Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pearl 18: Death May Separate But Love Always Unites

Dearest Gehrig and Eliana,                                                                                  

Greetings, my sweethearts, from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  Granny and I are on the last segment of the World Cruise 2008 aboard the SS Voyager from Athens, Greece to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.  We are having a marvelous time and meeting some wonderful new people and renewing friendships with folks we saw on our full World Cruise 2006.

One of the things which has struck me on this trip is all the stories these people have about their lives and what fills their time when they are not traveling or on cruise ships.  Many of them talk of their children and grandchildren and even great grandchildren (many are older than your Granny and I) and they also talk about their pets and how much they miss them and love them. 

When I was six years old, I lived in Darien, CT in a wooded little residential area on a street called Clock Avenue, between Dickinson and Noroton roads, about three blocks off the old Post Road.  The little New England salt box house we lived in was on a corner and had an extra lot next to it.  I thought at the time that it was a mansion with an exciting, vast expanse of wilderness to play in.  It was that year, 1951, my parents decided to buy me a dog for my birthday.  It was a puppy Saint Bernard and was the cutest thing.  He was not only cute but small enough for me to hold in my little arms. I named him Jigger, for reasons that now escape me, but I loved that dog from the first moment I saw him. 

The first night we had him home I made a little bed for him in the kitchen.  I put a pan of water by it and put him down for the night when I went to bed.  The kitchen had a swinging door preventing Jigger from getting out in the house. All was well until about 2:00 AM when I was awakened in my upstairs bedroom by Jigger, who was whining and yelping in the kitchen.  I got up, went down to the kitchen and turned on the light.  There he was, huddled in his bed, whimpering and frightened.  I picked him up and held him for a while, petting him and talking to him.  I told Jigger that everything was going to be alright, calming him and comforting him.  He settled down and I put him back in his bed, turning out the light and going back upstairs.

No sooner had I crawled back into bed when the whimpering and yelping started again.  I got back up and went back down to the kitchen.  There he was again, cowering in his corner, with long, high pitched whines.  Again, I comforted him and told him he must stop whining and yelping or he would wake up mom and dad and they wouldn’t be happy.  Again he calmed down and I left thinking to my self how well I handled the situation.  Not back in my warm bed five minutes and almost back to sleep when the racket from the kitchen began anew.  Now my patience was wearing thin.

I returned to the kitchen and picked up a newspaper my dad had left on the table.  I rolled it up and brandished it before Jigger, threatening him with a swat if he didn’t keep quiet.  I mean, that tactic used to work on me when my mom had had enough of us kids driving her nuts.  But it only made Jigger whine louder.  I walked over to his bed and raised the newspaper up over my head fully prepared to deliver the blow which I was confident would teach him not to misbehave.  Then I looked down into those big, moist brown eyes and saw the frightened look on his face.  I instantly remembered all the times I lay in the dark of my bedroom, fearful of the night’s shadows and noises and feeling like whining myself.  My heart melted.  I dropped the paper and knelt down, picking the trembling puppy up in my arms and hugging him, and telling him through tears I understood. 

The next morning, my mom found me curled up next to Jigger’s bed in the kitchen, my arms wrapped around him and both of us fast asleep.  After that he slept in my bedroom until he was about nine months old and was twice as big as I was.  We were inseparable and played all day long out in my private wilderness.  He used to watch me swinging for hours in the rope swing, tied between two huge oak trees in our side yard, his head cocked curiously to one side.

That first winter, he would go out with me to play in the snow and would come in with huge clumps of snow tangled into his thick black and white fur.  It would take mom and me nearly an hour to comb him up and then usually, we were back out again for another romp in our white wonderland.  Then in the late summer I was in the house for a drink of water and heard the sound of screeching tires. Jigger had apparently run out into the street for some unknown reason and a car ran over him. 

I remember standing over his lifeless body by the side of the road, tears streaming down my face, and begging my mom to fix him…to make him well.  It was the first time I remember seeing anything dead; especially someone or something I loved.  Mom took this moment to explain death to me. We prayed over Jigger and asked God to take him to “doggy heaven” and then the animal people came and took him away.  I will always remember not only the love I had for Jigger but the love I felt in return, which brings me to my next pearl.

Eighteenth Pearl:  Death May Separate but Love Always Unites

Two days ago was April 22, 2008.  It was the anniversary of a very sad occasion for me as it was the day, 39 years earlier, that my father, your great grandfather, Byrom Judson Smith, Jr., passed away at the very same age I am today, 62.  Now I am not trying to equate the loss of a pet dog to the loss of a father.  Of course they are vastly different.  But those two events were similar in many ways.  Both Jigger and my father died too early and the significance of that has always been in the back of my mind.  Both Jigger and my father left behind people that mourned their loss, missing them to this day and loving them dearly.  But even though death separated me from my beloved pet and my only father, the love I have for them still lives on in my heart and in my mind and in my spirit.  We are united by that love and are inseparable, even in death.

My prayer for both of you is that you never have to be separated from someone you love too soon but that you will always remember, even death cannot pull apart the bonds of love which eternally bind us together.

Granny and I are looking forward to your visit in June for Aunt Brittany’s wedding and then for your long stay at “Camp PK”.  Until we see you, may God Bless you and keep you in His care.

Love you, bunches and bunches,

Grandpa Jud    xoxoxo

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