Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Cuando una puerta se cierra, otra se abre"

The words reverberated for me: "When one door closes, another opens". After a tough day with several challenges, all we can do is hope. It started like any other day, the standard routine: wake the girls up, dress them, take the dog out, hustle out the door to get the girls to daycare. Then back to the office to start my day.

The first hit, came mid-day when took our family dog to the vet. He's 12 1/2 years old and has been sickly for the last three to four weeks. No appetite, sluggish and he has lost his thrive. The vet's words were gentle but piercing. I think Jerry has lymphoma or some sort of cancer. Wow, I thought. What a way to go. After all, he's been a super dog all his life. He's put up with my crazy schedule since he was a pup. This still had a battery of tests to do before a final confirmation, but the sheer impact of the word 'cancer' stopped me. Our time comes eventually I thought. Being all too familiar with lymphoma myself, I couldn't believe the parallel.

So I brought him home and made him comfortable. I headed back to the office. About mid-afternoon, I got a call from my wife. She let me know she had just been downsized. Still struggling to comprehend and accept the earlier news I'd received this one knocked me flat. That's two, I thought. I know this stuff comes in threes. What next?

As I struggled to deal with the load of bad news I got in one day, I reached out to my mom. The only thng she could say was "mijo, acuerdate que cuando una puerta se cierra, otra se abre" (son, remember that when one door closes another opens). The story of my life. I've had a series of closing doors myself. Life's challenges that have you wonder 'why?'. This one was tough. Among all the challenges that the economy is handing me daily, I get this now? Who did I piss off? Why us? What am I supposed to learn from all of this? That fucking government of ours. Those stupid people who took out loans that they rightfully knew they could not pay for. The anger swelled inside of me.

In the end, it was my wife's composure that helped me get it together. She shared with me her experience at the mid-day prayer she participated in. She told me how she prayed for 'clarity in her mission in life'. We got it alright, perhaps not how we'd asked fo it but we got it.

Her peacefullness diffused my instinct to react, to lash out. Natural- surely the immediate thing would have been to fire off. I took a step back. Damn this recession. I dug deep at my faith. Another thing my Mom shared with me, rung true. 'God squeezes you, but doesn't crush you' ( sounds better in Spanish). I guess another way of saying it, is he doesn't give you something he doesn't think you can handle. I've been through alot in my life. Most have. Five years from now, I'll be able to look back and laugh at this time. For now, it was time to jump into action. To work through a list and knock of things that we needed to do to secure our household.

Call daycare, revist our family budget and prioritize expenditures.

When I spoke to our youngest daughter's daycare provider- her teacher shared the same words of wisdom about 'closing doors'. It was a teaser for me. Almost a check in to see if I was listening.

"I get it big man"," I know what you are trying to say" I thought. In the end, It is our faith in god that helps us through these times. I realized that I had to trust that he had my back. That he knew what was best for us.

I had to trust. I had to have hope (not in a man on this planet but) in god.

Show me the way lord...

Our Friend Jerry

I had the premonition that it wouldn't be just your average day. You see a week ago, I made the appointment for today to take Jerry into the Vet. He's been favoring his left rear leg for about three weeks now. We'd noticed an enlarged popliteal lynph node on the leg he'd been favoring. A slightly less enlarged node appeared on his right leg. After a week, the larger node lost some of the swelling. Jerry was still favoring the leg. Knowing all too well what swollen lymph nodes can mean, I placed myself in denial. Hoping that it wouldn't mean what I thought it did. Things got worse when Jerry started to become less active and lose his appetite (something we thought was very rare for him). As the days passed, it became more obvious, something is wrong. Finally last Wednesday, I made the appointment.

I've lost two family dogs in my lifetime. Samson, a loveable mutt that we rescued when I was in eigth grade died suddenly on us when I was in college. He tore off his leash and ran into traffic while my Dad was walking him. I don't know what was worse, losing Samson or the look on my dad's face when he told us. We laid him to rest in my parent's backyard- a fitting rest for such a loyal friend. About a month after Samson died, my scoutmaster's wife let us know about another stray that had been left on her doorstep. He was riddled with fleas when we got him. A candidate for a full on flea bath. Duke was his name. A buff colored cocker/golden mix. An odd combination, but as a pup he was adorable. He quickly grew into the family and became a friend to my Dad. A companion for his daily walks. He lived a long life. Approximately 11 years before he started not eating , losing tons of weight and eventually grew so weak he could not even lift his head. I still remember the day we took him to the vet to have him put down. My dad held him while they injected him. I'd never seen my Dad cry like I did that day. He lost his old friend. He swore then that he didn't want another dog.

I got Jerry from a private breeder in Hialeah, Florida the year before I moved back home to Chicago. Jerry was born in August 1996. I remember the day I brought him home, He was tiny enough to fit in one hand. He's always been a smart dog, he was easy to crate train, and quite obediant. He kept me company during my last few months of living in Miami. When I moved home , the winter of '06-'07, he made the trip up North with me in my car. Because of my travel schedule and the fact that I lived alone, Jerry spent periods living with my folks. He became their dog in sorts, even though my Dad swore that he would never have another dog. When Sonia and I married, he stayed with us for longer periods. When I finally left corporate America in 2005, he became a full time part of the house. To say that he's become a member of our family and my extended family is a gross understatement. He's been all two patient with our girls through their ear tugging and grabing of his stub tail. About two months ago, I came home to find his colored in green and orange washable marker when our eldest daughter Sofia, decided to 'color Jerry'. Our memories are rich in moments such as that.

So it made my trip to the vet all the more difficult, I kept revisiting the moments I've had with Jerry. The walks, the mischievous things he's done. His obsessive compulsive games of fetch. The entire trip to the vet. As I looked down at him in the passenger's seat, he looked up at me with his big brown eyes. I wished he could talk.

Dr. McNamara, was great- as I described his progressive deterioration, she explained her thoughts on it. The words rang loud in my ears: "It looks very much like lymphoma". "We need to confirm, but he has many of the symptoms." she said. She gracefully asked how active we wanted to be. I explained my philosphy on the issue with her. She was very understanding. Basically, we wanted to run as many tests as we had to and fully ID what he had. We preferred to keep the care palliative and minimize his pain. She broached the subject of chemotherapy. As a living will supporter myself, I did not see a need to extend his life for our selfish pleasures. So a poke and a prod later, here we are... I won't put him through pain. But I know what the road ahead may yield. I pray that it will be quick and painless. We hope to make his remaining days with us comfortable and full of joy. The dog joy that only they know. A walk in the park. A bone to fetch. Peanut butter.

We love you Jerry.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Right On Time

There is a funny thing about Sunshine. My most favorite is springtime sunshine. As a midwesterner, it is one of those things that you look forward to all winter long.

Today is the first nice sunshine we've had in a long time. It's like a drug. People are nicer. People are walking the streets smiling. They are confident that winter is long behind us.

I am sure we may be challenged once more. For today, it is endless. A perpetual day of bliss.

Sun, Our friend, where have you been?