Posted on 05/06/2016 at 04:18 PM by Dena Boelter
I am a single dog mom to a gentle and loving 12 year old greyhound named Apollo. I became a single parent when Gunnar decided to go over the road with Hummer, and it took a while for Apollo and I to adjust. He and I both waited at the window for some time, and tuned our ears to the sound of his semi rumbling down our street, and we had learn to calm each other when there were strange sounds at night that woke us. But now, it has been over year, and we’ve both settled into a routine. Apollo knows he has to step up his role of protector, and I have had to develop a list of friends and neighbors to be ‘on call’ if I need dog care because of a late meeting.
It’s become a new normal, and in the process I’ve discovered some things about myself.
The first is that I’m stronger than I thought I was. This fall, our other greyhound, Rocky, had to be put down suddenly after an injury that happened as a result of his bone cancer. When I was racing to the vet clinic, all I could think of was how much I wanted Gunnar to be with me in that moment of saying goodbye, but at that point he was halfway to Texas and could only say, “Please tell him he’s been a good boy and that we love him”. Letting Rocky go was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do alone, but when I got home, several friends started arriving at my door with hugs and wine. Gunnar had rallied them together for me, in his absence. Even though he couldn’t be there to scratch Apollo’s ears and reassure me that we had made the right choice, he sent others to lift me up.
The second is that everyone needs to learn how to ask for help. It sounds simple enough, and I tell my students all the time how they need to advocate for themselves, but it can be difficult to do yourself. One morning, getting ready to leave for school, the doorknob to our front door fell off in my hand. Mind you, it’s an antique doorknob, and the screws had become loose. I’m handy enough to know that I needed a screwdriver, but I couldn’t find one, and I couldn’t shut or lock the door, and my coffee was getting cold, and I was already running late, and so I did the only logical thing I could think of: sat on the front stoop, doorknob still in my hand, and cried. Apollo came trotting over and sniffed around, as if he was looking for the mystery screwdriver. I felt utterly helpless in that moment, and Gunnar was on a stretch of highway that cut through the mountains in Pennsylvania with sketchy cell phone signal, so he didn’t answer. Finally, I brushed myself off and told Apollo that we were going to call Robb, my brother-in-law, to fix the doorknob catastrophe. Reaching out was admitting that I needed help, and that’s just not easy to do as it turns out, but it’s something important to learn.
The third is the realization of how supportive it is to surround yourself with people who love and care about you, especially when the one person who usually fills that role is gone so often. I’ve had my flat tire fixed in the pouring rain, and meals cooked for me, and dog walking companions, and invitations, and my sidewalk shoveled, and just a general awareness that life has shifted for me. The sensitivity that people have expressed has been amazing, and Gunnar and I are both grateful for that. Those at home who are willing to support me make it possible for Gunnar to do what he does.
Fourth: I’ve had to fall in love with my phone! With Gunnar on the road, I’ve had to channel my middle school aged self, the girl who would spend hours on the phone giggling to her best friend every night, phone cord wrapped around her wrist, feet propped up, rehashing the nuances of the day. Because the phone is the lifeline of our relationship now, I’ve had to learn how to love it again. I invested in a Bluetooth headset so that I can talk hands free while I’m walking Apollo, or doing the dishes, or sweeping the floor. In a strange way, we perhaps talk more extensively now than we did before, and probably in more detail. We’ve had to really listen to each other, which has developed into a gift. Gunnar’s voice has become like a soundtrack to my every day, as well as the Qualcomm voice murmuring in the background, the hum of his mini fridge, and sometimes the soft sounds of traffic or rain or wind. We talk about his live loads and the drop and hooks, the truck stop accommodations, and the characters he meets all over the country. I tell him about my students, and the funny things Apollo does, and about all the meals I’m cooking and freezing for him to take on the next run. At the end of the day, I’m reminded of how much I love him, and our life, and now when we are together, we are intentional about the time we spend.
Hummer has given Gunnar a rhythm, and a purpose, and a way to directly influence lives, and in turn, Hummer has given me a chance to find out what I’m made of. On this Mother’s Day, I’m thinking of all the women out there who might be like me: a wife, or a mother, or a dog mom, who may find herself with a doorknob in her hand crying on some days, but who is also so grateful to be sharing the road with others who can help them find the screwdriver. May your doors always open a little easier with the help of others.
Happy Mother’s Day