I had an old dog whose name was Paws because he had very large “ones”. As a puppy, he would trip over his own dog feet looking comical and sad at the same time. He had a pathetic demeanor.
Paws lived outside during the day. He was only allowed inside to sleep in the cellar, which was not a bad place. He had his own comfortable chair, some tattered carpet and all the other comforts of a suitable home. Thing about Paws, is that he got awfully smelly from being outside and therefore he earned another nickname. “Paws, you stink.”
As soon as he came through the back vestibule, we held our noses, called him Paws you stink, and he headed directly for the basement.
One day, while crossing the road in front of our house, a passing car hit him. He just managed to avoid serious injury but his hip sustained a small fracture. He was shaved, stitched and bandaged. Of course, we gave him a lot of sympathy during his wretched ordeal. He was allowed to sleep upstairs in the dining room. He learned in short order that limping brought kind words and gestures
When the vet said he was sufficiently healed, he was released to the yard, where he ran unfettered on our seven acres. However when he was disciplined because he found a foul smelling substance to lie in, he returned to the limp. Instead of going to the cellar at the end of the day, he would look pitiable and limp. He was hoping that we would offer him the healing basket in the sunny dining room. It was not to be.
Paws lived a good life in spite of his unattainable quest to become a house pet. I think it was about 17 years. I remember when we had to put him down Mom and I cried all the way to the vet. The house and the yard seemed empty without him. We never owned another dog after he died.
I cannot begin to tell you how many times I think of that hound; particularly when I see someone using his or her adversity to get attention. We all do it at one time or another.
My grandmother lived alone in a small apartment, after my grandfather died. When we called to look in on her the conversation would invariably go like this:
“Hi, Nana, how are you feeling today?”
“Not so good, (whine)” would be the answer.
“Oh, that is too bad” I would say. “ I was going to take you out to lunch.”
“I’ll be ready.” Her now enlivened voice would respond.
She had learned over the years, that whining was a good way to get attention.
As a child I knew that I could bring my parents to a halt by being sick. Having a fever meant new crayons and a coloring book. Having a tummy ache brought warm tea and saltine crackers to my bedside. I pretended that I was the princess of white, propped up just so on my fluffed pillows. My mother always brought me a bed tray and it didn’t take long for me to learn that being sick was the way to get sympathy and extra doses of love.
In retrospect I think that too much time was spent in the “sick room.” For although I had a very normal childhood it included hospital stays for a ruptured appendix, pneumonia and isolation for scarlet fever. My parents liked to tell the story of my near brush with death ad nausea and to my embarrassment. “Poor Anne”, they would say. My siblings hated it and so did I. Since we were just on the cusp of the antibiotic era there was an inherent fear of dying over what we now consider to be milder and treatable disorders. I do not know exactly when it happened but the princess of white became the witch of the sick room. I could not stand isolation or attention, which was given to me for being infirm.
I developed a low tolerance for those who used their adversity for special treatment. I admired those who became stronger because of their hardship and chose to work through their pain to achieve new ends. It was one thing to be sick but another to be weak.
Instead of my beloved grandmother’s approach to life, I followed the example of my aunt Sara. She ran a household from a wheel chair. Although she never drove but managed to get everywhere with the aid of friends, taxis, and senior services. She cooked and baked and paid her “helpers” with good food and good stories. She died in her 70s but even in her last days she found a way to comfort us with her sense of humor and curiosity about the process. I expect she developed her strength from the realization that sympathy is short lived, whereas fortitude is admired and respected.
At my winter home, which is largely a senior society, we accommodate each other’s adversities, bringing casseroles, soup and sending get-well cards. We post sad news on the bulletin board, and we constantly want to know how “we are doing.” Inasmuch as we are all vulnerable to the “end game” we support each other. There are no whiners among us. Although we often share a little ‘wine’ after golf. And on the “19th hole some whining over a poor game is allowed.
Many of us limp a little due to arthritis and chronic back problems. We older athletes have frequent injuries, which are attributed to our age. As a group we still participate in many of the same activities we have always enjoyed albeit, slower. When my kids call to ask how I am doing, the answer is almost always, “fine”. I might add a tidbit about how I feel better here in the warmth of Florida. For you see, I learned from Paws, that it might just take a wee bit of limping to secure a spot in the sun.