Tuesday, May 11, 2010
When we moved from city to city, there was only one being who could adapt more quickly than I, and that would be Heidi -- our steady succession of schnauzers, Heidi 1, Heidi 2, and Heidi 3. As in, The Heidi is dead, long live The Heidi.
To an untrained eye, the only thing that distinguished our first dog from the next and the next was size. Only now, in the relative calm after the storm of childhood Heidis, do I realize I loved H 1 much more than the reincarnations. She had moxie, leadership qualities, and a terrible temper. Lifting her meant puncture wounds to the hands, but we risked it anyway to hug and squeeze her until nothing remained but a puff of gray fury. She led her gang of neighborhood dogs onto the freeway one day and, well, that was our first taste of loss. And it tasted every bit as bad then as it does now – worse even, because we were in the single digits and didn’t drink gin.
But loss meant replacement, holes must be filled. We learned to mourn quickly, before the next Heidi took office. Sadness hurts, and we were not above distraction.
While Heidi 1 was Daddy’s girl, the second Heidi knew Mom presented her best chance for survival. Heidi2 was smart; she lasted three times longer than H1. She was smaller too; in fact, each successive Heidi shrunk a little.
Then came Heidi 3, a tiny gray tramp of the first water.
Heidi 3 loved it when we changed houses, because new houses meant carpenters and carpenters meant lunch. Heidi would troll a neighborhood, looking for construction sites and big burly men who knew their way around a Twinkie. She taught herself to sit and beg and speak and anything else that would please a group of 200-pound men. Once she hurt herself, probably leaping for a bit of candy, and a giant carried her back to our house with tears in his eyes; she lay like a sad raisin in the palm of his hand. On that day, we came this close to a Heidi 4.
My mother died when I was in my 30’s, and of course we all mourned. Personally, though, given my practice in the art of transition, I welcomed distraction. It wasn’t until my dad died that the eternal loss aspect of death raised its ugly specter. And once I entertained that thought, all the Heidis came home to roost.