Sunday, January 22, 2006

Flannel scraps and gentle hands

Days like today are when I most treasure my mother and all she did. Today, the oldest's hamster is dying, at the very ripe old age of three and a half years.

Growing up, we had dogs, of course, but we also had a series of smaller furries. We had Irma and Irving, the gerbils. Then we had their seven offspring. We also had Lucky, the guinea pig, so named because he had a ring of lighter fur right around him. (My brother and I collected small rocks with rings of lighter quartz to carry in our pockets, believing them to convey good luck.)

Each of these animals died in my mother's hands, as she labored to give them sugar water with an eyedropper and kept them warm in scraps of flannel. The gerbil babies were especially sad, wiped out at a young age by a virus. My mother stayed up for two nights, being sadly defeated one baby gerbil after another.

I'm sure she thought her ministrations weren't worth anything since the animals ultimately died. But the memory of them is with me today, as I hold Marshie, cradling his sleeping body in the softest flannel, as he slowly drifts further and further away.

The act or fact of dying.
"quietus." Roget's II: The New Thesaurus, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995. 22 Jan. 2006.