God gave me a puppy
This business of “becoming me” has not been easy. I admit, there have been many tears, fears, and red wine headaches along the way, but finally…possibly… I feel like I might be getting there. Not sure where, exactly… but I think I’m getting a little closer to “there.” Certainly the trail has been rocky. But each morning, I wake up, I put my hands out in front of me, and once again, I begin to inch my way toward the light. Sometimes I’m not even sure which direction the light is, but then I stop, breathe, and very slowly, I begin to spin around until I can feel the light tugging me in the right direction. Then I start walking again. And right then and there, I thank God for giving me the courage and the faith to make this journey in the first place. And when I stumble (which I often do), I take another moment to thank God for the mysterious little gift he gave me last fall… at a time I thought he was too busy listening to everyone else’s prayers to hear any of mine.
You see, it was at that time… God gave me a puppy.
It went something like this.
Jordan (my 16 year old) and Cole (my 14 year old) asked if they could go watch the girls’ volleyball game in Albany that night. Jordan had just gotten his driver’s license about nine months earlier and I was a little nervous (OK, downright terrified) to put all my eggs in one rusty pickup truck and send them rollin’ on down the highway. But, knowing that Jordan was a good driver, I sucked it up and said sure.
So, off they went.
Several hours later, while I was washing my face and getting ready for bed, I heard the garage door opening and said a quick little prayer of thanks for delivering my boys home safely. A few moments later, Jordan walked in with a sheepish grin on his face. He said he and Cole had a surprise for me. I grabbed a towel to dry my face and sarcastically (cynically?) replied, “It better not be a puppy.” The grin froze in place, replaced by a momentary look of… panic? But, Ross and I followed him anyway. And there, in the garage, just as I had feared, was son #2 holding a purple leash with a tiny black puppy attached to the end of it.
“It’s a hunting dog,” they quickly explained. “We bought her with our own money.” This was followed by a lengthy string of positive affirmations. She’s a Black Lab! A purebred! The runt of the litter so they’d gotten a good deal! She had papers! And a lineage that included a national field trial champion! They promised to feed her, train her, clean up after her. (Dress her up warmly, and send her to school. Teach her how to fight to be nobody’s fool.) And, oh yeah, they’d named her Zoe.
I stared at those two beautiful children of mine… the ones I’d given life to, fed, nurtured, and loved… and in that moment, all I could think about was how much I wanted to tear them limb-from-limb. But I didn’t. Instead, I bent down and picked up that tiny, scared little puppy and suddenly realized I was a grandmother.
And then I went to bed and cried.
I cried for Riley, our 15 year old Golden Retriever who would surely feel like he was being replaced. I cried for the new carpet I would never see anytime soon, the dog hair I would never be done vacuuming, and the loss of freedom I enjoyed whenever I left the house on a whim. But mostly, I think I cried because I was entering a brave new world where my own babies were suddenly capable of making their own decisions, driving on freeways, and accessing their own bank accounts.
Damn it all to hell.
Sometime during the middle of the night, I heard the puppy whimpering in the bedroom next to ours, and it was all I could do not to get up and let her out myself. What if Cole doesn’t hear her in time? Will she pee in her kennel? And then what? Will she just have to lie in her own stinky mess all night long? I waited. And soon enough, I heard the kennel door rattle and then my own little boy in his little boy voice say, “You gotta go potty, Zoe?” And in that moment, I was very proud.
And then they left for school.
What about me, I screamed? Hey God, what about me? When can we talk about me?
And then God answered, “Man am I hungry! When do we eat? Is it time to eat yet? Right now? Come on! Let’s eat!”
I took a deep breath, fed that little puppy and thought to myself, I don’t have time for this. I need to form a plan. Write a resume. Update my LinkedIn profile. Get a job. Make a living. Write a screenplay. Join a book club.
And then God peed on my carpet.
So, I got down on my hands and knees with a wet rag and a bottle of Resolve (aptly named) and said to myself, “Damn those kids. They have no idea how much work it is to raise a puppy. Seriously, what were they thinking?? Of course, they were thinking since Mom isn’t working anyway, she can just stay home and watch the puppy.”
But then God stared at me with those big, curious brown eyes and said, “What is that? That soft, floppy thing. Is it a toy? I love it! I must have it! Let me have it!”
Exhausted, I crashed on the couch with another cup of coffee and told myself, I’m too old for this. I’ve already been here. Done this. It’s my time now. I have plans, big plans, and they don’t include staying home all day and watching a puppy. I am woman. Hear me roar.
And then God jumped into my lap, spilled my coffee, licked my face, exhaled some stinky puppy breath, cuddled up into a ball, and fell asleep.
So, there I sat. Stuck. Still. Frustrated. Exhausted. Spent.
And 100% head-over-heels in love.
Later that afternoon, someone who sounded a lot like my husband, walked in the front door and yelled “Where’s my puppy? Well, there’s my good girl! Were you a good puppy today? Oh yes, you’re such a good puppy, aren’t you Zoe? You’re my good puppy, aren’t you?”
It wasn’t Ross, I realized. It was God.
And later that evening, while we were all sitting in the living room, watching Zoe play on the handmade wool rug that Grandma Martha gave us for a wedding gift (the one Riley was strictly forbidden from ever laying foot on) I looked up at my beautiful family and wondered how long it had been since we’d all sat together in one place, talking, laughing, and enjoying one another’s company.
And in that moment, I realized God had been listening after all.