It’s 20 Months Since We Were Together

Cream I'm Back

I can hardly believe twenty months have passed since I last told you I was back and shared the joy of romance at the bus stop – not mine, you may recall – but I bathed in the beauty of the moment for a while afterwards nonetheless. 

Here I am again and, I PROMISE, I'll demonstrate rather more staying power and stamina this time.  Well, that's not strictly true since I've actually been steeped in stamina for some time now as so much has happened to the Teenagers and The Mutleys since we last spoke.  Would you like a nosey into the good, the bad and the ugly in my life since the love-in at the bus shelter?  Here goes . . .

You may recall I wrote about the Mutleys, our two working cocker (no they don't, but it's the breed name) spaniels, Susie and her son Alfred (renamed 'Alibear' by Daughter as he's warm, brown, furry and loving)?  Susie, my darling, faithful, devoted and loving lass, left us on 30th July 2010.  The date is forever with me as it was a day of such emotional extremes.  You see, it was also the wedding of my god-daughter.  We were due to leave for the wedding at 1.45 on that Friday afternoon.  The vet rang at 12.55 to say Sue was struggling.  I knew she was ill the evening before and cancelled going outSUE00045  with a friend to be with her.  My 4am friend (you know, those you know you can rely on at any hour), said she'd come round to me and, as we hadn't eaten, would cook something for us.  It was comforting to be sharing the anxiety with someone. She went home and I sat with my girl all night, trying to give her water, placing my hands lightly on her tummy in the hope that I could give her healing, pain relieving energy.  My presence calmed her; we'd been through a lot together.  Sue once sat upstairs for 3 days when I broke my leg and was non-weight bearing, refusing to leave me except for a quick rush down and into the garden to do the necessary.

I'd taken her to the vet on the morning of the wedding, expecting a quick once over, a couple of injections, a week's tablets and we'd be home for Elevenses.  Michael wanted to keep her in for tests.  OK, I said, as he carried my beloved Sue into the treatment room.  She looked back at me and I said "Don't worry, I'll be back at lunchtime for you", having told the vet we were going to a wedding.  That was the last time I saw her alive. 

The vet wanted to do an exploratory operation and said that if it was bad news, it would be kinder not to bring her round.  I was in my posh frock and gearing up for the wedding but was now sweating, screaming internally and feeling I'd betrayed my truest friend.  I heard a controlled voice reply from somewhere as panic and pain filled my soul.  He was going to ring back before 1.30pm with the news.  I said OK in a grown up way and put the phone down.  I didn't know how to share the news but, somehow, the words formed in my mind.  Daughter immediately said she wanted to see Sue before she was given the anaesthetic.  I should say, not only was this about possibly losing her dog but also not being able to say goodbye.  You see, tragedy had struck just months before when her best friend found things just too much and, without any warning and without saying goodbye, had taken her own life.

By now the adrenalin was pumping and I lunged for the phone to ring the vet; I was rather athletic actually, given the restrictions of the best frock.  I hurriedly told the nurse to ask the vet to wait – we were rushing down to see Sue.  Poor nurse was shocked and almost in need of oxygen herself, I felt.  She dropped the phone and rushed into the vet.  He hadn't told me our girl was already on the table when he rang, although not sedated at this point.  It was too late.  Sue was already unconscious and it was only about 4 minutes since his call. 

Each second seemed like a minute as we awaited the news.  It came at 1.25pm.  It was dreadful.  It was necrotising pancreatitis.  Extremely painful.  Recovery doubtful.  Quality of life and prognosis awful.  For those (probably most) readers who haven't encountered this torture, the pancreatic secretions begin to destroy the tissue of the pancreas instead of passing through to aid digestion, etc.  I had to find the strength to set Sue free.  Love her enough to let her go.  To bring her round would be cruel and yet I yearned to keep her with me.  There was no decision to make really.  Michael said it was the right decision.  I felt as though I was dislocated from my emotions.  It hurt too much.  Adrenalin rushed around my body.  And we had to get to the wedding, we just had to. 

Daughter was in meltdown and just physically couldn't manage a wedding.  We left the house 15 minutes later.  Husband and son were just about holding it together and we managed to arrive at the beautiful, sun-bathed little church just after the bride and her father had joined the bridesmaids.  How stunning she looked.  Just a touch under 6' tall, willowy, blonde and tanned in a dress that couldn't have been more perfect.  I managed a quick and quiet aside to my oldest friend and mother-of-the-bride, explaining we'd be slipping away to collect Daughter and go to say goodbye to Susie between the ceremony and reception (which, thankfully, was a decent drive away).   

We smiled through the ceremony for it was a very moving occasion to see this young couple married.  My soul was touched for the second time in an hour but in such a different way.  My mind flashed back to the day the bride was born and I had rushed to the hospital to greet this little scrap, pretty even at the 'just unpacked' stage.  We'd been asked to reserve this day a year previously to make sure we could be there.  I couldn't let her down.  The last time I'd been in this church was for the bride's christening, 24 years ago.

The sun shone generously as the guests poured into the churchyard, chattering excitedly.  We were spotted by people we hadn't seen for years.  Smalltalk wasn't on my agenda but I've often been told I should be on the stage and that afternoon, I proved it.  RADA? I didn't need training.  I'm a natural at hiding my feelings.  I smiled for England for 20 minutes, chatted animatedly enquiring after distant rellies and then we quietly slipped away, telling the bride's parents we'd be at the reception on time.

Son was shocked that one day could bring such happiness and such despair, in equal measures, in the space of just a couple of hours.  Welcome to Life, young man.  He looked very manly in his new suit. 

Daughter was waiting as we approached the house at speed.  To the onlooker it must have seemed like something from a gangland film, except for the posh frock and stuff.  Daughter rushed out and off we sped to the vets.  Thankfully, there was nobody else there.  Looking back, it would make a black sitcom.  In our wedding finery (daughter wasn't at this stage), we entered the treatment room to be reunited with our girl, dread and longing intermingled.  She lay on a fleece, looking happy, calm and pain-free and was covered with a warm dark blue blanket with beige paw prints on it.  She looked cosy and snuggled in.  I thought I'd probably wake up in a minute or hoped she might.  I stroked the soft, soft fur and we all spoke to her.  Sleep tight, my very special girl.  Even now, over a year later, tears of yearning spill as I recall the moment.

You see, I can't explain it, but when we looked into each other's eyes, it was as though our souls communicated.  We knew each other on every level.  We shared something special and precious.

Happy to have been able to say goodbye, Daughter felt she could go to the reception so we screeched home again, rushed in and Daughter changed into her finery.  But Alf had lost his mother and was going to and from the door, searching for her, which cut me to the core.  She'd been with him every day for five years.  Still washed his face every night.  At that point, he didn't know who 'Alfie' was, he was Susie's son.  Never mind us, how was he going to cope? 

Arrival at the reception was timed perfectly, the guests were mingling in the beautiful hotel gardens.  The hotel was done out as a beach theme, as the Groom had proposed on the beach.  Names were painted on flat stones, instead of place cards.  It was inspired and inspirational.  Being on a table with some of the Groom's family, we chatted and sparkled, smiling and jovial.  Good job nobody looked into our eyes.  But this was my god-daughter's special day and our tragedy mustn't be allowed to seep into it, staining the moment and colouring memories.  It didn't.  We enjoyed it.  It was a beautifully happy wedding.  The couple are still blissfully content. 

Life has moved on since 30th July 2010 but Susie still lives with us.  She's in our hearts and in the way Alf cocks his head when he's listening.  A psychic asked me if there was a little rug on the landing outside my bedroom door.  I said there is.  I've never been strong enough to move it.  "Your dog still sleeps on there", she said.  She described a smallish black dog who is devoted to me.  Did you notice that?  Who IS not was devoted to me.  I know you're still with me, Sue. 

It took 6 long months, but Alfie's adjusted to life as a 'man'.  You see, he had to grow up.  On the first IMG00002-20110730-0901 few visits to the park after Sue left, he didn't even know where to wee because he always followed Mum.  Now, he's master of all he surveys.  He loves long walks and confidently goes off exploring.  And yet, he now does much of the 'mum' stuff, he's even started washing the cats.  They just love it – two licks and they're done.  Heck, why keep a dog and wash yourself?  

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