Ch.199 First Airplane Trip After Pat’s Death

Ch.199 First Airplane Trip After Pat’s Death

May 22, 2023

          I’m flying tomorrow from Minneapolis to Toronto to spend a week with my brothers Art and Don, their spouses Ruth and Randa, and Don’s daughter Sarah (with husband Sebastian and their son Cedric).

          I’ve taken at least one hundred plane rides during my career as a workshop presenter, but none since Covid began. I decided to retire about then, mostly to take care of Pat as her dementia increased. Of course, many people suggested I should take time off from caregiving, that it would do me good to get away occasionally. I’m sure they were right, but, if you are a caregiver reading this essay, you know how hard it is to take that advice. “I don’t want to leave Pat” morphed into “I can’t leave Pat, what if something happens?” Now, almost one year after Pat’s death, I’ve finally committed to travel again. But…

          I feel GUILTY about leaving my collie Levi and my cat Blackie. Especially Levi. He’s almost 13 years old. Since Pat had to be institutionalized, he’s followed me everywhere, constantly retrieving me whenever I’ve strayed from the pack. And now as his “reward” I’m leaving him alone for a week, albeit with excellent care provided by my neighbor Mark. What if something happens to Levi? What if he’s dying and I’m not there to comfort him? Levi is my best friend, my constant companion. How could I leave him?

          Yesterday I mentioned my discomfort to my human friend Rich Pfeiffer. Rich owns an older dog too, and his response was to say he also has become reluctant to leave his buddy. I was grateful for his response; I had been anticipating an “Oh, Levi will be fine, don’t worry” dismissal and instead I felt affirmed in my distress. Rich understood. Rich cared both about me and Levi.

          It’s occurred to me that I have transferred some of my caregiving instincts from Pat to Levi now that Pat no longer needs me. True. But at a deeper level I’d say that caregiving is part of my core personality. I love taking care of people and animals. My life feels more meaningful when I can care for others. And so, I need Levi in my life; I need him in my pack just as much as he needs me. I cannot imagine how lonely I would feel without him.