Some days, I just wished that Pedro could have stayed in the hospital for a few more months. And this made me feel terribly guilty. I wanted him home, where I could attend to his every need and ensure that he gained weight and made progress—and most of all where I could see that he had, indeed, survived another day.
But oh, my days just seemed to run together in an anxious blur. And no matter how much I hurried and multi-tasked and tried to accomplish things, I felt like the proverbial hamster on the wheel—getting nowhere the faster I went.
In addition to teaching full time, I still had laundry, meal preparation, grocery shopping, driving the girls to gymnastics, soccer and art classes and spending every spare minute between everything else checking on Pedro and making sure that he had everything he needed.
We lived on the campus of the school where I taught, so I could run down to the house during my prep period and chat with Pedro for a few minutes. I also came home on my lunch break so we could eat together.
I felt responsible for his health and his entertainment—he didn’t have enough strength to do a lot more than lay on the couch and nap for the first two months. I filled my journals with pleas to God to take away my feelings of anger and resentment towards people who irritated me (and it seemed like just about everyone irritated me).
Daily, I begged for forgiveness for my grumpy moods and my lack of patience. I felt like an overstretched guitar string—ready to snap in two and flail all over if just. one. more. person. said. something. stupid.
I craved time alone, but felt guilty when I took it. After all, shouldn’t I want to spend every minute with the one I’d almost lost or with our two sweet daughters who’d been practically parentless for half a year?
Crawling out of bed each morning became a challenge. I didn’t want to spend time with my family. I just. wanted. to. rest. I had a hard time spending time with God because I couldn’t get up early enough to meet with Him before the busyness of the day crashed around me.
Did I mention that I was grumpy? I agonized over how I couldn’t seem to control my tone of voice (irritated even if I felt ok). I lost touch with myself and didn’t like the stranger I had become. I continued to gain weight. And so I did the natural thing.
I decided we needed a dog. Pedro and I agreed that we wanted a German Shepherd because they were smart and we’d feel better about having our girls roam around the neighborhood if a German Shepherd tagged along. I thought a dog would be the perfect companion for Pedro—someone to chill with him when I was at work and maybe I’d be motivated to exercise a bit if I had a dog to walk with me.
I obsessed over dogs—I didn’t want just any only dog. I did my research, I applied to kennels; we all did odd jobs to help raise money for buying the perfect dog. I know what you’re thinking—why would a stressed-out woman want to take on the responsibilities of a puppy? Good question. I think it was a God thing.
He helped us find the perfect puppy by late June. Despite her fancy-smancy registered kennel name, Pedro claimed the right to call her whatever he wanted to—he felt that with a fourth female added to the family, at least the name could be manly—so he called her Clancy (after Tom Clancy, the author). And so Clancy entered our life at the start of our three-week family vacation.
At nine weeks old, her ears seemed bigger than her whole body—the perfect size for listening (yes, I admit it, I talked to the dog when we went out rambling). For the first time in a year, we had something positive, new and unique to focus on. Instead of obsessively searching the Internet for news and information about cancer, stem cell transplants and post-diagnosis survival rates, I read every book I could find on dog care and training.
We soon discovered that Clancy loved to fetch. She would tirelessly chase and return anything we threw. When we got tired, she’d drag a stick (or small log) up to total strangers and drop it at their feet and then gaze at them expectantly.
Because I always got up early, the task of feeding and exercising Clancy fell to me. But I didn’t mind at all. Getting out of bed became a whole lot easier, because I knew I needed to walk Clancy—and walking in the dark didn’t present a problem because I had someone to scare off the bears or other things that prowled in the predawn hours.
Slowly, life took on a routine that that gave me enough strength to handle each day—time spent alone in rest and reflection and the quietness that I craved. Slowly, the surface level of tension eased and I started to relax and unwind. We had a glorious summer together, Pedro, Laura, Sarah, Clancy and I.
As the new school year approached, I felt ready to tackle it. Sure, questions loomed on the horizon—ones I couldn’t answer, but I realized that I felt strong enough weather whatever storms might threaten us.
God had answered my prayers for forgiveness and patience with a puppy. And in caring for Clancy I’d found the quiet time (without guilt) that I needed to regain my strength.