Saturday, December 13, 2008

In his shoes

I had to make a last minute trip to the vet with Lucy yesterday to get a nasty little rash on her chin looked at.

She's fine. It's either feline acne or an allergic reaction to a new food I gave her. We left with reassurances and an antibiotic to clear up the infection.

I'm sure it would have gone away on its own, to be honest, but late Thursday night Dr. Google told me it could be cancer and I panicked. As I am wont to do.

Especially at this time of year.

In fact, this will be the first Christmas in three years that I haven't run to the doctor with a suspected life-threatening aliment of my own. In 2006 it was breast cancer. Last year a serious heart condition.

This year I opted to subject the cat to the drama instead, since I can't seem to find anything wrong with myself. Knock on wood.

Anyway, as we were sitting in the waiting room prior to her appointment, I overheard the vet give an elderly couple very bad news about their dog. I only heard bits and pieces, but there was an enlarged heart, fluid in the lungs and nothing to be done but minimize the symptoms of whatever was eventually going to kill her. Finally, I heard him tell them they had a difficult decision to make.

And I felt the panic rising.

No music to distract me, no chatter from other pet owners, no ringing phones. Just me and Lucy and the vet's words of doom creeping out from beneath the exam room door.

A minute or so later an old man left the exam room, his eyes red and wet with tears, and went to walk the parking lot while his wife stayed with their dog.

It was agonizing.

And all I could think was, Please, please don't put their dog to sleep while I'm sitting her. Please don't make me watch them pay for their dog's euthanasia while I sit here, useless and small, in your hard gray office chair. Please don't make me."

In the end, because I guess they've done this sort of thing before, they took me first. And so I was the one who stood at the counter paying while the teary-eyed old man, who'd come back into the office while Lucy and I were in the exam room, sat behind me and watched.

I tried to keep my voice low. I tried not to sound happy that my cat was alive and well. And I didn't look at him on my way out in case he didn't want me to see his pain - or my relief that I wasn't in his shoes.

It wasn't until later that it dawned on me. This is what people with living children must think about me. I must look like the sad old man on the bench in the vet's waiting room with tears in my eyes.

Well, to those who sneak a glance, anyway.


Catherine said...

I think you'd be surprised what other people see when they look at you.

Molly said...

What an insightful post. It's hard to deal with someone else's pain as an outsider.

Anna said...

From where I'm standing, you look like a resilient survivor, not a sad old man on the bench.

Rosepetal said...

What Catherine said. I see a beautiful warm-hearted woman.