Right around Thanksgiving I lost my little Gracie to congenital heart failure, the cat was only two and a half years old. A month later, right at Christmas, I lost my eighteen year old dog to old age, that was the end of an era for me. After all, eighteen years ago I was eighteen years younger, men still smiled at me, writing a novel was the last thing on my mind and my stomach was still flatter than a frying pan.
All that has changed as I ponder the reality that I’m in the red zone, and though I’m as frisky as ever, the world sees me differently. What a surprise! A few months ago I was charged half fare for a movie ticket. I thought there was a special going on somewhere. Unfortunately, there wasn’t. Truth was, the Twinkie behind the counter saw me as a senior citizen. What?!!!!
When I look in the mirror I see myself as thirty. I just better not drag out the old photograph album from a time when I really was thirty, and had a youthful smile, whiter than whiter teeth and a head full of dreams about being a professor of film studies and living in a quiet academic town somewhere in Massachusetts.
All that has certainly changed and my aspirations are more about staying healthy, youthful and retiring to an old farm house where I can write more novels, that is, if I ever have enough money in the bank to support my lofty ambition.
Losing a pet is hard, old or young. They grow with you. When they die, they leave their memories and the melancholy that they are no longer here. Their death is a wakeup call, a little spirit has left and gone where? Might as well believe in something now, now that being too young to think about it is in the hands of a newer generation. Perhaps they will learn a better way to deal with loss, or perhaps losing is that perpetual ache, the human condition. To heal it is to find answers not meant for our knowledge base.
If I didn’t write I would be a total basket case. Maybe I’d even start a campaign or a street riot over New York City Veterinarians who all seem to have a conspiracy against caring for poor people’s pets. The expense of a Veterinarian, a dog walker, a cat sitter is at least as hard on the pocket book as the utility bill and the rent.
Well, luckily, I do write. That’s how I deal with loss and with aging. Though aging is loss. It’s a process you can’t curtail, an inevitable transformation. My latest book is about an elderly woman who thinks nothing at all can happen to her, and of course, it does. Most of my novels include a dog or a cat, and each has a personality trait of a dog or a cat that I have loved in my many years of loving dogs and cats. I keep them alive that way. I can share their eccentricities and feel they’re still with me, getting hair on my black clothes and leaving a poo on my Persian carpet.
Anyway, I have a young dog now and two new kittens, all of whom will grow old with me, suffer through the read aloud of my latest book and share my journey toward canes, arthritis, wrinkles and weak knees. But I’ve got a sense of humor. If I become old, I will be the best at being old, living in the moment, always seeking new friendships, and learning still from the colossal mistakes of my youth. All the while I will believe that I still look thirty, and whomever looks back will not see in me ‘old broad’ but ‘interesting old broad.’ I can deal with that.
Vera Jane Cook
Award Winning Must Read Women’s Fiction. Dancing Backward In Paradise was published in November 2006 and received rave reviews from Armchair Interviews and Midwest Book reviews, as well as an Eric Hoffer and Indie Excellence award in the Literary fiction category for notable new fiction in 2007. Hearts Upon a Fragile Bough, Ms. Cook’s second novel, was published this year and will be followed by its sequel, At the End of a Whisper, in 2010. To learn more about her books you can visit her web site at www.verajanecook.com
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