“If it don’t bleed, it ain’t worth worrying about.”
An ornery old Westerner gave me that advice almost four decades ago.
It’s good advice. But sometimes it does bleed, and sometimes it is worth worrying about.
Like last week.
Labrador Retrievers, mostly black, have been a tradition in our family, ever since my older brother brought one home from his summer job way back in the ’60s. My mother put up a fuss, but there’s nothing cuter than a Lab pup. When that dog died 12 years later, it was the only time my mother saw my father cry.
So I was not surprised, eight years ago, when my daughter picked out a yellow Lab pup from a box in the back of a pickup in a Walmart parking lot. Cute as the dickens, Zoe was the hungriest dog I’ve ever seen. She quickly figured out that I was a soft touch – the “weak link” in my son-in-law’s words – who could be trusted to feed her earlier than usual in the morning, and again in the afternoon. I let her lick plates. And she inhaled dog biscuits when we took our afternoon walks.
When our grand daughter arrived, Zoe was fantastic. Patient. Long suffering. Gentle. A Lab.
Zoe loved the prairie around their house, and was always first in the car when visits were over and it was time to go home.
But, she was always looking forward to that next meal. So it was ominous news, about six weeks ago, when Zoe started turning her nose up at her dinner bowl. No appetite. I’m told that Labs have a proclivity to cancer. It claimed a couple of our Labs.
It came at a particularly tough time, as my daughter was expecting a baby within days. Zoe languished. She had a good day last Saturday. Slowed down on Sunday. And Monday evening she died on the examining table at their vet’s office.
Devastated, my daughter wrote, “We loved her hard. I just wish it could have been longer.” (My daughter’s sounding kind of Western herself these days.)
So that was Monday. All week we dealt with the heartbreak of losing one of the most loving, loyal, dedicated creatures that ever come into our lives. They would die defending us, love us no matter what, and sleep at our feet when we sit in our favorite easy chair.
This Saturday morning we got a surprise call, with video, after breakfast. There was our daughter, her husband, and our newest grand daughter, about a week early. Seven pounds, looks like red hair, and as of this writing, mom and dad are still discussing names. We find ourselves clear at the other end of the emotional spectrum, a joyous event, in sharpest contrast to our heartbreak over Zoe.
I’ve got a family full of scientists. My wife is a nurse practitioner trained at the University of Illinois. Before that she was a nurse, and before that an anthropologist/archaeologist. Our daughter is a physician assistant, trained at Duke University. I come from a family of Purdue engineers. Don’t try to talk science with this bunch.
And here I am, an English major, of all things.
Scientists tend to judge life by the hard evidence they can see, feel and dissect. They will give you a hard time if you stray too far from what they can put in a beaker, dig up, or compute mathematically. It’s their nature.
But, when I look at the parental love in the eyes of my daughter and her husband, and the look they get back from, now, their two little girls, and the love they had for their wonderful dog Zoe, I realize once again that there’s something more to all this than scientific method can explain.
Just like on a clear August night in the mountains, looking up at the Milky Way, and wondering what the heck this is all about, anyway. The mystery of it all is the magic of it all.
In just six days we went from the agony of loss to the joy of birth.
It was a week that did bleed, and it was worth worrying about.
Tears. Then joy.
Dave Simpson can be contacted at email@example.com