Saturday, October 27, 2007

Soul-Soothing Seaport

On Friday, October 5, a nurse told me over the phone that I did not have cancer. She gave me this news without shouting, She was casual, downright breezy when she informed me that "everything looks fine." What an odd thing. I've never been in a position to tell someone they did not have cancer, but knowing myself as I do, I imagine that if I were, I would be pretty damn excited when I delivered the news. Oh, well. We don't need nurses at the other end of the phone to share our joy, do we? But wouldn't it be a fine thing if they did?

So. Knowing I did not in fact have to face dealing with cancer, I decided I'd better do something about my dog-my heart, "Baby," (she came to me with the name) an impossibly sweet Maltese, had not been eating for a week. I would search for signs that my fourteen year old dog was just "off her food." Baby, too, did her best to deny the state of her affairs. She put on an eager show when it was time for a walk, our routine demonstrations of mutual love and friendship seemed almost normal on both our parts-I didn't let her know I was worried, and she tried to hide how badly she was feeling. We managed until I got the biopsy report, and then it seemed like my dog and I both knew it was time to pay the piper. Baby not eating was a clear, serious, extradordinary signal that all was not well with her health. So I took her to the vet that day. And later that day, because she had acute renal failure and wouldn't recover, I held her while she was euthanized.

If you love a pet, you know how I felt when she died. If you don't, or never have, you will not understand and there's simply nothing I can do about that. So be it.

A week later I took a short trip, by myself, to the small seaport town of Apalachacola. I stayed in an elegant Edwardian B & B for two nights and enjoyed the off-season ambiance and incredible October weather. The second afternoon I drove to St. George Island, across two fabulous bridges from Apalach, a drive covered in fifteen minutes, walked on the nearly empty beach on the Gulf of Mexico, and said good-by to my dog.

Seafood, antique shops, privately run bookstores, coffe houses, all these favorite things helped ease me into acceptance. Baby had driven from Maryland to Florida with me when I made the trip to try and get my sick mother's medications straightened out. She'd waited while I climbed in the window of a drunken brother's apartment so that I could see if he was still breathing, and when I opened the door for her, she insisted that he wake up and smile at us. A few years later, when I left my husband, Baby drove south with me again, and settled into our lives as care-givers of elderly parents. She was my assistant, providing the daily dose of comic relief.

Enough! Anyone reading this who understands, understands. Of course I was delighted to find out I didn't have cancer, although I still felt, and feel lousy, but it was almost unbearable to then hold my dog while she received her lethal injection. I am hoping life does not offer two such experiences in the same day again.

As far as the travel diary portion of this blog entry goes, Apalachicola is a gem, The Coombs House Inn a gracious, tasteful retreat, and there simply isn't weather any better than sunny October days on the Florida panhandle, If there is someone you need to say good-by to, or someone you need to share some loveliness with, I heartily recomment Apalachacola-home to the inventor of air-conditioning and 90% of the country's oysters-Florida