A member of my family died this past week.
As teenagers, my 4 daughters brought her into our home back in 1996, within a month or so of moving to North Carolina.
She had perfect manners, was well behaved and quickly learned the rules of living in our house. I could not ask for a better adopted member of the family.
They all grew up together and became close friends. The memories of seeing them play together are many and vivid. They played together in the back yard, front yard and in the house. They would curl up together and watch TV, listen to music or read a book. They even cried together over personal pain, family problems and sometimes it seemed even while watching chick flicks.
When the girls came home from school she was there waiting for them, eager to say hello and to get a hug. Always there to listen to what they had to say about class, the bus ride and the new friends they made. Never questioning why or what.
As the girls grew up and started bringing boys over to the house, she was there to check them out and give her sign of approval, or not. Generally approval was always given, however I believe that one or two of the boys did my make the cut based on her criteria. She accepted almost all guests to the house as another friend, many as if they were another member of the family.
As the girls grew up and started leaving for college or to get married and start their own families and homes, you could see in her eyes that she was sad. Yet, she was always happy to see them when they came back to the house to visit. She welcomed them, the son-in-laws and then the grand kids every time she saw them.
In time the grandkids started curling up with her to watch TV, run thru the yard with her and play with her just like their mothers used to. Never a bad time or cross word between them. She was very clearly happy to be a member of our growing and changing family.
For a few years we had another house guest stay with us. This was good company for her because they liked to do the same stuff. Without the girls around they played together in the back yard, walked around the neighborhood with us most evenings and curled up together in the family room. They generally ended up sleeping together in their bedroom or in the master bedroom with my wife and I on cold or rainy nights.
Unfortunately, in time this guest left to go back with her family. Again, she was sad to see yet another friend leave. You could see the sorrow in her eyes, but there was not much we could do. We tried to get them together now and then at either our house or my oldest daughters place. They were so happy to see each other when they could.
She lived in our house as if it were her’s to protect. Always letting us know if someone was in the yard or driveway. Always paying attention to the neighborhood, including stray animals and late night drivers that we would have missed because we slept thru the simplest of things. She cared the most for my wife’s safety. Protecting her from real, perceived or even the simplest of harm. One day she actually saved my wife from a rampaging daughter who unbeknown to all of us, was just fooling around. Megan lost a good pajama bottom that night.
She never asked for much. A good meal, a warm bed and hug now and then. She rarely got in the way or caused much fuss. Like most of us, a loud storm scared her and we had to rescue her. Now and then she needed medical attention, especially as she got older, but heck, the rest of us do too.
Eventually our house got quieter as the house guests stopped coming over as often, the girls all left and the grandkids only came over now and then. She stayed to herself most of the time as my wife and I chased our careers and hobbies which did not include her. Our travels left her alone more and more as she got older. Even though we had really good care givers taking care of her in our absence, we hated this for her and tried to make it up to her when we were around.
Over the last few months we did a lot of traveling so we let her stay with our oldest daughter and her family. She really enjoyed this because there were lots of people to play with, as well as her favorite house guest that now lived there. She loved to hang out with the kids and just lounge around with them. She seemed the happiest when one of the twins would curl up with her and just hang out.
But time takes a toll on all of us. And, she was aging, not more than most, but age was taking a toll on her. Slowly her age started to slow her down and even made it hard for her to get around. She lost most of her hearing and started to care less about the activities of the neighborhood. No more alerts about someone driving down the street, the door bell ringing or even that a stray wild animal was in the back yard. There was something peaceful about the way she watched rabbits play in the back yard. Yet, I knew that in her heart she wanted to chase and play with them, but couldn’t.
A few weeks ago it was very clear to all of us that her days were all but over. Never a tear or complaint from her as she struggled to get around. Even with all the medicine that we were giving her, we knew it was time. As grumpy an old man I may pretend to be, I knew that the task I had to do would be painful for me. I also knew it had to be done. I looked at my wife and daughters, they also knew what I had to do, I saw the sorrow in their eyes and the pain they felt as I made the plans for her final moments.
I’m a grumpy old man, love being a grumpy old man, but – I’ll miss this old girl.
Lots of good times having you as a member of our family. By far the best adopted member of our family. The memories we have are plenty and vivid.
Thanks for being a member of our family Becca.
Rest girl knowing your spirit will last forever with all of us.
Thank you for being our friend.