Thursday, March 15, 2012


I was poking around in the My Documents folder on my computer tonight and stumbled upon this story that I wrote almost a year ago. It was originally intended to be the introduction to a lengthy post on writing and how its role in my life has evolved over the years (I even had a few notes at the bottom to remind me of some points I wanted to make. Problem is, the notes are so cryptic that even I can't understand them). When I reread it, though, I really liked it (even though it made me realize that I've taken to using the, "But I digress," line far too often) and decided to go ahead and post it here.

The title is the name the file was saved under. I couldn't come up with anything better and it seemed reasonable enough.

I don’t remember the first thing I ever wrote, but I’m sure it was something terribly interesting about how much I loved school and my mommy and daddy and my big brother and sister and even my brand new baby sister even though she smelled kinda funny and yelled a lot. Okay, maybe not quite – I was still a year away from kindergarten when the youngest, Anna, was born, and since I couldn’t read until kindergarten, I’m sure I wasn’t writing anything so soon after her arrival. If we’re being honest (and I hope you’ve found that I like to be as honest as possible in everything I write), I just wanted to write that line about her smelling funny and yelling a lot, because that would allow me to make a little joke about how that’s still true, which would be funny mostly because she doesn’t read this blog and will only hear about it from my mother, who will hear about it from my father, who actually does check in here from time to time, and then she’ll yell at me the next time she sees me.

But I digress.

The first thing I can remember writing was – well, actually it was two things, a pair of stories I wrote about my pets, Cody the Cat and R2 the Dog, in fourth grade. We were always given writing time during the day. The teacher would pass out those sheets of yellow paper with the blue lines on it, we’d pull out our pencils (unless we had passed the penmanship tests and were allowed to use pen; to this day, whenever someone says I have nice handwriting, I tell them it’s because I desperately wanted to use pen in the fourth grade), and away we’d go, filling every other line with words on whatever topic we had chosen to discuss. I don’t know why I picked Cody and R2; probably because they were a big part of my world, two of my best friends. I really loved Cody, who I actually sort of inherited from my older sister Jennifer when she went away to college, because he slept on my pillow and climbed trees and did all the interesting things you would expect a cat to do. R2, who my brother named as a puppy (ostensibly because our first dog was Rusty so this was “Rusty the 2nd”; the fact that he named his next dog “Mace”, however, seems to indicate that the name was Star Wars-inspired, regardless of what I’ve been telling people for the past twenty years), loved me, mostly because I was his master and ran around with him outside and scratched his belly and gave him water on hot summer days. All relationships should be so simple.

I wrote those stories during the “salad days”, as HI McDonough might call them, when times were simple. No bills, no trouble in school, no real concerns at all. I wrote them, one far longer than the other, thought I can’t remember which one, long before I lost both of my friends to somewhat tragic circumstances. Cody was hit by a car on October 9, 1990, three weeks before my birthday; I remember seeing a big to-do outside, hearing my mother talking quietly about what had happened, and standing in our living room, holding one of the big wood chairs with the brown cushions, saying quietly to myself, “It’s not him. He’s not dead. He CAN’T be dead,” over and over and over again. That night, I learned that life doesn’t always come down to how bad you want something. Sometimes, you just have to play the cards as they’re dealt.

R2 hurt more. I could say it felt that way because he lived longer, and that may be true, but it may also be because, as I said, he loved me, and I wonder if maybe it’s harder to lose those who love you. It hurts to lose someone you love because even though it hurts, you know that you will one day have the capacity to love again. Finding someone who loves you, especially unconditionally, is a much more frightening proposition.

Anyway, R2 died on January 4, 2001, shortly after being diagnosed with cancer. My parents didn’t want to put him through extensive, uncertain, expensive treatments – they had watched his predecessor, Rusty, grow older and sicker, a golden and white shell that used to be their beloved pet – and so the difficult decision was made to have him put to sleep. I understood where they were coming from, and only asked one thing: to be allowed to take him to the veterinarian myself. My father was planning on doing it – that’s what my father does, take care of the tough things – until I talked with my mother. I don’t remember all of what I said – probably something about how much I cared for him and how I would make his last day as comfortable as possible – but I do remember telling her that if my father wouldn’t let me handle this on my own, I would never forgive him.

That may or may not have been true, but she believed me, and that’s all that mattered. The next day, my father handed me R2’s leash, made sure I knew where to go, and sent me on my way.

I don’t remember every detail, but I’m sure of two things there: I took the long way there, prolonging the inevitable as long as possible, and I cried a lot. When we arrived at the hospital, I took a few minutes outside to compose myself before going inside. R2 peed on the walkway leading into the animal hospital, the canine equivalent of carving “Brooks was here” into a ceiling beam. Inside, I told them why I was there; while we waited for someone to come out and tell me what to do, another animal owner spotted R2 and exclaimed, “Oh, he’s BEAUTIFUL! What’s his NAME? How OLD is he?” I was numb, but I answered anyway, as politely as possible. My mother didn’t raise me to be rude.

Finally, someone came from the back, I signed some papers, and she took R2’s leash. Then, my deepest regret: I stood there and watched while she led my best friend away to die. I wish I had stayed with him. I should have stayed with him. He didn’t deserve to die alone. Great, now I’m crying. Who said honesty was the best policy?

So anyway, the first two things I can remember writing were about my pets.