Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Can We Respect Different Approaches?

In the one week since I left the USA for India, the weather in Washington, D.C., has changed from Inaugural Euphoria to a stalled out, mean spirited storm of accusations, mistrust and ego-driven divisiveness.
(Left, Boy, with puppy, Haskell, on right)
Famous groundhog Puxatawny Phil predicted six more weeks of winter, but, please, may it not be as deadly as the present political cold front paralyzing the federal government.

Reflecting on what motivates those fighting our new President on every conceivable project, I began to think about how style not only clouds thinking, it shapes it.

A silly little story comes to mind:
One morning a few years ago, our lovely dog Boy, (somewhat a collie) was struggling to breathe. I never thought an animal could look pale, but Boy did.

My husband Thurmond drove Boy to the veterinarian, promising to call when he knew something. I stayed home with our other two dogs and tried to convince myself Boy probably ate something spoiled. I told Thurmond if euthanizing Boy was the only possible merciful action, he had my consent.

Clinging to “no news is good news,” I stayed busy and hoped for the best. The morning moved on. I didn’t know Thurmond was facing the worst news… Boy was full of cancerous tumors, one had ruptured his spleen. Boy was drowning in his own blood.

Ultimately, at the vet’s recommendation, Boy was put to sleep in Thurmond’s arms. Running on automatic pilot, Thurmond placed Boy’s body in a blanket in the car. He didn’t call me; he didn’t even use the bathroom, which he needed to do! Recalling the whole event later, Thurmond said he had just wanted to get out of the animal hospital and bring Boy home. He had just wanted to come home and grieve privately.

I share this story now, because while Thurmond and I were both 100 percent committed to our dog’s well being and supporting each other, we handled the moment very differently, and it led to a big disagreement. Rather like the nation’s leadership now…both parties pledged to care deeply about the people, but following radically different approaches.

Once home, Thurmond parked the car and ran to the bathroom. Meanwhile, I had been pacing around outdoors, and came upon his car in the garage. I looked in the backseat. I saw the large wrapped parcel. Only then did I learn Boy was dead.

“Why didn’t you call me? Why didn’t you tell me as soon as you got home?” I cried out.

Thurmond explained he never relieved himself at the animal hospital, though he was bursting with morning coffee. “Listen, honey, I thought I would tell you right after I used the bathroom. I didn’t know you would look in the car.”

I was sure I was right. I believed Thurmond should have told me first and foremost, either with a phone call or immediately upon getting home. I was so upset.

Yet, Thurmond had handled the burden single handedly. He drove close to 60 miles; he sat for hours with our dying, suffering pet. He carried 65 pound Boy in and out of the car, and watched him close his eyes for the last time. Now surely, wasn’t Thurmond allowed a moment alone? Was telling me first the only way he could express his compassion for me?

Today, I can honestly say I don’t think either of us was right or wrong. And strangely, this new awareness has given me some comfort when I consider the snarl in Washington. Perhaps no one is right and everyone is right, and everything will work out for the best. Can we respect different approaches? After writing this, I can even see Thurmond was right.

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