When my daughter, Corrie and her husband, Kevin were dating, there came a day when Corrie was at her Grandma Schulenberg’s house to visit. Kevin came by, and they were sitting on the front porch talking. Corrie was sixteen years old at the time, and Kevin was nineteen. It was a nice day, and they were just enjoying each other’s company, when her grandma came out of the house and said that they were going grocery shopping, and asked if Corrie wanted to go along or stay there at the house. Corrie said that they would just stay at the house. Well, apparently that was the wrong answer, because her Grandma said, “No, you are going with us!” That was the end of the story. Corrie went grocery shopping and Kevin went home.
Corrie’s grandma grew up in a different era. Not the one where dates had to have a chaperone, but you didn’t leave a young couple at a house by themselves. I’m not sure what they thought was different about a house as opposed to a car, or any other place where kids could be alone, but she apparently felt that it was her job to make sure nothing happened. Corrie was old enough to drive, and had driven herself over to their house, so she could have just locked the house and told them to go home, but that didn’t seem appropriate to her, so she made Corrie go grocery shopping, and the kids dutifully obeyed her. If you had ever been grocery shopping with my mother-in-law, you know would that it is a three or four hour ordeal, and Corrie left her car at their house, so she was stuck. I went shopping with her once, and that was enough for me, but that is another story.
The kids never told me about that occurrence, until we were coming back from visiting her in the nursing home a couple of days ago. My mother-in-law had been talking about Kevin a few days earlier, and with his job, it wasn’t easy for him to get the time to go out there with us, but on this day, he was able to come. With her Alzheimer’s Disease, I wanted to make sure that he understood that even though she had been talking about him, she still might not recognize him. When we got there, I asked her if she knew who all her visitors were, and she looked at him and said, “Yes, Kevin.” Kevin has been in the family longer than any of her other grandchildren-in-law, but I was still surprised. I guess that his respectful handling of that awkward moment twenty two years or so ago, made a good impression on her…that and all the other nice things about Kevin.
Bob and I walk 2 hours a day about 5 days a week. In the winter, we walk at the mall because it is too cold and windy outside. But in the summer, we walk on the trails around town…with our main weekday trail being the one we can access by walking a block down our street. Walking on that trail as often and as long as we do, we have had a chance to get to know the people that are on the trail daily like we are. We have built a friendship with them. If we don’t see them for a while, we wonder where they are, and even ask about them to others who also know them. When we were absent from the trail for a time, many people wondered about us too. One friend even drove by our house to see if we had moved or something. It is comforting to know that people notice your absence and try to check it out. The absences had always been simple to explain, and nothing serious…until now.
When Bob and I were at Walmart on Sunday doing our grocery shopping, we ran into a friend, Tina from the trail. She always walked the trail with her dog…Toby. When we told her we hadn’t seen her in a while, she told us that her Toby Dog had died, and she had not felt up to walking much without him. I couldn’t believe my ears. Her dog was so sweet. I felt such a loss…and Toby wasn’t even my dog, so what must she be feeling.
Toby was an old dog, and had been the victim of other dogs who wanted to attack him at times, so he was a little nervous around people he didn’t know…especially if they had a dog. We didn’t have a dog, and Tina is the girlfriend of a friend of Bob’s, so we would always stop and talk for a minute when we passed each other. The first time we saw her on the trail, she introduced us to Toby. We petted him and from that day forward, we were accepted by Toby as a friend. The minute Toby would see us on the trail, he would step up his pace a little in anticipation of the coveted petting he was going to receive.
It was just a minute or two several times a week, and yet finding out that I won’t see Toby again, made me very sad. Pets wiggle their way into the hearts of their owners every day, but it is unusual for someone else’s pet to find their way into the heart of someone he only saw for, maybe 15 minutes a week. Nevertheless, that is exactly what happened, and I will miss Tina’s Toby Dog very much.