Chapter 2: A Polish Year (continued from The Bonds that Chain)
There are so many firsts, so many moments, so many milestones that we accumulate in our relationships, especially those first relationships. I had had pets or, more accurately, had lived with pets, for most of my life and certainly all of my formative years as a child. But having a pet as a child that you call “yours” is a far cry from the life-and-death realities of being a pet “owner” in adulthood.
In most ways that matter, Ben will always be my first. The fact that, with the clock still ticking, I’ve spent nearly 17 years with the same living creature puts him in the remarkable category of being the single and longest warm blooded loving life form with which I’ve cohabitated; I only lived with my parents for 18 years and the first half-dozen of those really belong to the memories of others. Together it certainly means that when Ben does leave me, he will leave a gaping chasm in my life the likes of which I’ve never known nor with which I’ve had to cope. And it will be a “first” in my life that, while I’ve had a few difficult years to start to mentally and emotionally prepare, I really don’t want to think about.
The telltale example of the change in me over 17 years is how incredibly emotional I’ve become at any depiction in cinema of a dog’s suffering or passing. And I don’t exaggerate in the least when I say that while I’m a very sensitive cinema-goer in general, nothing has nearly the same profound impact on me as when an animal, and a dog in particular, dies on screen. It doesn’t matter whether the dog is the star, a “character” actor, or only Hollywood eye-candy … I’m putty in their hands. And if you want proof of how low I’ve descended, or, to turn the tables, how far my heart has climbed with Ben in my life, the crowning proof of this occurred this summer when I teared-up during Ted. And, yes, I know he’s not even a real bear. Worse, when I watched The Cove a few years ago, I was a total mess for days, and I needed to turn to Ben for warmth and comfort. I watched 5 minutes of Wendy and Lucy and had to actually quit the movie – and I don’t quit movies. I don’t even remember the last time I did that.
Ben did this to me ….
I’m not nearly done his story … our story … and judging by his health today, Ben still has many more chapters to write himself. But this segue suddenly seemed necessary.
This isn’t how today’s installment was supposed to go. When you read tomorrow’s, you’ll see what, in all earnestness, I actually started writing about. “First’s” will make sense – but 12 days into this project – a project that I didn’t know how would evolve or what a “Month of Benjamin” would mean – it is now clear that this project is becoming intensely personal and as much about me as it is about Ben.
I don’t intend to stop.
But I think it is relevant to share the power of Ben to transform ….
Because Ben is a first in my life.
Continued next … Chapter 2: A Polish Year – First Snow