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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Requiescat in pace - Gary and Rusty

I wanted my family to believe in me, and they did... *smiles* Just not the family I was born to.
My family were those I worked with - Ryan, Komi, Jeff, and John - not those of blood.
And Gary. 
Tall, spare and gray haired, still recovering from his unexpected divorce and subsequent stroke, he was my cheerleader, my surrogate father. To him, unlike my own father,  I could brag about every minor uptick in my career as a writer, from that first review and resubmit to the e-mail that said, "You're contracted."
I was a real writer.
Then he was gone.
My own father had died six months previously, but Gary stood where my father had never been. My own father wouldn't have been as enthusiastic. Gary more than made up for it. Divorced after decades, struggling to find his way in his new life, Gary celebrated each small moment of my career. He listened as I struggled and raged again the traditional system, but he supported me each step of the way as my family never had.
Then came the phone call.
"Gary's been in an accident."
He'd had a stroke while driving....and struck another car. He'd have been horrified to know someone else had been hurt.
What was sad was that it was clear that his family didn't know the Gary I did, the one who'd asked me every day how my writing was going, or 'was anything new?' Some would have said he was sucking up to the boss, but I knew he was simply desperate to connect with someone. Anyone. And Gary was sweet and kind. He'd had the stroke after his divorce and learned the most terrible lesson - that the job he'd thought was so important simply didn't care. They cut him loose. All his sacrifices to it hadn't endeared his family to him, either. He suddenly had no one and nothing. Except for me and his co-workers.
After several days his family finally made the decision, one I agreed with, to pull the plug. Gary wasn't there any more.
Unassuming Gary would have wanted it that way.
I drove home, fighting off tears.
Only one dog bounced to greet me, Ruby nearly desperate for hugs and consolation, the friend we'd found for her gone. 
Rusty had caught his last and only car.
A  happy dog who would eat anything, even celery and onions, Rusty could not be dissuaded from chasing cars.
I drove up into my driveway to find my husband with a shovel in his hand and regret in his eyes. He knew where I'd been and he had to tell me that Rusty was gone. Struck by the car Rusty had finally caught. Rusty had been so joyful in the chase it had been hard to chastise him, but we did...to protect him.
To no avail.
Sometimes there's nothing you can do...
Except celebrate....
Gary learned a hard lesson, and made it count. In his new home town, there were a surprising number of people - all coworkers - who came to his funeral.
My husband buried Rusty in what would become our four-footed cemetery.
He was a great dog. We still tell stories about him.
It wasn't long  before Rusty had company there, and in an odd way, I'm grateful he's there to protect them, and they're there for him.