At the end of last month, our hamster, Blanche, was dying. She was almost three years old, which is beyond elderly for a hamster. I prepared Ramona for Blanche's death, reminding her that hamsters don't live forever. I involved Ramona in the care and feeding of Blanche in her last days, when she needed to be held up to her water bottle and encouraged to drink a little something. We all knew she was dying. Still, it was hard to see her fail. We hoped she wasn't in pain.
A couple of weeks ago, after we spent the day at the hospital with my father-in-law who was gravely ill, we came home and found that Blanche had died.
On a completely different subject, this used to be the view from our backyard:
Obviously the fall colors and the sprinkle of snow are vestiges of a different season, but what I'm focused on is the tree.
I loved that tree.
I loved the way its branches framed the view, the way they hung down protectively over the scene across the road, draping and encircling it. It's been a constant in our yard, that tree.
Last week, on the day we attended my father-in-law's funeral, the power company sent someone over to take the tree out. They had our permission. We knew that the tree was in the way of the power lines, knew they needed to trim it, and when Atticus tossed off an observation ("If I could afford it, I'd probably just go ahead and take the whole thing out ....") the guy from the power company jumped on it. "That's a no-brainer," he replied. "We'll take it out for nothing."
And that's what they did.
The problem is that now, my entire landscape looks different. Every time I walk into the backyard, I'm surprised. And sad. It doesn't look like the same yard.
Life keeps changing, and there are so very few parts of it over which I have real control.
When I walk into my girls' room, Blanche's cage is no longer there. There's no rattle of the bars, no rustle of pine shavings, no nibbling sounds of seeds and corn.
And when I step into my backyard, the view is changed. It's open; the sun is shining in spots it never hit before.
And when I imagine my father-in-law's face, I know that I will never again see it on this earth.
It's startling, isn't it? The way that things can change so swiftly, so sharply, so permanently. We give permission for some things; others catch us off guard and take our breath away.
Blanche is gone. I miss seeing her cage on my daughters' dresser.
My tree is missing. There is no frame, no drape of branches to shape my view.
And Dad is gone.
I didn't usually call him "Dad" when he was here ... I called him by his first name; I think he preferred that. But he was another dad to me.
And now that our landscape has changed -- now that the view is wide open -- I like to think that he knows in exactly which ways he was my other dad.
Our landscape is altered.
It will be a long time before we remember just how different things look out there, a long time before we adjust to the new slant of light, to what's missing -- a very long time before we stop feeling startled by how we feel when we step outside.
But even though it looks like a death, I know that this expansive space marks a new beginning.
Rest in peace, dear Dad.