Over the course of the last few days, I have experienced moments of wanting to tear my hair out, inner conflict and grief. Of course, I’m perhaps being a bit melodramatic, but if you are parents and have kids — either the two legged kind or four — you probably can empathize with me.
It’s a busy time at The Paddle. We’re serving fall leaf peepers, newcomers, regulars returning now that the “summer people” are gone, college parent weekend families and holiday celebrators. With the change in season, as well, comes the excitement of redecorating in keeping with the autumnal cheer.
For businesses like ours that employ a lot of students, it is also a time that we say good bye to many of our summer crew going back to the ivy-covered walls of academia. It iss a time of hiring and training new wait staff. It’s a rebirth, if you will, that is both exciting and challenging.
But also a time that doesn’t lend itself well to any unexpected surprises or challenges. I found this out, in particular, these past six days when two of my three “kids” (aka The Paddle Pups) got sick. (One really sick.)
Watson, my middle child, came down with a bad case of an upper respiratory disease called mycoplasma. For some odd reason that has no explanation, his illness developed into a severe pneumonia with an accompanying 104.8 temperature (101 is canine normal). With immediate impressive care by my regular veterinarians, they were able to lower his temperature, along with IV fluids, to 102 degrees by the time we arrived at the emergency vet hospital. As a precaution, I was also given a prophylactic antibiotic for the other two dogs, WyNott and Wyeth, who were showing no signs of being sick, yet.
It was, for me, a time of complete dread and fear, accompanied by loads of tears, while I waited for Watson to see his doctor — a warm, comforting and knowledgeable doctor who helped calm my worst fear, fear of losing my big guy.
How did my parents ever do it?
Twenty four hours later, Watson was good to come home with pills and strict instructions of rest and cupped hard pats on his rib cage (to loosen whatever terrible stuff was in his lungs).
The next day, I woke up to the terrible sound I had become accustomed to over the past two days – deep labored coughing and gagging. But, this time, it was my puppy, WyNott, who was in distress. I was told to keep up with the antibiotic regime for WyNott, as well as Wyeth: unless WyNott started losing her appetite and playful puppy enthusiasm, this was all we could do at this point. We had to let the medicine and house-bound protocol of rest work its magic. I suspect it is very much what parents of human children go through. From one to another, a germs jump and spread and wreak havoc on all their young bodies. All you can do as the parent is follow your physician’s instructions, wait and worry and continue to do what you need to do to keep your life going forward.
How on earth did my parents ever do it?
Growing up in rural northwestern New Jersey during my first 10 years of my life, we lived in a huge stone house built in 1710. There were four of us kids (I’m the second oldest) and, at one point, 13 cats and two dogs. To ease on the comings and goings, my dad built cat doors in one of the deep-silled windows in our dining area. It was the best window in our old handsome home to install such clever devices because it looked out to the isolated ivy and moss-covered rocks and brick that led around the rear of house. It was perfect, too, because only feet away the wooded hill began its incline up. It was a safe exit to the outside world for our cats.
It was from this same “out” window that my younger brother, Jeff, threw his tuna fish sandwich one summer lunch and declared to my mom that he ate the whole thing. I remembered being mortified that he had lied, but thought it was a funny thing for him to do. Well, not so for him the next day when my mom came across the day-old sandwich.
My mom was a woman of deep principal. Dishonestly would never be tolerated. She called my brother inside and told him to go sit at the dining room table. I think he knew something unpleasant was in store for him from her voice. He walked to the table and stopped cold. There, in all its 24-hour glory, was his abandoned tuna fish sandwich. After what seemed hours of him sitting in front of it, staring at the plate, my mom entered the room and told him that she would far rather be told the truth, than a lie, and reminded him that the consequences would always be better with honesty.
She sat down next to him on the bench, and ran her beautiful hands with their long slender fingers, through his mop of a hair with all his curls. I remembered how she simply said that she loved him and that he was her boy. He was dismissed and went outside to play. She went back into the kitchen to finish whatever dinner she was working on. (Did I hear a little giggle?)
Remarkable. So many lessons to teach your loved ones requiring patience and consistency. How do you parents ever do it?
So, back to my pups, my kids.
As I always do, I make a list of “to do” stuff for the day. My list on Thursday last week was particularly long. But, I’m a morning person and challenges excite me. I remember thinking that I could get everything done and, with a little good weather, even take the Paddle Pups hunting on Sunday. Plus, there was much to do to prepare for WyNott’s trip to the German Wirehaired Pointer Club of America’s Nationals in southern Illinois. I was, simply, energized and motivated to seize the day and conquer.
Well, that feeling of euphoria was quickly dampened down when I experienced Watson’s first awful (and I mean awful) cough. What was supposed to be three days of productive work quickly got thrown out the window with what was to ensue with a very sick child.
Of course, our plans for our trip out to the Midwest this week had to be canceled, which required loads of emails, and phone calls and shipping out silent auction prizes I had collected.
Our lives, both mine and the Ws, were requiring adjustments and compromises.
I have dealt with many difficult and trying and sad things in my life. But, truthfully, this particular episode made me really think about my parents, as well as all you parents. You’re amazing. Juggling kids and animals and work and home life. Parenthood is a full time, 24/7 proposition. As a parent of only three dogs, I guess I have it a little easier on the difficulty scale. But, after this weekend, I so much more appreciate what it is you all do, day in and day out.
I guess it’s called life, right?
And, when all is said and done – at the end of the day – we have each other. We have our loved ones, whether they’re human or furry, and our passions.
For me, I have my awesome pups; a handful of really close friends, including my dearest pal, Chef Phoebe, that I hold so dear; my family, including my mom up there, and a wonderful restaurant that folks enjoy and for which I am terribly proud.
That’s how my parents did it. That’s how you all do it. You embrace the good, and deal with the bad, and fall asleep knowing that there’s yet another day.