December 2 is just another day to most people, but not to me. It’s a day I will always remember for three good reasons—and one tough one.
The good reasons.
On December 2, 1995, a litter of 12 beautiful Dalmatian puppies was whelped at a good friend’s house. I had the absolute pleasure of being there to help each precious puppy squeal its way into existence. The puppies started coming at 12 midnight and were all here by 6:00 the next morning. The firstborn was a big, strong boy that was immediately nicknamed Bear because he looked just like a little white polar bear. Eight weeks later, Bear would become my special puppy, renamed Teddy.
On December 2, 1997, exactly two years later, a litter of 12 beautiful Dalmatian puppies was whelped, this time in my home. I helped my sweet girl Myra welcome her family starting with the first puppy at 6:00 a.m., and ending with the last puppy born at 12 noon. The second puppy born would be my sweet Vanny, and the fourth puppy, my boy Carter.
Two litters of 12 puppies, born two years apart on 12/2. One litter born between 12 and six, the other born between six and 12. They almost had to be special puppies…and they were.
In addition to becoming my beloved companions, both Teddy and Carter were champion show dogs. Evander was an exceptional agility dog and also performed as a fire safety education dog teaching children how to stop, drop and roll, how to crawl under smoke, and how to jump out of a window to go to a safe meeting place.
These dogs were with me through many good times and, at various points through the years, each licked salty tears from my cheeks. They were family to me.
I just lost Van on April 12th of this year. Of course he left on the magical 12th day. All three boys lived happy lives well into their teens. In all three cases, it was simply their time to go. Their respective deaths were peaceful with Jim and I by their sides. I helped bring these boys into this world; I was there to help ease them back out.
So today I should feel gratitude. As in years past, I should feel joy in the happy memories of Teddy, Carter and Vanny. But I don’t.
December 2 is also the day my father died. It was last year. He had been declining for weeks. There were no miracles left for his tired heart. It was his time. My sister and I were by his side when he left. In the embrace of our love, he passed peacefully.
I’m not one to dwell on the anniversaries of death. I don’t immerse myself in grief. It’s just not how I choose to cope. It’s not how I want to remember my loved ones.
But I will always remember 12/2. It has been a fixture on my calendar for 18 years. And now it is the first anniversary of Dad’s death.
And I should feel something.
All day long I waited for it. The meltdown. The melancholy. The hollow sense of loss.
Or maybe the annual feelings of celebration would surface. The faint smell of puppy breath. The warm memory of promise in each precious first breath.
But no. Just nothing.
I couldn’t believe it. What was wrong with me? Am I that hard? That callous?
The truth finally spoke to me.
If I opened that door in my mind, even just a tiny crack, I would be surrounded by fog of loss, of longing. I would have to surrender myself to feelings that just did not have an appointment on today’s busy calendar, or within the walls of my bracing heart.
It’s not that I don’t feel anything today. It’s that I just can’t. I won’t. I won’t allow it.
Maybe later, when my day is done, when I’m not required to be a functioning adult for another eight hours or so, maybe then I’ll open that door and I’ll welcome Dad and three handsome spotted dogs in for a visit.
Maybe then I’ll let myself cry. Maybe? Oh, who am I fooling…I’ll cry a little.
Then I’ll hear my dad’s voice saying something like, “Oh hell, Nan, we’re fine. Suck it up.” Dad could never stand to see one of his girls in tears. I’ll picture the dogs wagging their tails and dancing in circles to cheer me.
I’ll listen to Dad, and I’ll smile at my boys. I’ll let my tears dry as I quietly shut that door again, lingering on the threshold for just a moment to say another goodbye.
See you next year, boys.