“Freya, come. Heathcliff, come. Let’s go for a ride in the car. We’re going to visit Grandma.”
Last week, after the storm front passed bringing cooler temperatures and lower humidity, Keith and I loaded up the Subaru and headed south to visit my mother. We started early in the morning to arrive for an early lunch of homemade egg-salad sandwiches and carrot cake to celebrate Mother’s 90th birthday.
Heathcliff had visited Grandma in Connecticut several times since his puppy years, but this was his first visit to Assisted Living. Freya had never met my mother and was still a bit shy around strangers. Grandma rubbed Freya’s ears and head and looked into her big brown eyes, and Freya bellied up – ah!
After eating lunch in Mother’s room and sharing some egg salad and cake (minus raisins) with the dogs, we moved to the patio outside the small lobby area. Grandma offered treats and lots of hands-on attention. Oh, how Heathcliff and Freya love Grandma – can you tell?
While we visited and told stories and enjoyed the fresh air, several people walked by, residents and family members, service people and staff. Without exception, all interacted with the ‘”puppies.” Our night watchdog Freya observed from a cool spot in the shade next to Grandma. Heathcliff, the daytime watchdog, took the role of greeter near the door.
“I see you brought the heavy artillery today,” one WWII veteran said as he wheeled by leaning on his walker. The residents engaged with Heathcliff, letting him smell their hands then touching and talking with these large beasts – clearly a remarkable novelty.
One of the residents keeps a small dog and walks him nicely along the retirement community’s sidewalks, but a large dog, although welcome, would not be feasible full-time. Our pups need room to run and more care – bathing, brushing, rubdowns and cleanups – sometimes a challenge for Keith and me.
But just like living on the mountain in the woods of Vanaprastha and reinventing ourselves as writers, Keith and I embrace the richness of life experiences, the natural beauty, successes and fun times along with the dirty-dog work, struggles and not-so-fun times.
It is the former that we wish to share with others. So when the weather cools again and time allows, Keith and I will bring Heathcliff and Freya to see Grandma again. And maybe some day, Mother will come to visit us at Vanaprastha and sit on the deck and watch the dogs run and the sunset over the Three Ridges.
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