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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

GBE2 Challenge: First Love

Isn't it said that a man's first love is his mom? Yes, I'm fairly certain this can't be said of my older son.

It's okay. I know that he loves me. But his FIRST love? His first REAL love? The first real love of a child that sees social interaction entirely differently than does the majority of society? In his toddler years, people made him cry. Our sounds were loud. Even our touch was offensive. No, I wasn't his first love.

I could say it was his red Dirt Devil upright. But, even as it stands loyally beside his bed in his room, I still don't even think that is his love. It's an object of affection, for sure, and, often, it is an object of obsession/perseveration. No, love is much more pure. First love, for him, was Ginger.

Ginger was our happy Lhasa Apso, a dog that I got in college to get over the breakup with my college boyfriend. She was without a doubt the best replacement for an ex-boyfriend any gal could want. Loyal and sweet, ever at my side, she had some years on her by the time my sons were born. She certainly wasn't a playmate. She was more of a housemate, and she respected their space as long as they respected hers.

One day, out of the blue, our older son decided that he was going to pet Ginger. He lowered his hand tentatively above her body, excited. Was he going to do it? Hesitation. Ohhh, I don't know that he can! He'd lower a little, then pull back. Lower a little, giggle, then pull back. Finally, he worked his way to petting her. From that moment on, he never looked back.

As soon as this child got off the bus from school, he ran upstairs, grabbed his security blankets and would spread them over Ginger before placing his head on her back. There, the two would lie--the loyal dog who didn't know how much her presence meant, and the little boy who felt love for the first time in his life.

He would get a book, bring it to her dog bed and sit next to her. Her quiet calm washed over him. She was predictable. She was safe. She became "his" dog. Each day, he bound off the bus and straight to her side, and I would marvel at the outward sign of emotion from the little boy who just learned to answer to his name not more than a year before that.

It was springtime when Ginger started to slow down. Her eyes became large and glassy. She couldn't move very well. More time was being spent on her dog bed. She was dying.

Not only did I love this dog, a friend from my single years, but I loved her for showing love to my son. The time was drawing near for her to leave this world, and it was breaking my heart for me and for the loss that my son would feel but not be able to express.

As her mobility decreased, I started to put diapers on her. Our son didn't like this. They didn't belong on his pal. He would take them off when he saw them. Then, he'd bring his marble run over to her bed, sit down next to her and enjoy his toy with her.

It was a Monday morning when I took her to the veterinarian to die. I waited for our son to get on the bus, and then I carried her painfully stiff body to the car. My husband and I cried all weekend, but we could not continue her suffering. Once she was at peace, I kissed my old friend goodbye, and I thanked her for teaching me the value of love.

On the way home, I stopped off at a copy store and handed them a social story that I had made. Pictures of our life from when Ginger was a puppy to when the boys were born to when she was getting old and sick. The text was simple, explaining that our family member was too sick to stay on Earth, and it was time to go to Heaven where she would no longer be sick.

But, when we go to Heaven, we never come back the way we once were. She will never be here again to hug with his blankies. It is sad for us, but happy for her that she is no longer in pain.

After school, our son bounded off the bus, ran upstairs for the blankets and searched the house for his friend. I put him in my lap and read the book. He seemed to process some of it. I told him that I was sorry. He looked at me, and he walked away.

At bedtime that night, I told him I was sorry once again, and he looked me dead in the eyes. This time, I knew he was listening, and so I read the book again. At the end, he said, "Ginger. Heaven."

"Yes, honey." I said. "I'm so sorry."

He was so young in his autism. At that time, those emotions remained, for the most part, unexpressed. But, I could see them in his eyes. He had lost the first thing he ever truly loved. It was the end of an innocence, of sorts.

Yes, I remember my son's first love. I was so happy to see it develop that I wanted it to last forever. Life is not stagnant. We all need to live and grow, which is not always easy. Because of this, some memories are bittersweet.

17 comments:

  1. So powerful and poignant. Left me with a lump in my throat. Thanks for sharing about your son's love for Ginger.

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  2. This is truly exceptional. Thank you for the great write.

    Laura

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  3. I don't know what I'd do if I didn't have my dogs in my life. Unfortunately, I've seen a few pass on and it is heartbreaking. Our first child was a golden retriever who died when the kids were 10, 8, and 5. We all had a hard time with this, but my son and I who cried a lot did better than my husband and daughters who held it all in. I'm afraid that we will be experiencing this again as we see our second white-faced golden slowing down. It's so tough. Thanks for sharing.

    Joyce
    http://joycelansky.blogspot.com

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  4. I love how you put it....that when things go to Heaven, they don't come back the way they were. It gives me hope that we really do meet "on the other side" and that we'll know the people we love, even if we look different.

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  5. Oh Amy, that was so touching. I'll hold my hand up to a tear or three whilst reading that. I think this may be my favourite blog of the week *hugs*

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  6. Well, I couldn't get through it the first time because of all the water in my eyes. We are working through the loss of "Nana" in our home. Death is such a complex thing to understand.

    You have a gift Amy!

    Ann

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  7. Okay, this has me crying...oh how sad. I can totally relate to seeing what your child wants to express in their eyes, but unable to do so because of Autism.

    Great story!! Thanks so much for sharing!! Jenn

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  8. Wonderfuly touching story .

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  9. omgawwwwwwwd i am bawling here

    i can't even imagine that weekend...been there with the pain of losing a pet..inexpressible..and then describing your son....the depth of this ..
    my husband can't understand why i cry in front of this lap top. "sad story?"..."what are you doing"" ok where r my tissues...

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  10. Beautifully written and painfully lived. I love this, really felt your love and your pain. The quiet, unconditional love of an older fur baby is comparable to nothing else in life, I think. I hope you go to the animal shelter soon and rescue a mature dog to share your son's love once again.
    I love your blogs, every week. (((hugs)))

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  11. This one brought the tears. For Ginger's passing, yes, but more so for her gift. Just beautiful.

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  12. The loss of a pet, especially a beloved dog can be a pretty emotional affair, especially for a child. Great post.

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  13. Wow... just wow. Thank you for sharing this. It touched my heart. ~ Kevin

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  14. Kevin...Thank you! What a compliment!!!

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  15. YOU HAVE OFFICIALLY WON
    V.P.A. award

    you can visit GBE2 to download pic there to post on your blog if you so desire !! : )

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