As I write this, Bernie’s going through his second surgical procedure on his nose in Mercy Hospital (I love that name). It shouldn’t be complicated or long, but there is general anesthesia involved. By the end he won’t look like a miniature Elephant Man but should just have a circular flap or seal to cover up the hole made on top of his nose. Once that heals, he may even be able to put his red nose on again, or at least color the flap red.

Not like the last time, when I almost died at first sight, what with an enormous yellow bandage over half his face oozing discharge and blood in all directions. After discharge, as I started wheeling him out I said, Should we go scare some people? No, not this time.

Nevertheless, at our most vulnerable, what comes up is thank you. Thank you to everyone who has sent wishes, prayers, meditation, emails, cards, letters, and gifts to us. Thank you to all of you who wrote such heartful messages on Bernie’s memory quilt, and especially to June Tanoue, who not only initiated the project but then put it all together into one beautiful whole.

Thank you to those of you who come to the house, bringing food, conversation, cheer, and sparkle, reminding us of the riches of connection.

Thank you to those of you who call in for Bernie’s conversations with teachers and to all those who came in for our monthly dharma schmoozes. We hope to restart those in March, after radiation treatments are done. Thank you to Bernie’s daughter, Alisa, who has offered and came up with very little notice to help and support his recovery.

Thank you to Rae, his caregiver, who does so much for him and for me. To the surgeon Brian Pryor, who told us he’d love all his patients to be like us, to which I almost said that I’d like all our surgeons to be like him only I don’t want any more surgeons. And to—

What about me?

What about you, Stanley?

I’m Bernie’s dishwasher. I lick all his plates and don’t get paid one bit.

True, true, Stan.

And when he eats I gaze at him soulfully with my cataract eyes (making sure I’m on the other side of you because all you do is yell at me not to beg), reminding him of the ancient tie between human and dog and his responsibility to keep me well-fed and happy, which is redundant come to think of it.

I’m tearing up, Stanley.

Some Sundays I even lie down by his bed and keep him company with New England Patriot football games. It’s easier now because though he keeps the TV on loud I can’t hear a thing. You don’t sit with him like that.

I wait for the playoffs. Your loyalty is unquestionable, Stan, thank you.

Everyone should be like me.