It was the second-worst week of my life.
I said good-bye to my relatives in Buffalo after saying my final farewell to my Dad and flew back to Nashville, where I collected my truck from my brother’s house and drove home in a steady rain to the place I have called home for 55 years now — Owensboro.
I parked in my little driveway and hauled my big heavy suitcase out of the passenger seat, then stood for a moment just looking at my pretty little house and thinking how happy I was to be home.
I gathered up the mail, lugged my suitcase over the threshold, looked around to make sure everything was as I had left it, and then picked up my keys once again to go pick up my faithful dog.
As I drove to my son’s house, I reflected on how thankful I was that he, my daughter-in-law and grandboy had unhesitatingly offered to keep Roof while I was out of town. That’s what family is for, and we try to do those little things for one another, but it’s still a big deal for people who already have two dogs of their own, plus busy schedules with jobs, school, soccer and all the other stuff that goes along with life for a young family.
It always takes me a moment to find their house, but the bird feeder shaped like a taco truck lets me know I am in the right place.
I parked by the curb and walked up the sidewalk. My weariness and worries faded significantly when the front door opened and my grandboy appeared.
Zeke walked slowly toward me, arms outstretched. We met, embraced, held for a long moment, just leaning in on one another, sharing a moment of comfort and love.
Then I stepped back and looked into his big brown eyes. They glistened with unshed tears.
“Zeke, my dear, why are you sad?” I asked, wrapping an arm around his slender shoulders.
He gulped, then whispered, “Rufus chewed up my meerkat.”
I paused, trying to process this information, then guided him toward the bench on the front porch.
“Sit down here and tell Granma all about it,” I invited, patting the seat next to me.
Zeke sobbed a little, but then bravely repeated, “Rufus chewed up my meerkat.”
“Oh Zeke,” I cried. “I am so sorry. Rufus is sorry. He didn’t mean it; he didn’t know. He is only a dog. I’m sure he thought it was a chew toy. Here, can you show it to me? I will see if I can find another one for you.”
We entered the house together, side by side, hand in hand. Zeke slipped away, then produced a stuffed meerkat — it was Timon from “The Lion King” — with a chewed-up ear.
I looked at the tag, which fortunately was printed with the maker (Build a Bear, which apparently also builds meerkats) and promised solemnly that a new Timon would soon be forthcoming.
In the meantime, Rufus was dancing around us in delight, bouncing on tiptoes and racing back and forth the door, knowing it was time to go home.
But first he received a warm hug from a forgiving Zeke, and after a few more words of apology and appreciation on my part, Rufus and I went home.
I went online first thing upon arrival, relieved to discover that stuffed Timons are available at reasonable prices, and placed my order.
I had brought the chewed-up Timon home; now I tossed it into Roof’s toy box, along with all the other toys he never plays with. And by that I mean, he never plays with toys.
That night, Rufus went to his box, carefully selected Timon from among the other toys, then settled onto his bed with the chewed-up meerkat cradled in his paws. I knew this was because Roof loves Zeke, and the plush animal still smelled of the little boy. It was Roof’s way of keeping Zeke close to him.
For the first time in what seemed like a long time, I smiled. It had been the second-worst week of my life, but I found comfort in knowing that in despair and hope, through faith and love, the circle of life goes on.