Sunday, February 25, 2007


Before we even knew about Rio’s cancer I had booked a trip to visit my mom during her annual winter stay on Maui. It would be a girl’s trip, just she and I, and a nice, but short break from my job. As it turns out, we would be having him euthanized the day before I left, so my packing that evening would be done with tears running down my face.

On the flight over to Maui the next day, I thought, if the change of scenery and seeing my mom doesn’t help me feel better, I’m hopeless. As it turns out, it was the right medicine at the right time. It was wonderful to see mom in her element, her yearly sojourn back to the place she and my dad loved to visit when he was alive, and I had plenty of time to rest and reflect.

It was great that my mom had lots of events on the calendar for us…a spa pedicure, a massage (two things I hardly ever do, I swear, but helped to immediately induce relaxation), walking, Whale Day in Kihei, dinners with her friends at the condo, daily walking and sunset conch celebrations, and whale watching. Sigh. The air there is magical, whether it’s pure sun or that delightful combination of sun and “pineapple mist” (their clever way, as a tourist destination, of describing “rain”) on my skin.

Symbolically, the mother whales were out and about with their offspring, and we were lucky to observe a mother and very new calf just out in front of her condo, close to shore. The binoculars gave us a very clear view of a touching scene, with mother buoying her newborn off her head, hardly moving at all in the water.

While I felt that once on Maui I was making progress in dealing with Rio’s death, it was clear to me that I still had a long way to go when some friends of my mom’s asked me about him and I became too emotional to speak. Hmm. Still have some work to do on that.

When I got home I noticed that there were quite a few of Rio’s things out and about in the house, so I began to put them away. His two metal food bowls, his water bowl and the placemat we had underneath them. His toys. I guess that’s a necessary part of moving on.

Last night we had a pretty good rainstorm, and in the early hours of the morning our electricity went out, causing our wired-in smoke alarm to make its usual very brief, high pitched sound, and then later all of the household electronic machinery to kick into action when it returned. It gave me goosebumps, and both my husband and I immediately thought of Rio. In his later years, those sounds would cause him terrible fear, and wherever he was in the house, he would come to find me, and sit quaking at my feet. This is the same dog who would bound out into the driveway, hackles full up, barking his best guard dog bark to greet anyone who came to visit. In reality, he was afraid of a lot of things. The vet's office. Loud noises. Stairs. Jumping out of the truck once his sight was nearly gone. One time the power went out and he sought refuge with me in this way. Through the sudden darkness I heard a chattering sound, and when I turned my flashlight down to the floor where it was coming from, I saw that it was his teeth. Oh my God, I thought. The poor guy was just frightened out of his mind.

I guess sometimes things just aren’t what they seem.

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