Sometimes “not today” are the most comforting words you can hear. When you’re dealing with a situation that eventually is going to end in heartbreak, just knowing that it won’t be today is good enough. Having a little more time to keep on keeping on is all you can ask for.
We are pet parents and have somehow always found ourselves blessed with wonderful animals who have serious medical conditions. Currently we have two dogs, one of whom is younger with a metabolic disorder diagnosed when she was a puppy. Stella will require a lifetime of monthly injections and daily pills, but if we do that, she’s fine. Living the good life and a delightful pet.
Our other dog, Vinnie, is a rescue who came to us a little over four years ago with a pristine bill of health. He now has an incurable liver condition that requires a great deal of medication and frequent trips to a veterinary specialist. His body, for some unknown reason, is intent on destroying his liver and is well on its way to succeeding, despite our best efforts. Today, after some bloodwork came back with concerning numbers, he was at the vet’s for another ultrasound and additional testing. News isn’t good, but it’s slightly more positive than negative. We’ll take it, because today he’s eating and playing and chasing squirrels and driving us crazy with his barking. He doesn’t know his liver is dying. Something to be said for that.
Is not today just an island in the sea of denial? Probably. But sometimes I think we need those islands. We need to haul ourselves up on the sand, catch our breath, and tamp down the constant anticipation of the worst, which right now for us, is that final trip to the vet’s which we have experienced all too often in recent years. We need frequent stops on those not today islands to build up our stamina, to lay in supplies for rough seas ahead. And for those of us anxiety-driven souls, who are always thinking about the next wave, not today allows us to stop, have a cocktail, and enjoy the beautiful beach in front of us right now.
We know that someday we’re going to lose our parent or spouse or partner or best friend but in the meantime, we go to work and then out for dinner and a movie. It’s when the tidal wave starts to shimmer on the horizon, surging ever closer to us, when the ground begins to quiver under our feet, when the birds and animals head for the hills—that’s when not todays become our shelters. They become warm blankets on a comfortable bed where we can curl up and hold that person or creature we love so much as tightly as we can for as long as we can.
I remember not todays in the last months of my dad’s life, when bedridden became the new normal for him. There were still jokes with the nurses and watching the Food Network in the evenings and occasionally even enjoying a milkshake from the drugstore around the corner. (Yes, it was one that still had a lunch counter.) Not today meant reading prayers together at bedtime and planning for the logistics of selling a family home and his treasured collection of railroad memorabilia and not today meant he was still coherent enough to help me with that. Not todays are a precious gift to those of us in long-term battles we know we’re going to lose.
We’re at the beach right now with our dogs. The vet called again with depressing results from yet another test. We start a new medication when we get home that may have some unpleasant side effects. I gather it’s our last hope in managing this condition. Meanwhile, I watch Vinnie gobble his food and beg for more, play with his Kong toy and snuggle with those he loves. God, I hope I do the same when my liver is failing. I know that probably sooner than later, we’re going to lose this dog. But not today.