4.28.2014

Gallows Humor

I have been working on a project which has brought up the passing of several dogs who have been near and dear to me. Though the topic of dogs passing away is gut-wrenching for anyone who has had to say goodbye to a canine companion, I remembered perhaps the funniest story I have (I pull it out at parties when the reading of the room is just right), which happened to involve the death of the last dog sledding dog I have ever loved. It defines "gallows humor" in a way that nothing else in my personal experience really quite can.

I was living with my dear friends, the Bogdanoves. Their son had moved to school in Boston, and they were new empty-nesters. I needed a nest after a series of events in Ohio left me rather stuck. I had just adopted Sadie, my Border collie puppy, which I thought would be a problem, but they welcomed me, and my little dog, too, with open arms. It was the perfect way to get a new start after college.

My brother got me a job at MBNA, where I was "that guy" that you have to talk to once you get through hours of "push one for English." "For credit cards, press 44, and then sit here and listen to this awful music for the next thirty minutes because all of our representatives are currently busy". I was that representative. It's ok, I hated it as much as you hated calling me. Maybe worse. 

My hours were 1pm to midnight, which in hindsight, was the worst. I'd get home at 1am and everyone in the house would be asleep. I'd be awake for 2 hours in a desperate attempt to wind down, fall asleep around 3am, get up at 10 for breakfast, and go into work at noon. It paid the bills and got me on my feet again, but god it was soul sucking. 

One morning at 6am, my father called the Bogdanoves. I heard his voice on the answering machine (those still existed!) so I jumped out of bed with only a couple hours of sleep from the night before. He said "Cinnamon had a heart attack or a stroke. She's dying. I need your help. Get here quickly." I hopped in  my tried and true S10 and drove to my dads house which was 30 minutes away (I made the trip in 15, inadvisably driving WAY over the speed limit). 

Cin was my puppy from childhood, and also the last of our huskies. She was 13 when this event occurred. When I got there, I left the truck running, hopped out of the car, crawled into her dog house without even saying hi to Dad, and that's when she licked me, and died. It was totally out of a movie or a book, and I'll never forget that moment.

Dad, seeing my truck in the driveway, came out, and I told him she was gone. "Alright, I'll drive up to the neighbors to grab a couple of shovels". It's Maine, so the nearest neighbor owned a farm and literally was driving distance away, so this in and of itself isn't odd, but does start the "gallows humor" part of the story. 

Dad started to go up his driveway, and ended up parking on the lawn. "Dammit, my brakes are gone. Alright, here's what we're going to do. I have to get to JJ's auto body in Damariscotta. You're going to use your truck to stop me if anything goes wrong."

Parenting, that's how you do it. You volunteer your oldest daughter to drive 7 mph in front of you in the break down lane, to go two towns in order to get the brakes fixed in a Buick, and tell her to run interference in the event the vehicle fails to stop. Luckily, there were only two turns, and one flashing yellow light, so we were probably going to be just fine. 

We hopped onto Rt. 1, drove to get his car fixed, luckily without incident, especially considering JJ's had a downhill driveway, and he hitched a ride back with me. We stopped at the neighbors to get some shovels, stopped at Dunkin' Donuts, because we have needs, and then we dug a hole for our deceased pet. 

We wrapped up around 11:30 am and it hit me like a ton of bricks that I was beyond exhausted and unable to go to my shift where I would sit at a desk for 11 hours. I called and left a voicemail for my manager from my cell phone. 

 "Hi Chris. I'm exhausted. My dog died this morning, and my dad's brakes failed. There was luckily no accident, but I did spend the morning burying the dog with him in the back yard. I'm spent. I'm not coming in today. I'm really tired and very upset. I hope you're not mad that I did this last minute. See you tomorrow."

 A few hours later, my brother, who I shared a shift with, showed up at my fathers house. He looked devastated. I asked him what on earth was wrong. He said "Where's dad?" When dad came to see who was at the door, my brother went sheet white, like he had seen a ghost, and exclaimed "Dad? You're alive!"

After he composed himself , my brother explained that he spent the better part of the afternoon calling area hospitals asking for our father. Evidently, the voicemail I left my manager raised a few eyebrows when the cell phone cut out in a few *key* points in the message.
What my brother heard was: 
"Hi Chris. I'm exhausted. My..daw ...died....dad's brakes failed....accident...I spent the morning burying..him in the back yard. I'm spent. I'm really tired and very upset. See you tomorrow."
We all had a laugh. I could only imagine my boss, his boss, and my brother, sitting around the answering machine, wondering why I thought to bury my dad in the back yard after a car accident. I bet they were also preparing my "Employee Of The Month" award for enthusiastically declaring I would come in the day after my dad died AND that I took matters into my own hands and placed him in the garden. Seriously, that's the sort of self motivation that this company really got off on, and honestly, probably why they went under less than a year later, but that's another tale for a different blog. 

-M3