trip so far and thinking of the next thing to say.
That’s when my phone rang.
I saw it was Dad. I almost didn’t answer, but thought the better of it – in case there was an emergency. We weren’t too far into the tour for me to be dropped off and catch an Uber back if necessary. So I answered with, “Hey, I’m on a tour, can I call you back?”
“NO! No, you can’t,” Dad said. There was a pause. “You need to talk to your brother. We’re at the vet. I’ve got you on speaker.”
My heart dropped. It was the call I’d been dreading, only I hadn’t expected it to come from Dad. And I sure hadn’t expected it to come in a van filled with awkward silences with two fellow tourists and our tour guide.
I felt their eyes on me as I tried to remain nonchalant and unemotional, trying to fight off the tears that welled. “I’m so, so sorry,” I said to those in the room at the vet on speaker, “he’s lived such a good life. It’s so hard to say goodbye. What a good boy he has been – – so blessed, and oh, how he has blessed us.”
I heard sniffles, and I cut the conversation short, feeling bad about the awful timing for the people in the van with me on a tour to enjoy the scenery and create beautiful memories and feeling bad about the awful timing for my family gathered at the vet to be with my brother as they put Feivel to sleep.
My new Colorado friends were looking at me for answers when I hung up, in that curious way that even complete strangers need to know what crisis is happening. “I’m sorry, y’all, that was my dad calling because my brother is having to put his dog down right now, and we are all very close – – I spared you the special voice, but I needed to say goodbye one last time.”
The driver shook his finger toward the backseat passenger side of the van where I was seated and ordered in his thick Spanish accent, “No. You call him back and do the special voice!” in the same way a mother scolds a misbehaving child. The ladies from Colorado were nodding in agreement, sniffling, insisting I do the special voice. I called Dad back, grateful to be among people who understood the sacredness of these moments.
Dad put me back on speaker again. In my special voice, I said, “Hey there, Farfel (my nickname for him) , it’s Nanta” (Ken’s name for me, a blend of Aunt, Nana, and Santa, since I’m more generous at Christmas than any other time of the year).
Ken said Feivel lifted his head in recognition of my voice. I continued. “You’ve been such a good boy, and when you get across the Rainbow Bridge, you come on back to the Funny Farm, where Poppy and I will be waiting for you to roam around and be with us there. We’re going to miss you, buddy. We love you. Sleep tight.”
The ladies were both teary-eyed, one fanning her face and chest with her hand, and so was the driver – a very large man with a teddy bear heart.
Ken somberly agreed, holding it together as well as he could, his voice breaking, “He will definitely be a spirit on the Funny Farm.”
And that was that. All the pain of what the vet believed to be a cancerous mass that had become a blockage was numbed with a relaxation shot before he administered the shot that opened the pool for the merciful angel taking a night swim in the vial of sodium pentothal to bring our sweet boy painless, endless sleep. I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that my mother was waiting for him to jump straight into her arms and carry him over to the other side. She and my father, both devoted animal lovers, are the reason my brother and I got a double DNA dose of dog-loving chromosomes. In fact, once we’d grown up and moved out, we were not surprised to find that our portraits on the bookshelf had been replaced by their two dogs, Georgia and Mullie.
13 1/2 year old Feivel had been born on Ken’s front porch on 18 acres in rural Concord, Georgia, named for the little mouse in An American Tail: Feivel Goes West because he bore strong resemblance to the character. The name Feivel, of English origin, means “God assists.” He was a good Christian dog – a devout Baptist as best we could tell, the way he loved a homemade casserole.
He was the epitome of diversity in all of dogdom. “Weimarauzer was my term for his breed,” Ken explained. “His dad was a Weimy, and mom was a Schnauzer with a touch of Yorkipoo. His German heritage was always at odds with the French and English influence. Kind of like history. Even his French and English were in conflict.”
The French and English cities of Charles Dickens’ most famous first line were ringing out in Weimarauzerese translation- dogs bring the best of times, dogs bring the worst of times. And oh, the pain of goodbye at the end is among the worst of all the times we ever live.
A few miles later, the driver played the song for our first stop on the tour as we rode, and I let the lyrics soothe my aching heart……”Out in Luckenbach, Texas, ain’t nobody feelin’ no pain.”
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.