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Terry Fox Day, week, month, millennium – take your pick – is upon us again. Being a Canadian hero/icon, it’s hard to get away from the fundraising done in his honor/memory during the month of September, but Dee continues to be unsettled by the nation’s adoration and determination to carry on the fight against cancer – via money – in his name.
As I do every fall, I sent numerous email reminders to the school asking that Dee be allowed to opt out of all the assemblies and/or information sessions about Terry. They nearly all include some sort of visual representation of Terry, and she simply can’t see the guy without it conjuring up negative emotions. I have told her that someday it won’t bother her as much to which she replied,
“It will always bother me.”
Perhaps this is due to the fact that her first encounter with him occurred shortly after our moving up to Canada from the U.S. when she was dealing with all sorts of adjustments and readjustments, and poor Terry was swept up into the emotional stew never to be released. Whatever the reason, neither Rob nor I feel that Dee’s participation in Terry Fox Day is important enough to force it on her. It’s just another made up holy day. She is happy to take her toonie and walk with the other kids during the walk/run in his name and that’s fine with us.
Inadvertently, however, one of the staff showed her class a video about Terry last Friday. When she informed me, all I could do was sigh. I can’t run interference 24/7 and I told her that. Sometimes these things will happen and she is going to have to open her mouth to object herself or suck it up and deal.
“It couldn’t have been that upsetting,” I told her.
“It was,” she insisted. “It makes my tummy feel uncomfortable.”
“Not that much,” I countered, “or you would have spoken up, and you would have said something as soon as you got home from school.”
She couldn’t refute that because she didn’t mention it until later that evening as we were on our way to shop for birthday presents for upcoming parties to which she has been invited.
“I still didn’t like it,” she replied.
And I don’t imagine she did. I can’t stand watching movies or television shows that depict death or grieving. It’s just not entertaining.When you haven’t experienced something, seeing it is enlightening and gives you a chance to mentally try it on and live it, but once you can call an event your own through first hand experience, the vicarious thrill isn’t so thrilling anymore.
Terry Fox reminded me though that although Dee is a bit over experienced in the dealing with death department for someone her age. She still needs to be prepped in advance of incoming where death is concerned.
Rob and the older girls have another funeral up north to attend, and as I was explaining to Dee why were weren’t going (Rob and I are agreed on no more funerals for Dee unless she had a relationship with the deceased), she inquired as to whether or not she and I would be taking care of Edie’s dog, Loki.
The dog is getting on in years and has been suffering with diminished mobility that’s gotten worse over the past year. He can’t be left home alone even if it’s just overnight, and he is getting to be too much work to ask someone to take him in for a couple of days here or there. Still, we’ve taken Loki before, soDee’s question was a logical one.
“No, honey, ” I said, “Loki is a lot of work now, and he is more comfortable being with Edie anyway.”
“Because of his legs?” Dee said.
“Yes, his legs aren’t getting better, and Edie knows best what to do for him.”
“They aren’t getting better?” the tone and not the words contained the actual question.
“No,” I said, choosing my words very carefully. “Sometimes, doctors can’t do anything, and they can’t do anything for Loki. His legs will get worse, and then he will not be able to use them.”
She nodded thoughtfully and said, “That’s why Edie is getting the wheelchair thing.”
I nodded, “But that’s just to make things a bit easier. Loki isn’t going to get well.”
“Animals don’t live forever,” she agreed, “and neither do humans.”
And that’s where the conversation was left. Later on, as I retold it to Rob, I pointed out that it was only in the moment I realized that Dee needed advance preparation for the inevitable where her sister’s dog is concerned.
The dog, in a twist of ironic fate that makes me dislike the universe’s odd sense of interconnectedness, is suffering from a demyelinating illness that is slowly paralyzing him. Once it’s done its dirty work on his lower half, it will travel up the spine and leave him essentially trapped in a useless body. It’s very similar in effect to the disease that killed my late husband, Will. It’s not consciously painful, but the collateral issues can cause discomfort and anxiety. There isn’t much that can be done because science just hasn’t found a way to replace the damaged myelin sheath that covers nerves in people or animals. Once the protective covering is gone that’s it. What’s left is no more or less than a prison made of flesh. To say that I am not eager to bear witness to that, or to the pain it will cause Edie, is understating and understatement.
Though Loki’s issues are not new, the diagnosis is and the game plan is in early days. Progressive degenerative illnesses vary from according to the individual, and so everyone waits, watches and hopes – but it’s never to early to begin to prepare. I am a Boy Scout in this matters, and so I laid a bit of the groundwork for Dee.
Tomorrow, she will hang out in the library while her classmates watch yet another inspirational video about Terry Fox, and then she will join them as they run or walk to raise money to beat a disease that will never be beaten. Death comes to all things and cancer or degenerative illness are but two of its avenues.
I wonder if the organizers picked the last month of summer on purpose? With its fading, falling retreat to pre-winter here, it’s a fitting season for such an event.