New Old Friends | Separating Besties | Mourning Cooper


New Old Friends

Dear Ask Micah,

There is an elderly couple that lives on our street and lately I have befriended them.  It started off small, like I would ask if they needed anything from the store when I went and it’s ended up where I go over each day for a little while and visit and have them to dinner a couple of times a week.  This is bothering my husband.  He says that I have brought home a pair of strays like they’re dogs or cats or something.  I can’t get him to take time to try and make friends with them.  I really like these people.  They are so nice and they don’t really have a lot of family to speak of.  I don’t see the harm in befriending them.  My husband says that I’ll pay for it when they start to get sick or need care and they’ll hound me for everything.  I don’t agree.  Which of us is right?

W.R.L

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Dear W.R.L,

Let me start off by saying that you are doing a wonderful thing, and you will also receive some great benefits from it.  Your husband is an idiot–but the idiot does have a valid point.  If these elderly people do not have any family to speak of, then they will turn to you in times of need.  You can expect to be called upon if they are unable to drive themselves to the doctor’s office, or if they need a ride to the market, or for any number of reasons.  With that said, is that really a big deal?  There are worse things in life than having an elderly couple become an extended part of your family; But you must have your husband on board.  He didn’t sign up to become caregiver to elderly non-relatives.  You can’t expect him to invest in these people unless he can build some genuine affection for them.  He may or may not, be able to do this.  There are people who are just scared of old people because it reminds them of their own mortality or of someone else they loved and lost, and they miss out on some wonderful experiences when they steer clear of old age.

I always loved my grandparents and could sit for hours on end doing nothing but listening to them talk–but they were my grandparents, not strangers, so loving them was easy.  It was really only when I reached out and made connections with other elderly people that I began to realize that life doesn’t have to end or get boring just because you get a little gray and wrinkled.  Some of my most favorite people I’ve known in life were really old.  As a child, whenever I stayed at my grandparents’ house I would walk down the street to Mae and Henry’s.  Mae and Henry were an older couple that were neighbors of my grandparents.  They were so much fun.  Mae loved Westerns.  We spent many a Saturday afternoon eating snacks and watching old Westerns trying to catch when the cowboy on horseback passed by the same old tree or rock for the tenth time.  Henry was a romantic old thing.  He used to woo Mae out in the open and wasn’t ashamed of it.  They taught me that love can be just as warm and powerful 50 years later.

In my own neighborhood, there was an elderly widow named Mrs. Klein.  One day–for some reason or another–I happened to stop by her house and she invited me in for some cake and conversation.  I was about 17 I guess.  As we sat there talking, I was astounded by the things I heard this woman saying about life and the world and her experience in it.  Mrs. Klein was not some doddering old woman like I’d always thought.; she was lively and funny and had some life experiences that would probably have shocked her grandchildren had she ever told them.  These elderly people taught me that older people are just the same as the rest of us.  They aren’t children we have to talk down to or pacify.  They have dreams, fears, opinions, and intelligence–those things don’t just go away because you have grown old.  Perhaps one day your husband will realize this and then, like you, he can seize the opportunity to befriend this elderly couple and reap the rewards from it.  He needs to learn that they are people–People with more insight, wisdom, and a treasure trove of experience just waiting to be mined.

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Separating Besties

Micah,

When my  dearest friend moved to another town about an hour or so away we didn’t think it would affect our friendship too badly, but we were wrong.  We spent our lives doing everything together and now that we don’t get to see each other as much as we used to, I can feel a change in us.  I don’t want to lose our friendship.  I thought about moving to where she is, but I can’t.  My boyfriend, family, and job are here.  Then I heard about an opening coming up where I work.  I arranged for my girlfriend to come down to interview, hoping that if she got the job she’d move back home.  I can tell you that I was a little shocked when she told me she didn’t want the job and that she is happy in her new place in her new town.  I don’t have a specific question, I just feel a little hurt.  I am worried that our lifetime friendship is at risk.  Do you have any advice for how I can get over feeling like that?

Becky

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Dear Becky,

You’re doing it.  You are recognizing and facing that things are changing in your life.  The thing that you need to accept is that you and your girlfriend can remain BFFs without living near each other.  She isn’t in another state after all–she’s just an hour away.  You wouldn’t have been able to continue the rest of your lives doing everything together anyway.  It just isn’t practical.  I bet your boyfriend must be loving all this newfound extra time alone with you since your sidekick has moved away.  Look, it’s fun to have a partner in crime and a friend who’s always there, but you can’t expect that dynamic to last forever.  Friends grow, marry, have babies, get busy, or move away and don’t have the time to be another person’s sidekick anymore.  It’s time to grow up, focus on your boyfriend and your own future and allow your BFF to do the same in her life.  You took her unwillingness to move back as a personal rejection when it wasn’t.  She just likes her job and new home.  She’s allowed to.  It’s time you let her have the space she needs to carve out her own life and you should be doing the same thing.  The two of you should schedule a weekly girls night out together and let that, along with a daily phone call,  suffice.  I know it’s hard to accept, but you can’t go on forever as a twosome.  At some point one of you was bound to grow up.  Believe me, your friendship will survive.

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Mourning Cooper

Dear Micah,

This past March my dog Cooper died.  He was like a child to me and my heart is broken.  It has been a real tragedy in my life and when people ask me what’s wrong with me and I tell them they act like I should be over it by now or something.  Cooper was like a child to me.  When everyone tries to jolly me out of my depression it makes me more angry because you wouldn’t do that to a mother who lost her child so why do that with a pet owner who lost a pet that was like her child.  Cooper was my child, and when I try to explain that to people they argue with me instead of sympathizing.  Now I have a couple of friends that want to get me a new dog.  They think I can just replace Cooper I guess.  Everybody thinks I should be over it by now.  I can’t help that I’m not.  How do I get everyone to take my grief seriously?   It is a real grief.  I’m not just making this pain up.

Lindsey

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Dear Lindsey,

Of course it’s a real grief. I seriously doubt that anyone believes that you are making up your pain.  You have lost a member of your household that you loved very deeply.  Any pet owner will get that, but at the same time you probably shouldn’t get so indignant when people do not agree that your loss is the same as a person who has lost their child.  It’s a bit indulgent and insulting to any parent who has had a child die.  I have known the loss of a pet, and it is a painful loss.  My son was born when I was 37, so I spent many years as the “parent” of dogs way before I ever had a child.  During those years, I had two dog deaths and they were horrible experiences.  However, I would never begin to compare those two losses to what it would be like if something happened to my son.  It is a ridiculous comparison to anyone who has human children.

When you make a statement like that to someone they are  immediately going to lose their sympathy for you and get defensive and argumentative.  So if your aim is to convey to people the depth of your hurt and have them sympathize with you; don’t alienate them with a statement that you can’t possibly stand behind unless you happen to have lost both a child and a pet and found both losses to be equal–which only an idiot would.  I’m not trying to dress you down or add to your depression, but you need to see that you aren’t winning any support by making such proclamations.  Unfortunately in our society, people do not always elevate a pet to family member status, so some people cannot comprehend how severe the death of one can be.  If more people loved animals in that way, we would see far less pet overpopulation and our animal shelters wouldn’t be bursting at the seams.  Your love for Cooper is a wonderful thing, and you are entitled to miss and mourn him.

You do not need other people’s permission to grieve your loss, and you don’t need their validation.  Try to not take their lack of understanding so personally.  It’s unfair to expect others to comprehend the depth of another person’s emotions and it doesn’t matter anyway.  You loved Cooper and his death has been traumatic for you.  You don’t have to have anyone else’s clearance to feel the way you feel.  However, in my opinion, I don’t think that anyone means to disregard your loss as unimportant and I don’t think your friends meant any harm when they offered to get you a new dog.  In fact, I think it’s a marvelous idea.

You are a dog lover.  That’s an awesome thing to be.  Not every dog owner is a “dog lover.”  It takes a special kind of person to love their animal with the devotion and respect that you obviously gave to Cooper.  So my question to you is this:  With all of the dogs out there that are in need of a good home, why are you so willing to deny another dog the love and security which you can provide?  Getting another dog would not erase Cooper from your heart–in fact, you’d be paying tribute to him.  Dogs live such a short amount of time compared to us, and the only positive part about that is how it allows us the privilege and opportunity to know and love many dogs through our lifetime.  Each one will be as special as Cooper was in their own unique way.  So, don’t stop experiencing the kind of devotion only a dog can give you just because Cooper died.  You could still have a lifetime of memories to make with a Chester, Otis, or Sparky.  It will not take away the pain of losing Cooper, but it will give you a good reason to go home at night–and once you look down at that new furry face wagging its tail because it’s excited to see you come through the door, you will feel a little bit better than you do now.

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