Coping with mortality and ancient Greek quizzes

9 Sep

When I was in high school I took Ancient Greek as an elective. While the rest of my class had a free period, three of us were conjugating irregular verbs in seven tenses. We were overachievers who bordered on masochistic. At different times we each thought about quitting, saying screw the aorist active optative, and go back to studying and goofing off with the rest of our classmates, but we never went through with it. I remember one particular morning we had a big biology test coming up. None of us could focus on Greek vocabulary when there was the Krebs cycle to memorize. So we came up with a brilliant plan – we would ask our teacher to push back the Greek quiz a day. If all three of us agreed and asked, she’d have to, right? And she did. And thus began a very dangerous journey down a dangerous path. Greek quiz dates were not set in stone. So whenever a quiz fell on the same day as another class’s test, or even if one of us just didn’t feel like studying the night before, we asked for an extension. And by “we,” I often mean “me,” as I was the only girl and the others claimed the teacher “liked me” (for the moment). Every time I would ask her to move the quiz she would say the same thing – “Alright, but you’re just prolonging the inevitable.” I believe at one point we even started asking for it that way – “can we prolong the inevitable?” We knew eventually we’d have to regurgitate vocab and conjugate verbs, but in that moment the weight was lifted off and the third declension became Tomorrow Renee’s problem.

Why am I writing about this? Because my teacher’s words have been going through my head lately regarding our family dog, Squirt – “you’re only prolonging the inevitable.”

Two and a half weeks ago my mom sent me a text message: “Squirt has been having a rough few days. Not looking good. He can’t get out of bed. He won’t eat today.”

It was completely out of the blue – just four months prior he was going on hikes and begging me for dinner two hours early. He’s 15 years old, I knew his “time” was coming, but I wasn’t ready. And so began a spiral of sorrow in which Stephen questioned how I will ever be able to handle the death of my parents if I act this way over a dog who doesn’t even live with me and isn’t even that nice.

I continued to text my parents every day for updates. He’d seem better, then worse, so eventually they took him to the vet. He had a fever and they gave him fluids and antibiotics and said if he didn’t spring back the next day, it was time to talk the big “E.”

I waited anxiously for my mom’s text that next morning.

“Squirt is better today. He’s up and around and eating.” I was so relieved!

“He’s still old though,” she added.

I could hear my teacher’s words: “You’re only prolonging the inevitable.”

Still, we let out a collective sigh of relief and I resigned that Squirt would beat the record for oldest Chihuahua (20 years).

A part of me almost said, “What a relief, I’m glad I won’t have to go through that again!” as if because he survived this one brush with death he was never going to die.

Just prolonging the inevitable.

Every day my parents text me updates.

“He ate all his food!”

“He’ll only eat people food.”

“He’s not doing well.”

“He crapped everywhere!”

“He dumped outside on his own!”

“He’s up and around!”

“Bad morning, he won’t eat at all.”

We think he has canine cognitive disorder, which is like doggie dementia or Alzheimer’s, so sometimes he forgets where he is or what’s going on. And like those patients, he has good and bad days. The good days make me think he’s going to live forever, the bad days that he’s old and his organs are probably shutting down and the end is near. Yesterday was a good day, today is bad. This yo-yo effect is exhausting and disheartening and I’m not even there – my poor parents have been there to comfort, cook and clean for him. We’ve had Squirt half my life and it’s hard to imagine life without him. (Whenever we talk like this, one of us always chimes in imitating Squirt’s voice saying, “I’m not dead yet!”) My parents are doing all they can, even though there’s not much we can do now – just prolong the inevitable. But if I learned anything from Greek class, that’s what life is – prolonging the inevitable and savoring the time you have.

 

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