We can learn a lot from pets. Dogs anyway. I don't have the same familiarity with cats, reptiles, horses or whatevers, but I assume they're the same. Well, not reptiles. To me, they lack personality. And then some. But dogs. Well, consider this ...
For medical reasons, I was gone from home for four weeks. During that time, my Boston terrier, Winston, allowed a friend to feed him, tolerated her dog living in his house and let everyone know -- from where he slept to the way he rushed to the door when someone arrived -- that he expected me to come home.
And when I did, he immediately went and grabbed his longtime favorite toy and brought it to me. Sharing his treasure.
So what does that teach us about loyalty, love and longing? How about expectation. Or excitement. Or simple exasperation?
Not that Winston isn't a patient pup. But how long will any of us put up with a complete yet unexplained change in environment? OK, he's just an animal. Neither he nor other friends abandoned me.
But while I was in a rehab center for three weeks after shoulder replacement surgery, I was taught a lot, as many people there waited for children or friends to call. Many waited, I should add, in vain.
Not that I instantly condemn these families. With all the emphasis on being a good child, there is rarely given equal attention to deserving it. Attention, that is. Frankly, in many cases, parents expect a lot and put forth little.
"My (daughter or son) comes every day," one mother at our dining table always said. She would titter then, "I tell them to focus on their families, but they tell me I come first." She would titter again and look at me. "And your daughter ...?"
Comes on the weekends, I'd remind her. She has corporate responsibilities and two small children. And a husband. She even spent one weekend -- his birthday -- hiking near Palm Springs while the kids stayed with the other grandma.
It's not the showing up every day, I'd say. It's the telephone calls daily and the knowledge -- and experience -- I've had that she will drop all to help me in an emergency.
I don't depend on my child yet. Maybe someday she will be all I have left to lean on.
Meanwhile, I rely on myself as much as possible. Before embarking on any adventure, I do my own research through friends or the Internet.
If I am responsible for myself, I am more confident about knowing what's happening to my world. By opening my world to others, I build confidence in my own decisions.
I never could abide the flutter-head who relied on someone else -- usually her husband -- to make her life choices. In many cases, these women now flutter alone, particularly if children live elsewhere or they have no kids to lean upon.
Winston was a rescue dog. He shares his fears and traumas in the way he sits close beside me on the couch or moves with me from room to room.
But he also lets me know he can live without me, if necessary. I believe we owe our kids the same sense of freedom.
Sure, they should ultimately take responsibility -- but out of love and respect, not an onerous sense of duty.
Watching the way moms at the rehab center interacted or depended on families was a new experience for me.
I was proud to have my daughter on the phone, friends taking me out regularly for lunch or dinner, and Winston ready to give me love. That's caring support.
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