Our marriage was falling apart. Adding insult to injury, I was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation. At the time of my diagnosis, I only knew one other person that had it.
My symptoms lent themselves to several neurological disorders. After a visit with a neurologist, an MRI and the Chiari diagnosis, I was sent to a neurosurgeon at Methodist hospital, fortunate enough to be in the hands of the head of neurosurgery.
He had no bedside manner. He was very direct. “I need to remove some skull to make room for your brain.” I was naive. There was no Webmd or Google search at my disposal. I was at his mercy.
“Let’s do it.” In the summer of 2004, I had my first brain surgery.
On Valentines Day prior to my diagnosis and surgery, Stuart gave me the gift that keeps on giving. Nana, my ‘ole girl.
Stuart told me he had a surprise for me. The kids were in on it also. Our marriage was a disaster but there were just enough slivers of sweetness scattered throughout to keep us from killing each other.
The kids sworn to secrecy, fielded my inquiries like champs, not giving in one bit.
The evening had arrived. I would finally learn of my surprise. At this point, I was convinced that I was getting a new laptop for school. At some point, a hint was given that eluded to “something that would warm my lap.” Best I could figure it was a laptop.
We all got in whatever vehicle we owned at the time, I think it was a red Honda Civic.
It was dusk. I was clueless. We pulled into a parking lot somewhere in Tomball, I think. A lady emerged from a car with a laundry basket full of the tiniest little Yorkies I had ever seen.
We oohed and awed. All the while, I had my eye on one in particular. Her tongue was peeking out from between her little lips. Her little lips appeared as if they had been outlined with back lip liner. I chose her.
She was all of one pound, if that. She fit in the palm of Stuart’s hand. At that moment, I would have no idea the impact she would have on all our lives.
Once we decided to get a divorce, one of the hardest things to figure out was who Nana would live with. We had already divvied up the kids. The girl goes with her momma. The boy with his daddy. It sounds so cold, does it not? Now, who would get Nana?
Thankfully, we never had to make that decision. She would have never understood.
After I had my skull cut open like a watermelon, Nana didn’t leave my side. Forteen years later, she is still here. It’s 4:30 a.m. and her frail little body is laying right next to me.
If my ‘ole girl could talk, the stories she could tell. She was there when Casey started kindergarten. She heard all of the fighting and saw all of the tears shed. If she could talk, I think she would say, “I’m so proud of you momma. Corey and Casey are better people because you and daddy didn’t split us up.”
Nana has witnessed our best of times and our worst of times.
Her caramel fur has soaked up many of my tears over the past fourteen years as she has witnessed marriage shit storms, the effects of my mother’s mental illness, the hard work put into earning two college degrees, three brain surgeries and everything in between.
The kids landmarks: first days of school, first jobs, driving permits, licenses and first loves, softball success and failures. She would be there when I caught Corey smoking cigarettes and skipping school. Stuart promoting in the Fire Department. The purchase of purchase of our first boat.
She would sleep by my side every twenty four hour shift Stuart worked and transitioned to his pillow the nights he was home. She and I waited up many nights worrying about “our” kids. Corey doing his thing. Casey’s first date and every date with Blake after that.
She didn’t leave my side as I anticipated Corey’s arrival when he was working out of state.
The day we dropped Casey off for college, she was there waiting. Me arriving home, eyes swollen from crying all the way from Corsicana.
She would be waiting at home roughly eight months ago, the night of Casey’s wedding when I walked through the door as the proud but lost mother of the bride.
She sleeps a lot these days. Her big brown eyes are cataract glazed but are still full of so much loyalty. She moves a lot slower and is often carried to her destination. Every now and then we get a glimmer of that fiesty puppy of days gone by.
I wake up several times in the middle of the night, staring at her to see if she is still breathing. When I arrive home after an outing, I’m nervous to open the door. I know it’s just a matter of time. I don’t like to leave for any real length of time, fearful that I won’t be with her when the time does come. By her side, like she has been by mine.
She has been on the other side of the door waiting, in our bed, on our couch and by our sides for the passed fourteen years. She is the best gift he ever gave me.