Today is Gordy, Sr.’s birthday and last week was my Dad’s. I don’t know the proper etiquette for acknowledging the birthday of someone who has died. I do know, from the clutching in my throat, that the day still matters; that they still matter. My sister, Kim, keeps track of death dates as well as birth dates. She’s had some big ones to deal with, god awful big ones. She is my historian on these things — how old Dad would have been, how long he’ s been gone, how old we were when we lost him. I forget, or I don’t keep track, I’m not sure which. Thankfully, I have her to help me remember.
I never knew my Dad old. He was in his early 50’s when he died; younger than I am now. That was a tough age to achieve — older than my father was when he died.
I think I see my dad, how he would have been, in my Uncle Jerry, who is pretty much the last patriarch standing of what had been a mighty Jetland tribe. Jerry is kind and sentimental, laugh-out-loud funny and oh, so very huggable. I like imagining my dad like that.
I never knew Gordy, Sr. young. He was in his 80’s when we first met, when Gordy and I came together. I see more and more of him, though, in the man I married, his son and namesake. It’s elusive, but lightening zap clear when it happens — a gesture, a stance, a facial expression. I see Gordy and, at the same time, I see Gordy, Sr., a beautifully exquisite shape shifting and, for the space of time between two blinks of my eyes, I have them both.
This week, the seasons shifted — even in Florida, that happens. The nights are cooler, the days not so hot.
Everyone responded accordingly. The dogs became exuberantly playful, I began riding again and, for ten whole days, Filou was young again. He started carrying his weight more evenly behind and seemed genuinely eager to get out of his stall in the morning, start the day off right. For most of the week, I co-mingled the horses during the day. I watched carefully to see whether he was overfaced by the experience. He was cautious, but clearly together with them and I think that it made a difference to him, to be one of them again.
For a while, the tape was on rewind. For a while, Filou was just a horse in a pasture enjoying the green grass and cooler weather. Life was good, because Filou was good.
Until last night. Look, we know we are on borrowed time in many regards; that his body will carry itself only as well as the relationship between his nerves and his muscles allow and that things have been slipping, getting in the way of that. But he’s a fighter, Filou is, and he’s rebounded in such fantastic ways during this process, I couldn’t help but have a positive feeling, to be a wee bit self–congratulatory even about how he’s been doing. Last night, he was a little shaky. We chalked it up to fatigue and provided him a more confined turn-out experience today — lots of down time in the stall and no herd, just Andante. He was content with that, so we were, too. And then, I couldn’t get him back to the barn. His body wouldn’t work in the right direction. His head pointed to where he wanted, but his hind end kept stepping seriously sideways, pushing him uphill and away from where where we intended. I had to put a halter and long rope on him, put my whole weight behind that uphill from him to be a counter balance so he could crab walk his body to the safety of the barn.
He is back in his stall. He lists to the opposite side of what he did before so we re-arranged his stall to accommodate that. He figured it out before we did, that he needed to use the side of the stall and the stall gate to feel secure, so we set up a dining room table to keep him in his happy place.
The vet comes tomorrow. I am hopeful that another strong dose of steroids will give him reprieve, another chance at being just a horse in the field, eating green grass in the cool, cool breezes of fall. I am hopeful. I am afraid. This shape shifting thing is tricky business; like I said — elusive. There are the things you remember and the way that things are and the things that remind you of both in the very same moment. I see Filou, some essence of him that is not constrained by the aging of his body. I see my Dad and I see Gordy, Sr., some essence of them that survived death, able to touch my heart when I leave myself open to the experience of it. So, Filou, if you can understand this, I want you to know that even if you leave me, you won’t leave me. That’s my deal and I know this – lucky girl that I am — because I’m on a regular visitation schedule with two of the kindest souls I could ever have asked to be claimed by. Please, you too, claim me.