Friday, February 6, 2009

When it's time.

Dad was a farm boy. Once an animal reached the point where they were suffering and not really clear about things, Dad would have put her down. Probably wouldn't have given her medication beyond say, antibiotics or similar; but then he was hardly willing to care for himself beyond that. Before he had his first heart attack, he felt it was cruel to keep a sick old animal alive, since they couldn't really understand what was happening and they would never get well. And the expense was more properly spent on one's human family. I'm of the same mind (I'd never take my cat to the vet unless he was showing symptoms of something, but he gets the special food anyway, so it's moot).

[Now let me add that my BIL is an emergency vet, and from his inside view of the industry I feel about the same way toward vets as I do toward cosmetic dermatologists.]

At some point, Dad would point out that we were being selfish, forcing an animal to stay alive because we couldn't bear to part with it, or couldn't see how much it was suffering, and that the suffering wasn't going to end, or make sense, or help any of us. I remember him telling me, right before he died, that he wished he hadn't made it to the ambulance the last time. I knew why, he didn't have to explain it. Later he told my mom he felt he'd upset me by telling me that, but he didn't, not really. Knowing it's time, and accepting it, are two vastly different things, separated by an impenetrable wall of tears.


  1. I've always fancied myself a rather intuitive person -- often knowing what people need before they need, sussing what is necessary or crucial or merely favorable for a good outcome. I've also fancied myself good with pets and kids - they like me and take to me easily.

    When I was younger I considered this to be quite the asset, and assumed it would help me when my parents inevitably got old and ill and were dying -- I saw myself able to deal with it, and handle it and, like you say, "know when it's time."

    The older I get, and the longer my parents live, the more I cringe a little inside as I realize I have no special intuitions - I'm just hyper-sensitive to conflict and avoid it like the plague.

    Kids and pets like me because I'm basically quiet and I smile a lot.

    I am coming to realize I have no idea how I will handle the inevitable traumatic times, I only hope I have some modicum of the grace and heart with which my friends cope.

    This new humility is much easier to wear. It's like stretch pants at a banquet - I can breathe a lot better knowing I have no idea.

  2. Iso - woke up thinking about you today. I continue to hold you in my thoughts, and in my heart, and this day just seems gentler and a little sadder and a little more human than yesterday.

    Thank you for your courage and your willingness to share yourself. It doesn't bring back your beloved son, but it does change the people around you - even peripherally.

    Like me.

  3. I made it ok, by mostly trying to forget the day. By night time I felt sorry that I hadn't done more in the spirit of remembering. Perhaps a late 2nd jahrzeit is in order.

    Intuition, to continue that first conversation, is pretty much exactly that sensitivity for exactly that reason: I don't know anyone who can read another's mood, feelings, thoughts, who wasn't more or less forced to learn that skill by their lives (usually a difficult parent). Asian friends are better at it than most Americans, it's part of their culture, and you're considered an emotional dolt (along that line anyway) if you can't do it. Either that or it's assumed you're ignoring the obvious.

    In general, it's not considered polite to spell things out when everyone can read each other's minds. Not sure I like that aspect of the culture.


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