Home For Mom

Photo: Rob Bye
Photo: Rob Bye


While I lived in Ontario for a year, I came back home every month. It was not for a boy, but rather for my mom. She has terminal lung cancer. She won’t do chemotherapy. At the point where she was, there was no use- it could have killed her rather than saved her. Yes, her slow demise is really painful, and it’s been on my mind every day for more than a year.

I learned that my mom was sick in February 2014. Even before that, I had a feeling that the news would probably be gloomy because my mom warned me that she was going through a series of tests.

I was also worried because in December 2013, we went for a four-day trip in Quebec City and I realized that she was more tired than usual. She was dragging. She needed more coffee breaks.

I was fearing the worst while hoping that it would not be lung cancer. I’ve had the intuition that she was going to die from lung cancer for years. It was not a death wish but rather a strong intuition. I also have an amazing yet disturbing intuition, and it’s mostly right- precisely what makes it disturbing.

My mother smoked cigarettes for years. When we lived together, she would go outside, mostly, or smoke under the hood to mask odours. Sometimes, when I would come back from my dad’s place, she would have had opened all the doors and windows to ventilate the apartment. She would also often try to hide this because she knew that smoking in the apartment, and in general, was not a good idea. Still, she kept doing it, despite my many pleas. I even made no smoking signs in a heart-shape, imitating a Health Canada campaign from the 1990s.

When my mother told me about her illness, I was devastated. I kept it inside and went to my father’s place to pick something up. It was towards the end of the afternoon that I started crying and I couldn’t stop. At the same moment, my father and his girlfriend came back. They were shocked, but not as much as I was. They dropped me off to yoga class. I went because I thought that it would change my mind. I spent half the class crying, to finally breathe. 

A couple of days after this, I got a call: I was accepted in the master of journalism at the University of Western Ontario.

I felt guilty. I didn’t want to leave my mother in Montreal, yet I knew I had to go. One of my dreams was coming true. It was my second and last attempt to get into one of the few master of journalism programs in the country.  Again, my intuition was kicking in, this time telling me that I had no choice but to go.

Discussing it with my dad, he understood my dilemma. ‘‘There are times in life where you don’t know what is waiting for you, but you know that you have to go,’’ he said.

My mom wanted me to go, telling me that I had to. She didn’t want me to feel guilty. That being said, I also always felt that I had to be back as often as possible to Montreal to visit, and I wanted to. 

In February 2014, the doctors gave my mother six months to a year. I did feel guilty at times for choosing my future over my mom, yet I didn’t choose. I managed to give as much as I could to both. It was not easy because it required tremendous energy. I often felt discouraged, anxious, angry or sad, but I did it.

In the months prior to graduating, I applied to a bunch of jobs all around the country, not knowing what was coming up. I would have loved to move to a new city, probably Toronto, get a high-paying job, find a new apartment and buy new clothes. I would have loved to start anew. I would have loved to become a real adult, to enter middle class, to reap the fruits of my labour. 

Despite my lofty goals, it’s not what life has in the cards for me right now.

On Easter, I had breakfast with my mom and she told me the result of her last scan: she has six months left to live. While she has exceeded her original life expectancy, I know that she won’t this time. It’s more or less six months.

Over coffee, my mother told me that it was fundamental that I’m there for the end of her life. I knew it, but it confirmed it. Time is finite and life happens and then it’s done or as Nas would say, ”life’s a bitch and then you die.” Time with loved ones is precious and it’s probably the most important thing in the world. It’s something that can easily be forgotten in this individualistic and workaholic society.

I’m my mother’s only child and closest family member. While the responsibility can be a burden, it’s also an opportunity to prioritize what is really important. In a nutshell, life and death. In a word, love.

My mother is not the easiest person to take care of. She suffers from borderline personality disorder, which means that emotions are heightened and days unpredictable. Add to that the physical suffering that is worsening as days go by.

As she outlived her life expectancy, she stayed seemingly healthy for months, although inside she was losing every day. She doesn’t seem as healthy anymore. She coughs constantly, and it is harder for her to go to public spaces or to walk outside.

On Mother’s Day, we were walking on Blvd St.Laurent and she was coughing so much that a 20-something guy gave me a concerned glance. I will have to get used to those glances now.

As much as I love my mom, I hate life for giving me such a hard time. My favourite aunt (her sister) already died from cancer in 2005. Why is it happening all over again?

I want my family to be healthy and I want to get on with my life. But then, I’m conscious life is not only about me and the most important thing right now is to take care of my mom.

I find the situation increasingly difficult as her health is disintegrating. I have a guy friend who went through a similar situation with his mother and he told me that despite it being the hardest thing, it is very important to be there constantly, especially in the last moments.

It is fucking painful. I want my mom to revert back to a healthier state. Instead, I’m seeing her lose strength as the days go by. She is scared, she is sad, she is constantly living the full spectrum of human emotions.

I’m trying to ease her pain and help her out as much as I can. I help her clean, I bring her food, I listen to her talk, I record her voice so I can keep memory files.

It’s difficult to know that for me, my mother will disappear soon.

I will never see her become an old lady with a full head of grey hair. She will never meet my future children. That is one of the hardest realizations to have.

Also, the worst is that everyone wants to believe that things are looking up, that she will heal. She will not. She will lose all of her energy. She will die. So many people ask me dumb questions about her state, about whether or not she is doing chemotherapy. People hope for the best. I understand. But the best doesn’t always happen. 

My mother’s illness has made me realize everything that she has given to me, everything that she passed down to me in my lifetime. I wouldn’t be as smart, critical, funny, sensitive and artsy if I had another mom. Despite her difficult childhood, she gave me everything that she did not have. She worked hard at being a mom. She worked hard at being an artist. She gave me everything. The list is infinite.

I will never forget that. I will never forget her. And when I eventually have children, I will make sure to tell them who their grandmother was.

 

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A Good Man is Hard to Find

olivia-palermo-johannes-huebel-lifestyle-mirror-1

‘‘From the way that people have always talked about your heart being broken, it sort of seems to be a one-time thing. Mine seemed to break all the time.’’ ~ Heather O’Neill, Lullaby for Little Criminals

The other Friday, I met with my friend to hang out and we had a lot to talk about. She told me about what happened with her since the last time that we saw each other. She had slept with a young man and the two became a little more than cordial, but when she left to visit Toronto she never heard from him again. I was furious when she told me. “Why do guys act like this?” I said. “It’s like everything’s good and all of a sudden they disappear.”
“I know that I shouldn’t have given it to him in the first place,” she said. “But I like sex!”

Why it is the woman who should withhold sex, even if she feels like it? Unfortunately, I have found that there are a lot of assholes out there, a large number of which are disguised as great guys.

They say that three’s a trend. In my case, the last three boys I have been involved with have all pretended that I didn’t exist afterwards. And all of those guys were friends of friends and seemed like good guys upfront. Clearly, I was mistaken.

The first guy was my friend’s roommate. In August, I went to her birthday party and ended up spending a lot of time with him on his balcony. It was raining outside, and I was still hanging out, putting off going home in the rain without an umbrella even though I lived two street corners away. He kissed me after everybody left. And one thing led to another…
When I left the apartment the next morning, I felt pleasurably high because it had been months of abstinence. When I went home, it was still raining, but the warm drops felt good.
We spoke a week later after we both came back to town. He gave me his phone number so that we could meet each other later that night. I tried to contact him a couple of times, to no avail.
The next day, he finally wrote me back, blaming his allergies and the fact that his friend was heartbroken. ‘‘Even the girl at the pharmacy laughed at me this morning.’’ I accepted his excuse. A day later, I hadn’t heard back from him and our time was running out. I had to leave Montreal and so did he.
Slightly pissed off, I confronted him (something I usually avoid doing on the Internet, but hey, I was tipsy and frustrated). He repeated the same excuses over and over again. I told him that I understood, but that we only had two days left to see each other. He never answered, and has been travelling around the country ever since.

I met the second guy at a college bar in London, Ontario. Kevin was the friend of a friend of a friend, and he was sitting there with a nice shirt on (somewhat a rarity in the small-scale city). We spoke for a bit and he didn’t waste any time to flirt with me. He gave me a glass of beer, we danced, and he held my waist. I was practically sober but the attention was appreciated. I remember thinking that it was too easy to be true, and unfortunately it was.

After two hours of sweaty dance moves, I wanted to leave and so did he. We left the crowded bar and on the street, he asked me if I wanted to come over. I took a few seconds to answer because I wasn’t sure. And frankly, I should have said no. When it comes to boys, my new rule is: when in doubt, say no. But at that point, I felt like I could do with some company, so I said yes.

The apartment itself should have been a warning sign. It was a total bro pad, with tacky posters of New York City adorning the white living room walls. There were no books in sight, and when I see none, I always think about that brilliant John Waters quote: ‘‘If you go to somebody’s house and they don’t have books, don’t fuck them.’’ An excellent piece of advice.

Anyhow, I was sitting next to Kevin on his couch, and we were having a good talk about sports, our lives and languages. He was telling me that my English was excellent, better than a great number of Anglophones, despite it being my second language. He probably said that to get into my pants. Again, I should have left, but I stayed. We went to his bed. It was nice to feel his body warmth, but I didn’t want to have sex with him. When he started getting more intense, I stopped him in his tracks.

“I would prefer not to sleep with you. Last time I slept with someone it didn’t go down so well.”
“But I want you,” he said.
So I gave in. I shouldn’t have. I gave in because his dick was hard and the blood flow was rushing to his head, making him lose focus. He wasn’t even good in bed.
The next day, I left bright and early. ‘‘You’re gonna call me, right?’’ I asked insecurely as I was leaving, to which he nodded. But he never said yes.

A couple of hours later, angst grew on me and I intuited that he would not call. I started playing “Fuck and Run” by Liz Phair over and over again. It comforted me in my sadness. ‘‘I didn’t think this would happen again, with or without my best intentions,’’ she sings. Sigh. I felt silly and regretful, but it was over with and there was nothing I could do but wait. I wasn’t that much into him, but I still needed to talk to him again. I realized that I can’t do one-night stands anymore. I need to see the person again to have a sense of closure. But he never called.

I hate when men suddenly ignore women, especially if they said that they’ll call or that we’ll hang out. It pisses me off even more when they push for sex, and then pretend that they don’t know your name. I’m not saying that people should marry everyone they sleep with, but being respectful and honest goes a long way. As my friend Roseline said, ‘‘they’re not able to realize that their acts impact others.’’

The third man initially rejected me, as if the red flag wasn’t large enough. But a month later, back in Montreal, he added me on Facebook. Clearly puzzled, I accepted and started an online conversation because I just didn’t get it. We chatted for a bit, he told me that I was funny and he invited me out for a drink.

I went to meet him at his place and we talked on his couch. We were both a little shy, but my shyness is manifested in more chatter. We were wondering where to go so I suggested a bar up the street for the dim lights and the good music. We had two beers, and we each paid a round, which was another red flag. When the waiter came with the second round, I counted 1,2,3 in my head before taking my wallet out. I looked at him and he was looking down.

Most women I know think that men should pay on first dates. A philosophy teacher once told my class that men should pay on first dates because of women’s inherent biological intuition. If a man pays on the first date, it shows that he can provide and can be trusted for the long term. A theory I adhere to.

But back to the date. Our conversation was flowing. He was smart yet cynical, and highly attractive. I was asking him questions, trying to pierce his mystery. We left the bar, smoked a joint in the street and he held my hand because I was having trouble walking in my heels after all of this. It was romantic.

We hung out in his room under a red light, talking and kissing. Because of my two previous experiences, I didn’t want to sleep with him on the first night. (And thank God I didn’t.) I told him that the two guys I had previously slept with didn’t call me back.
‘‘Poor little one,’’ he replied with a smirk on his face. I could not interpret whether this was empathetic or misogynist, but I thought that he understood how I felt.
He was sweet and sexy and held me for most of the night.

The next morning he told me that he didn’t sleep well.
‘Why?’’ I wondered.
‘‘Because you were in my bed,’’ he replied with a smile.
He was in bit of a grumpy morning mood. I was annoying him simply by touching his face. I finally got him out of the bed a little after noon. I asked him for a coffee and told him that I would be on my way because I had a friend to meet and I was already way behind schedule. We sipped coffee and orange juice while listening to an up-and-coming electro band. We kissed for a good two minutes before I left.

I went home with butterflies in my stomach. Two days later, I was still thinking about him and so I asked if we would see each other again before my departure to Ontario. ‘‘Let’s hang out when you’re back,’’ he said.

I was coming back a month later, and our future date seemed like a distant dream for all of October. I spent the month obsessing about him, stalking him on social media, re-playing our date in my head over and over again. I felt sick many times throughout the month, as if my body was telling me that something was wrong.

I didn’t feel any trust. I was suffering from his indifference and from my romantic ideals. I was holding on to something that didn’t exist. When I’m playing ‘‘How will I know?’’ by Whitney Houston over and over again and I’m singing it at the top of my lungs, I know that I’ve gone too far.

I complimented him on his blog via Facebook chat once. He replied two days later, brushing it off, not saying thank you. Then, three weeks later, I wrote to him because I was coming back to Montreal. I just mentioned that I was in town. No reply.

Love mixed with social media obviously adds to the lethal cocktail of dating in 2014. The entitlement generation I am a part of ignores each other more often than not and fails to make plans (or cancels them) on the regular. Friends do that to friends, lovers do that to lovers, and strangers do that to strangers. So that’s also part of the problem, and it’s not only about women. Two of my guy friends recently protested when I spoke about the issue. They said that things like this happen to them as well.

Eventually we connected and he replied that he was willing to out for a coffee. I answered and tried to arrange a time, but he never agreed.

It becomes stressful to communicate when you witness the object of your affection online on Facebook. Talking to him too much could kill things quickly, but not talking to him could lead to nothing at all. I’ve had endless conversations with my best friend about how e-communication is tricky. Online chat traps us. ‘‘What should I type next?’’ we wonder to each other in various states of despair.

The problem with silent treatments is that it drives the other person insane. It happened to me a couple times before, and in most cases, I’ve had the opportunity to put guys back in their places. They have apologized because they have realized that their behaviour was stupid. They came to understand that silent treatments are awful. Indeed, they are a form of psychological violence and manipulation.

A couple of nights ago, I was watching a panel on the CBC. They were talking about how ‘‘women are afraid of coming forward’’ after being assaulted. I would argue that it’s the same with women who have been wronged: they are afraid to speak up.

If they do, they will likely be portrayed as crazy, sentimental and manipulative. I have been discouraged to speak up many times. My friend Kyle told me not to write to Kevin and to ‘‘spend your energy on your new guy.’’ Look how that turned out.

On the one hand, it is true that spending energy on a loser is a waste of time. On the other hand, if nobody speaks up, everyone keeps treating each other like garbage and the world loses its humanity, one cold heart at a time.
Too many people prefer to pretend that everything’s cool or to ignore each other when they could be having a 10-minute conversation instead. It only requires a little courage and balls, something that many guys seem to miss. As Lily Allen sings, ‘‘forget your balls and grow a pair of tits, it’s hard out here for a bitch.’’

That being said, I’m conscious that not all boys are like this. I know that there are many wonderful men out there who know how to treat women like human beings and I have plenty of them around me.

That being said, it’s difficult not to be pissed off and sad. As always, I end up taking time off to be properly single, but loneliness creeps back in. The need for affection and intimacy strikes back.

Whatever happens, I’m going to take things slowly now. I don’t want to feel too invested, fooled or heartbroken for someone who can’t even care to reply. I know that I’ll eventually meet someone, but at the same time, I’m under no false impressions. I know that a good man is hard to find.


Photo: Olivia Palermo and Johannes Huebl for lifestylemirror.com

Girl’s Best Friend

Mags Trell Sleep
Maggie is my shih tzu. My girl. My geriatric mostly blind, deaf and legitimately demented girl. I love her to bits, which makes my sentiment terribly difficult to admit and even harder to deal with: I’m prepared to say goodbye because I’m running on empty.

I don’t like taking care of her anymore, watching her walk around in circles and listening to her whimpers of confusion. The difficult part is when she doesn’t act sick at all, it’s when she goes and finds one of her toys and barks happily at it. Or she runs around outside and I swear I can see a smile on her face. Her steps are even peppy. But then it’s back to being fussy at meal time. Peeing in the kitchen. Wandering around in the middle of the night until she’s lost in the living room and whining until I retrieve her and bring her back to her bed. She has to feel tired of this charade that is our daily life too, right? Who’s to say? Not me. Not now. She’s physically still “okay” (despite renal dysplasia, failing kidneys, being mostly blind and deaf and full-on in the throws of doggy dementia). So what do we do? We keep on going. I keep taking care of her because she’s my dog. She’s my girl. I love her. I miss her. She’s in there somewhere, but she doesn’t come out to play very often. And I’m sad during parts of every day.

Mags Back in the Day
Maggie, the month after I brought her home

I’m not sure what I was thinking when I adopted her. No, I do know. I was feeling excited, nervous, scared – so what are all of those emotions rolled into one? Anxious? Yes. Anxious. I was going to adopt a dog! I really wanted a dog. I had always wanted a dog. As a little girl, an only child growing up in suburbia, I asked my parents for a dog for every birthday, Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and at the beginning of summer holidays.

“No, you can go and visit your friends’ dogs,” my mother would say, “NO!” And my father would always defer to her stern rule.

I remember we babysat my friend Kelly’s dog, Sandy, for a week when I was around seven-years-old. It was great. I felt blissful. Sandy and I ran and played in the backyard until the sun set. She slept at my feet in the evenings. I brushed her. I didn’t watch TV for the whole time she was there! Even reading a book was better with a dog by my side. Ever since I was a baby, I would spend part of my summers in Newfoundland with my Aunt Dolly, Uncle Ray, cousin Chris, Nanny Marge, and my favourite one: their dog Mandy. Mandy was a mutt. A real mutt. She was black and white, had scruffy fur and a tea-stained hairy snout. My Nan used to leave her half drunk cups of milky tea on the floor and let the dog lap up her dregs. I remember I was crying one day; I don’t remember what I was crying about, but I remember Mandy the mutt sniffing out my hiding place with a box of tissues clenched in her jaw. I loved that dog. When my aunt called to tell me that Mandy had passed away, I broke down. Heavy tears. Cried so hard my whole body hurt. Newfoundland wouldn’t be the same without her. She’d been my bestest pal since I was a toddler and teenaged me, naively, thought she might live forever if I hoped hard enough. (Years prior, she’d been hit by a car and broken her legs, her insides all sloshed around, and she recovered from that. She was a tough girl. I thought she was invincible.) This was the first time I had to say goodbye to a furry part of the family. Yet, I had no idea what heartbreak was truly like.

Maggie Sideways
Maggie liked to sleep in my bed and would spread out after I got up in the morning. She doesn’t do this anymore.

Mandy and I only spent one season per year together; the other three were filled with distance and dogs aren’t really the telephone or Skype types. I didn’t miss her so much everyday because she was never part of my everyday. Not like Maggie. My Maggie.

It was March 2003. I was in my early twenties. I was anxious. I wanted a dog. I was going to get a dog. I’d studied for all of the questions I was told I’d be asked in the “are you suitable to adopt a pet” interview. I’d visited the Toronto Humane Society heaps of times before and I was determined to come home with a furry companion. I wanted. a. dog. Specifically, I wanted this little shih tzu who had just been rescued from an abusive home, had surgery to remove mammary tumours and be spayed, and was afraid of everyone. I hadn’t even seen her. She sounded like a handful. But she felt like mine. I walked into the room of pets available for adoption. It smelled of urine and fear and hope. There, in a giant cage, crouched a frail and precious creature. The name plate said “Portia.” Okay. She didn’t look like a Portia, but we could change that. I walked back to the waiting area and paced until it was my turn for an interview.

I was ushered into a small room called the “meeting” room, where I was told to wait for a THS worker to go and get “Portia” and we’d meet in this room to see if she liked me. So now the dog interviews me? That’s a crazy, yet awesome, thing. They brought her in. She looked like a puppy in the arms of the attendant. She was shaking mildly. He put her down on the cold linoleum floor and she so very timidly stood there, gazing up at me. (I guessed that she was looking at me. Even when she had full sight, it was hard to tell where Maggie was directing her gaze because her eyeballs are angled in opposite directions. She literally looks like a Muppet.)

I knelt down and put my right arm out. She inched toward me, this charcoal and white smoosh of a shih tzu, a real live fluffy toy with giant (Muppet) eyes. Slowly making her way closer to me, almost there, she stuck out her neck to sniff. I crouched down and stuck my face closer to her. She crept closer, stretching herself out further, extending her snout, and then she licked my nose and backed up with the ferver of a cartoon and stared at me. What a little fart! I teared up and smiled so widely I’m sure the corners of my mouth graced my earlobes. I scooped her up and she was at ease. No shaking. Okay, where do I sign?

As we went for our first walk, Maggie thought it made sense to sit down in the middle of the crosswalk. This is when I first experienced that stubbornness of hers. She wouldn’t move. She became 900 pounds of muscle and brut strength. Luckily, in reality, she was only eight pounds, so I could easily win the stand-off… er, sit off.

Pumpkin
The first of many Halloweens I made my pumpkin wear this costume. She’s a good sport.

Name-changing time. I almost called Maggie “Petunia.” But she was a Maggie. She IS a Maggie. And still stubborn as a mule. We’ve been together 11 years. She’s been my constant companion: through three boyfriends, our beloved kitty BuffyCat, a move to Vancouver and a move back again, a house (home ownership in suburbia wasn’t for me), and now another apartment. She has put up with countless costume changes, above and beyond the necessary layers to keep her warm in winter, all in stride. She has greeted me with barks and jumps and licks after long days at work. She has been my hot water bottle and made my muscles feel better by lying on my abdomen during my time of the month. She’s been my partner in play at the beach and in the park. She’s watched movies in bed with me on sick days. She has the purest heart of any creature I’ve ever had the honour of knowing.

Right now: Maggie whines a lot. I mean heart-wrenching whimpers and whines. Maggie’s not whining due to her physical ailments–at least, the vet doesn’t think those things are at the root of her whimpers. The dementia is eating her brain. When she feels restless, she whines. When she wants a cookie in lieu of her food, she whines. She mostly wanders around the apartment randomly whining, trapping herself in corners, as if she is lost. The only times she isn’t whining is when she’s sleeping in one of her three dog beds (she snores) or when she’s peeing… which is a lot lately. I go outside with her no less than four times per day no matter the weather – ice storm, freezing cold, rain, and in the ridiculous wind tunnel that exists around my apartment building. I take her out when I’m sick and often (usually) when I’m tired. I’ve recently purchased doggie diapers for those times I just can’t keep up with her demanding and impromptu bladder release ‘schedule.’ She won’t use a potty-patch. She won’t go on the balcony. And I’ve lost patience with mopping the floor constantly. Maggie takes medication and it must be administered by way of her hand-fed meals (special prescription food complete with homemade beef stew broth) twice per day; and, although I can play with meal timing a bit, there isn’t much leeway (so that means every day is an alarm clock day). Do I sound like a neurotic pet owner yet? Probably. But I don’t know how else to be (and if someone has advice, I invite constructive words).

Maggie will be 16 years old in March – well, approximately. Nobody really knows for sure since her abusive former owner wouldn’t disclose her age, so based on her condition 11 years ago, the vets guess she was about five. The age guess was due to very bad teeth and mammary tumours that had developed because she hadn’t been spayed by the douchebag who had owned her. When she wasn’t getting yelled at by this scum-of-the-earth guy – or kicked, or left outside in winter – she was being neglected. She’d been matted down to the skin. The reason her teeth were so bad was because she ate only table scraps and had never eaten kibble or hard foods. (She still won’t eat kibble, but she does chomp on the hard milkbones. Win. And our vet says her teeth and gums are amazing now.) Maggie also has colitis. Her little body has a hard time eating and digesting. And the hand-feeding is because she’s usually too freaked out to eat on her own. She’ll stare at the food or hover over it and whine. If I hand-feed her pieces of her own food, something in her psyche tells her that it’s okay to eat that. It gets a little messy, but there are worse things.

Watching her fade away is one of the worst things. It’s mentally and emotionally draining day in and day out. When we go for walks, they’re more like meanders and just stand there time. Sometimes, she walks in small circles. Every day, Maggie is less and less like the charismatic, loving companion she once was. She does have her good days, when she actually runs around outside and I can feel how happy she is and it’s like a fix of emotional pain medication. But it’s those same days that make the bad days even harder. I feel like an asshole because sometimes I wonder how she’s hung on this long and how she continues to hang on and wouldn’t it be more convenient if I didn’t have to take care of her anymore. (Even the vet told me the other day that she was surprised Maggie is still alive and that she’s kind of a medical anomaly.) But she’s not physically at a point where it’s “time.”

Mags Van
When she could see, Maggie was a ham for the camera.

Which leaves us at an impasse. Our situation is not ideal. It’s laborious for me. It’s inconvenient. But I can’t put an end to her because she’s inconvenient. I love her. I don’t want her to suffer. I don’t want to kill her. But I also don’t know how to keep going as we are because each day I feel my patience fading away. And, each day, I feel guilty about that. Part of me wishes I could give her to a loving home to live out her days so I don’t have to watch her deteriorate, but that would be giving up wouldn’t it? Am I actually an asshole for feeling like this? Maybe. I can’t stand the whining. I get no peace. I’m always on edge. Judges, go ahead and rule. I love my dog. I also feel like I lost my dog a long time ago and in her place is this helpless, moody, distant creature who acts like my Maggie just often enough to pull at my heart strings and give me strength to keep on keeping on.

I can understand why my mother never allowed me to have pets growing up; however it would have been beneficial to know such love and loss before I was an adult. Children process hardships better. They don’t overthink things. They see a situation for what it is at its core. When it was time to say goodbye to my dear, sweet BuffyCat in August 2012, I remember my mother was so distraught.  She said, “See, this is too hard. This is why you couldn’t have a pet.” I think my mother didn’t want to be responsible for the decisions that need to be made toward the end of a pet’s life, specifically: THAT decision. A kid doesn’t get to make THAT decision. Making that decision for my BuffyCat wrenched my heart and soul and mind in more ways than I had ever imagined or experienced before. I never want to make that decision again… of course, I have Maggie, so unless she spares me and peacefully passes during her sleep, I’m going to have to make it. And I’m going to be judged for it. I was judged for even asking if it was time due to her mental struggles. Apparently constant whining due to mental illness is totally fine. She’s miserable. I’m miserable. So what’s the solution?

Perhaps that’s what you sign up for when you adopt a pet. “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window” is a terrible song because the sentiment in it is completely and wholly shallow and does not even hint at what being a pet owner is about. I commited myself to my pets. I have to make the best decisions for them, which are not always the the best decisions for me. I would not forgive myself if I gave up on Maggie before her time; and, simultaneously, if I prolonged any suffering. This literal flogging of my feelings is beyond circular at this point. I think I know. I don’t know. I’m wrong… I  believe (finally) that I made the right decision for my BuffyCat. It’s funny – I always thought Buffy was invincible. She was a street kitty who found us. She took care of Mags and me. I thought she’d be there to help me through losing Maggie. I thought Maggie’s body would give way before her mind. Fucking dog. She is in diapers only because I can’t keep up with how often she needs to go pee. I’ve stayed home from social engagements to be with Maggie because I’ve felt like guilty for even thinking about leaving her again after leaving her alone while I’ve worked the whole day.

Yesterday’s vet visit cost me $150. Food for her averages out at about $80 per month. And time spent taking care of her (not playing with her or having a rare cuddle) if tallied in billable hours would easily equal three hundred and fifty minimum wage dollars per week. I haven’t purchased a new pair of boots in three years. I’m also in a long-distance relationship and plane tickets are expensive. It takes me a long time and much financial creativity to save for a plane ticket. And when I do manage some vacation time, I have to arrange for temporary care for Maggie. I love her with all my heart; but I can’t say that anything about having my dog is easy or great anymore.

I believe that Maggie has been a gift in my life. Gifts come in all shapes and sizes and forms of tangibility. Loving Maggie has forced responsibility, compassion, generosity and gratitude into my being. Maggie has challenged me every day we’ve been together. Somtimes moment by moment.  I was very much a kid when I adopted Maggie. I never thought I would be taking care her of her alone (read: in my early twenties I couldn’t fathom not being married with a family of my before age 30, so naturally adopting a dog was part of this fairytale thought process). My life wasn’t supposed to be like this. But apparently the rule of the universe is you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. (Maybe my cosmic GPS is broken?) Based on where I am now, I think Maggie’s made me a better person, in spite of the days I feel and act like a sad and bitter bitch… and in spite of the days Maggie acts like a sad and bitter bitch.

Trell Mags Christmas
I used to make her pose for a Christmas photo every year. Bless her heart.

Trellawny works in advertising, loves cooking, and her boyfriend too. Her latest goal is to try and find the happy in her remaining days with Maggie.