During therapy last night, as I went through half a box of tissues, I stumbled across a gaping, raw wound that I thought had healed many, many years ago. When I was about 11, my mother had had enough of my refusal to do any chores; my refusal to take showers or wash my hair, or even brush it. She had had enough of my alternately cursing her and ignoring her. She'd had enough of my poor school grades and fighting with my siblings.
So she called my dad, at that time acting in a play in Boston and put me on the bus to stay with him for two weeks. (It was probably Spring break.) I remember sleeping on a fold out cot, in the hall of his tiny one bedroom flat that always smelled of coal. I remember it was in the basement, and an old fashioned sink that was huge. I also remember continuing to act towards him the same way I did towards my mom. He did not yell at me; he never did. He did not hit me; he never did. Instead, he took me to the pound, and allowed me to pick out a puppy from a litter of Chihuahuas there. Of course I picked out the one you're not supposed to pick; the smallest, scrawniest one, cowering and shivering in fear in the corner, probably the ugliest one too. That dog didn't leave my side. She gave me ringworm and pure unadulterated unconditional love. I named her Tippy.
My dad also taught me to sail during those two weeks. I actually learned how to sail a small sailboat as long as some one else was at the tiller. I loved it - it was free, and away from everyone, and I was getting all that attention from my dad. In the evenings, when he went to performances, I got made over by all of the other actors in the play.
I went home; I remember we were living at my grandmother's house at that time, another wonderful woman in my life. I remember teaching Tippy tricks, having her sit and stay while I walked away from her. I got as far as half a block when neither one of us could stand the suspense any more and I would call her to me. She would race to me, fast as she possibly could, and jump into my arms, quivering and licking my face, happy as hell. I loved that dog with every bit of my heart.
We moved to a new house, a small Baltimore rowhouse whose street was busier than the one I was used to. At night when I was ready for bed I would let her out for a last pee. I would usually stand right there and watch her so she wouldn't wander off.
One night, I was in my nightgown and let her out. I don't remember how it happened, but she did wander - across the street. I called her from the front porch, worried that something would happen to her. A car started coming down the street. I didn't call again - I was terrified that the car would hit her. But it was too late.
She had heard me, and as always, hurried to obey, to please me. She rushed across the street in time for the car to hit her (mercifully) on the head. My wails disturbed the entire neighborhood, I have no doubt. I ran to her, but my mother, some how, I have no idea, beat me to it, and forbade me to come any nearer. I could see the horrific huge puddle of blood and my darling Tippy laying with her head in the middle of it. And a more gruesome sight - one of her eyes (I think) laying a bit away from her. I was beside myself for killing my dog. I heard my mother and the lady who hit her talking - the lady was clearly shaken and crying, my mother was calmer (it was a crisis) and reassuring her that she couldn't possibly have helped it.
I stood there, wavering between rushing to Tippy's side to save her life, and knowing, with a cold, cold feeling of dread and horror, that she was dead and gone from me forever. I had to come home and see her in that bag for two more days before they finally took her. That was horrendous.