The Old Cactus

When we moved into this house in 2001, we found a potted cactus abandoned by the previous owners. Since then the cactus has outgrown three pots, survived snowstorms and hurricanes, and inspired a cactus-themed flower bed. But it isn’t a pretty creature. Spiders haunt its tightly-woven spines, spinning dense shrouds of web around its base. Leaves cling to it, and its barbs penetrate leather gloves as easily as they run through flimsy cotton. Its trunk is twisted, half-collapsed on one side, leaning heavily against a trio of stakes.  I wonder, sometimes, if it aches with age. If it feels the listing slump of years and yearns for the tall, unblemished symmetry of youth.

And then it blooms. More and more blooms each summer. More and more beautiful…

The Old Dog

There’s no way around it. Indigo is getting old.

Time steadily steals her enthusiasm for tag, thwarts her agile leaps to catch a ball. Deafness eases her thunder phobia, but also ruins her nightly reunions with my husband. She no longer hears his approach, so misses his entrance. Failing eyesight slows her pace, and a few terrible crashes have turned her tentative in the dark.

Her age hurts. I ache when she stumbles on the steps or staggers stiffly through what was once an exuberant dance of greeting. I’m doubly wounded when she snaps in frustration, compensating for growing weakness with the only defense left to her.

It’s a dreadful miracle, this loving of dogs. Their lives are so short compared to ours, traversing so many different paths to inevitable loss. Even so, I’m not sorry to have loved this dog, to love her yet, despite her spectacular array of bad habits and neuroses. She’s a deeply flawed beast, but aren’t we all?