Yesterday we did two things. Rae took the chairs out of the back office, brought back a large, soft rug, and padded every desk edge and corner.
“What’s this safe room for? Are we expecting terrorists?”
“No, Stanley, it’s in case you have seizures and I’m not around.”
“When I have seizures I’m not around, either, I’m unconscious.”
“It’s the aftermath I’m concerned about. You become blind and run around like crazy, hyperventilating, crashing into sharp edges. So Rae made a safe room for you out of the office, don’t you love it?”
“No. I like running around.”
In the afternoon, Tim Raines and I dug a grave for Stanley in the back. I wasn’t sure when we’d need it, but Tim was free to do it that day. Stanley walked around, happily supervising, and almost fell in twice. “So let me get this straight. You built me a safe room indoors and you’re digging me a hole in the ground outdoors. What kind of mishigas is that?”
“Please watch where you walk, Stan, you don’t want to fall in. Before I went down to the basement, you weren’t looking, and you almost fell down the stairs.”
“Do you think it’s big enough?”
“Yeah, but you might consider curving your body like you do when you go to sleep.”
“Is it deep enough? I don’t want anything to eat me.”
“Why, Stanley? You’ve been eating everything in creation for almost 15 years.”
“You should let me dig. Do you know how many holes I’ve dug looking for moles?”
“At last count, 3,245. And don’t worry, Stan, I’ll add lots of flowers when the time comes. What flowers do you want?”
“I don’t want flowers, I want a marrow bone.”
“You’ll be dead, Stan, what’ll you do with a marrow bone? Beside, we’ll probably run into a few dozen old ones as we dig.”
“You can throw in a hosta plant or two. I love peeing on those big leaves, feels just like toilet paper. And what are the window panes doing there?”
“I brought them up from the basement to cover the hole after we finish digging, Stanley, so you don’t fall in prematurely.”
“Don’t forget to remove them. I don’t want you to look down at my dead body day after day. Are you going to wave?”
Stanley died this afternoon in the safe room in the house. He was getting sicker, couldn’t stay upright, and wouldn’t eat. He lay in his blanket and we sat with his body. I removed the windowpanes and Rae and I put him in his grave. The Man and I sat with him some more. There were flowers there, a marrow bone, and his collar. When Bernie slowly returned to the house I filled in the soil.
He was such a simple soul. He loved to eat and to walk. As I wrote earlier, he hadn’t heard a word I said for at least two years and always responded perfectly. His needs were few. At 58 pounds, he wasn’t big, he was small, like you and me. The miracle doesn’t lie in our bigness, it lies in how small we are and can still touch other beings so deeply.
Some 10 days earlier we had gone into the woods and walked all the way to the pools, as we had done for almost 14 years. He waded in like he always did. By then I knew this was it, we wouldn’t come back because he couldn’t see and was losing his balance. He took his time, looking from side to side, taking the whole gorgeous world in. He came out of the pool, shook the water off, grazed for a moment on the wet grass on the bank, then scampered up the slope and looked at me, as if to say: You coming?