Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Gift

Yesterday was market day.

Every third Wednesday I make my way into town to pay my bills and buy a few groceries, dog and goat food for the month. I do this on this day since that is when my disability check comes in and while I don't have it as hard as many, I am on a fixed income. I try to get everything paid off while the money is there.

I don't talk much about money, because I was raised that way. In fact, it was a lesson my mother actually regretted driving home so hard. The lesson that ladies simply did not concern themselves with finances and certainly didn't talk about them. I don't think I knew what each job I had paid at the time I took it until I was in my mid-twenties.

"So how much will you be making?" My mother would ask.

"I'm not sure. I didn't ask."

It just felt impossibly rude to talk about it. How could I possibly ask how much money I'd be making?

Now, I count each penny. Most of what I've made has literally gone to the dogs. And the goats. I'll eat ramen noodles all month before my animals will go without. Good thing I actually like ramen noodles.

This was a harder trip than most. Aegis' vet bill was substantial and I'd had to rework my entire budget so I could pay off that bill over the next four or five months.

We had been promised a grant from a group called Help-a-Pet. But as soon as they found out that Aegis was not going to make it, they withdrew the offer. I was too grief stricken to think about it at the time, but it was beginning to piss me off.

My mother didn't only give me a pathological avoidance of all things monetary. She was the one who gave me the gift of words. As a pudgy, pigtailed fat kid, stumbling in and out of fat camp like a crack addict in rehab, I knew very well that words could hurt. I learned from watching my mother, that words were a devastating weapon when deployed with skill.

Frances Griffeth was the undisputed champion of the nasty letter. She was a veritable sensei of the arch and cutting word. In my mother's hands, the pen was not only mightier than the sword, it was mightier than a thermonuclear warhead.

So, as I thought about it, I decided that Help-a-Pet deserved a letter. I didn't want their damn money, but I wanted them to know that I knew that what they did was wrong. So I began composing a letter. A Frances letter. A letter to shame these dreadful people.

I was having to take sleeping pills to stop composing the letter at night.

That's how a truly good nasty letter is born. You have to obsess about it. You need to let it run around your brain like a rabid raccoon, before actually writing it.

The letter gnawed at my brain stem while I went about my errands until I reached my vet's office. As I sat in the jeep in front of the office, the enormity of my loss hit me.

I'd forgotten how difficult the first visit back to the vet's after such a loss could be. I stood outside the door on their porch and looked out to the street.

I tried to compose myself. I kept doing that stupid sucking in and out of my cheeks thing that I do when I'm trying not to cry. I try not to think what I must look like, standing there...stiffly and rigidly. My fists clinching and my eyes turning bloodshot and wet. I try to stop my chin from wrinkling up like a Cabbage Patch Doll's ass. I buck it up. I walk in the clinic.

I thought I was doing okay as I put my wallet down on the counter of the window that looked into the receptionist's area.

"I'm here to put some money down on Aegis' bill." I say.

Michelle messes with the computer to bring up Aegis' screen.

I thought I was doing okay until I caught the word "deceased" in italics and parentheses next to Aegis' name. I felt my face crumple like a used tissue.

"There doesn't seem to be a balance on this account." Michelle says.

I blink hard to regain control of my facial muscles.

"There must be some mistake." I say, my voice soft and hoarse.

Michelle goes into the back and returns with Sandra, my vet. Actually, most of the clinic pokes their heads in the door.

"This was already taken care of. A man from Durham paid it."

At this point, I completely lose it. I know who did this. He only knows me sort of second hand. Aegis and I took in a cocker in Charleston named Zachary. We took him to Kerry Bryce's Carolina Cockers in Chapin, SC. He was a quirky little tri-color with an attitude and an air of entitlement. Mr. Holley adopted Zach.

Zach went on to the bridge this past year. The Holley's were crushed. Zach, like Aegis, wasn't really all that old.

And now, Mr. Holley done gone and paid Aegis' vet bill.

I stand there sobbing like a five year old. I'm glad there isn't anyone else in the clinic. I don't have a handkerchief and wipe my face on my sleeve.

"Hey! This is a good thing!" Sandra says.

"I...I..uh..uh...uh...know...uh...uh..He didn't have to do that!" I say, barely able to speak. I am not a person who weeps with any sort of grace or elegance. It's not pretty.

They ask how the other of my "boys" are doing. I'm so grateful that they can tell that I need to turn my mind to something else so that I can regain control. Self-control is important to me and I've completely lost it this day.

I'm almost okay again and can leave the office.

I sit in the jeep for about fifteen minutes before I feel I can drive. I'm overwhelmed by the generosity of Mr. Holley. I think of all of the wonderful gifts I've received. My mother's gift of her fearsome and lovely words. Aegis' gift of companionship and self-less devotion. My veterinarian's gift of understanding. My wonderful, supportive friends. And Mr. Holley didn't just pay Aegis' vet bill for me.

He gave me the gift of knowing that there are people out there handing out kindnesses just to do so. Just because.

How great is that?


  1. Chris said...
    Rosie, does your big sis' worry about money a lot?
    Rosie said...
    Hey Chris. Thanks for visiting my blog.

    Yes, I think Simone worries about money, but I think it's on a whole other level than how I worry about money. My Sibs have done fairly well for themselves. You know, Simone spent some time in New York working off Broadway. So she knows how I live, but I think that's a really distant memory for her now. Also, they haven't had the physical challenges that I've faced, so I'm not sure if they can really relate to that. They've seen me at my worst but it's a whole different thing to actually experience it. Know what I mean?
    luna*tic said...
    There are angels here on earth... and just when I go and re-examine my atheism I am reminded that there IS some higher power pullin' strings for us. You are LOVED, Rosie. xoxo
    Rosie said...
    Where are you these days, Kirsty? I tried to go to your blog and it were gone!
    Leeuna said...
    Hi Rosie,
    I'm so happy it is all working out for you. Yes, the world is full of is through God's grace that we meet them. I feel blessed by the many who have touched my life in different ways. Take care and I hope your grief is lessening with each new day.

    Do we have any baby goats yet? I hope you will post pictures when they get here. I can't wait to see them. :-)

    Love and hugs
    Nancy said...
    We lost our beloved dog in June this year. The vet (unknown till we put the facts together) give us the chemo she administered to him for far less than it cost her to buy the meds.

    And the staff cried with us at the end.

    There are some very good people out there.
    luna*tic said...
    Rosie girl - I'm in the process of moving back to Seattle! To de-stress myself I've cut back on all the blogging/buzznet stuff (I guilt trip myself). When I get settled in Seattle -sometime mid-Feb, I'll be back up and running with photos & stories! :) xoxo

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