No speed light stuff today. Apologies….
About a dozen years ago my wife Annie made a pretty courageous leap of life and changed everything, all at once. What does one do when you shuck off all that is familiar, and move to a new and strange set of walls, have no money and a couple of sticks of furniture?
Well, when you take a chance like that, and rescue yourself, sometimes, you reach out at the same time and rescue others. So Annie the animal lover packed herself off to the shelter, and thought she had decided to take home a little black ball of fur when, out of the same tiny fur ball, another head popped out. Brothers. She took ‘em both.
Formula One fan that she is, one became Nigel, after Nigel Mansell, and the other Arie, after Arie Luyendyk, both legendary drivers. The three of them made a home, and a life together.
And then I showed up on the doorstep, courting Annie. Trying desperately to impress, I did all the usual guy stuff. Calls, dinners, movies, walks and talks. Flowers. First time I sent roses, I called the local shop, and made the order, and when I gave the address, the smart guy who took the call said, “Oh yeah, yeah, I know that place. We’ve delivered out there before! Lots!”
I was left of course to, uh, clear my throat, and say something diplomatic, like, “Yes, well, of course. I’m sure the lady in question is not without her admirers.” I think the shop is called Wise Ass Florist.
In the midst of all my desperate attempts to be noticed by this lovely lady, I wasn’t completely aware that my activities were being measured and judged by another. A sage and protective guardian–Nigel.
See, Annie trusted Nigel’s instincts so thoroughly that if he didn’t like you, you were toast. She placed a lot of faith in Nigel’s ability to size up a guy’s intentions and character, and in fact, if Nigel squinted hard at you, and slunk upstairs, you might be in for some tough sledding.
Thankfully, Nigel and I had it going on right from the first, probably ‘cause we’re pretty similar. Couple of goofball lugs, very motivated by the phrase, “What’s for dinner?” He did look at me hard, though, at first. Looked at me, looked over at Annie, and then back at me. And then let me know the deal, in his way. It was like, okay pal, you have my permission, but if you ever don’t treat her right, it’s between you and me, understand? And it’s been our understanding ever since.
We’ve watched a lot of TV together-he likes NCIS. There’ve been mornings when he would help me out by walking over my keyboard and sending email. Other mornings when Annie’s on the road and I’m sacked out, tapping my forehead gently with his paw to remind me it was past breakfast. Keeping me company on one of his favorite perches–our flatbed scanner. (Drives folks in the office a bit nuts, having a scanner full of cat hair.)
He was pretty good with small flash, too. He really got into the Strobist series.
I’m struggling writing this, mostly with the sense of tense. I’m trying to describe this stuff in lighthearted fashion, as if it’s still going on. It’s not. It’s going to be hard thinking about Nigel in the past tense.
A little while back, seeing Nigel not be his usual, gregarious self, Annie took him to the vet. The diagnosis was Hemangiosarcoma, among the most aggressive and deadliest of cancers. He had been dealt a tough hand of cards. It mostly strikes dogs, rarely cats, which confirms my suspicion he was, indeed, part pooch. (How does that happen? How does a few bastard rogue cells completely snuff an ebullient little life force like Nigel in 3 short weeks?) He retreated into dark places, under beds and into cabinets. We did our best to make him feel comfortable. He knew what was up. The wisdom in those eyes of his spoke volumes, right to the last.
Now he’s gone. He’s in the ground, with a small marker. I put roses on his grave. I have to figure they were his favorite ‘cause whenever I gave them to Annie, he would try to eat them.
I’m writing this, knowing I can’t read it to him, the way I would occasionally read to him about the Yankees or the Knicks from the morning news feed. But I think we had a good last conversation. Told him I was sorry about trying to teach him to be a VAL. I thought that little speed light harness thing was gonna work:-) Of course, he quickly let me know he was more suited to the director’s chair than to grip work.
Thanks, bud. Thanks for watching over Annie. Thanks for letting me in the house. Thanks for occasionally letting me use my pillow.
Just, you know, thanks…..and Godspeed…I’ll see you on the other side. More tk….