Last week it sucked to be an adult. The laundry was piled up to my knees, the dirty dishes had overflowed across the counter top and we ran out of toilet paper. It was one of those moments when I stood in the midst of the chaos, raised my hands in the air and shouted, “Can someone send an adult here?!?!”
Today I’m looking back on my experience with something akin to fondness. I know now that those moments when your greatest frustration is finding a black sock in the white load are nothing more than the merit badges of adulthood. These are the moments that reinforce just how much you’ve accomplished. You’ve worked hard, studied and grown, and now have a washing machine and cutlery and forgotten grocery lists to give you first world adult problems.
Today I learned just how much it really and truly sucks to be an adult. Our family dog came to the end of her long walk through life. She was the first of my adult merit badges. At 23, I bought the smallest, least doggy dog in the world. A tiny teacup yorkie, her personality outweighed her size at a ratio of 1000 to 1. For years she walked by my side, forever hassling me to toss a ball for her or to let her curl up next to me. In our 15 years together, she lived in San Francisco, Italy, Phoenix, France, Philadelphia, San Francisco again, the Netherlands and now England. She never questioned the paths that life led us down, happy to meander along with me as long as I provided treats and belly rubs, and a bottomless supply of mini tennis balls.
Over the last few months I watched the cancer slowly eat away with her, as she slept a little bit more and played a little bit less. She was still there, licking crumbs off the floor and peeing in my living room, reminding me in her not so subtle ways that she might be on her way out of this world, but she wasn’t going without leaving a mark.
I knew our days were limited, but I kept hoping someone else would step in. That she might pass peacefully in her sleep or another adult, a more adulty adult, would show up and make the hard decisions for me. Today I looked around frantically, but the only face I could find was my own. I was her adult, I could not pass the responsibility to someone else without abandoning her in her last moment of need.
I drew in my backbone, plodded through the day until the appointed hour and then I said my goodbye. There was no merit badge for the moment. No commemorative plaque. No trophy to set upon the mantle. Just a hard core dose of adulting in its worst form possible.
I stumbled back to my car, my watery vision blocking out unimportant details like curbs and potholes. I threw myself into my seat, buried my head in one hand and used the other to phone my father.
I had adulted as hard and as long as I could until I just could not adult anymore. I raised the white flag and cried out for my father to step in. Together we honored her memory, celebrating her love for me and my love for her. We remembered how she ran us ragged, and in doing so shaped me to be the mom that I am today. My children are too young to know how much they owe her, to understand the way dog motherhood taught me about responsibility and putting someone else first.
We mourned all the pets we’ve lost over the years, fighting losing battles against the tear-filled floods of memories, so beautiful and bittersweet. Despite the generation between us, we spoke as compatriots, fellow adults who’ve faced the same adult challenges and been stunned to find that we were the most adulty adults in the room.
Today it sucked to be an adult. But I was her adult, and she had aged into my adult, and there was no else I would have trusted in this world.
RIP Lilli Dog – March 15, 2001 – May 5, 2016