Note, as a bit of a warning shot, that this has been a really, really awful week.
So, Saturday morning we awoke to discover that the friends that had volunteered to host the post-test part had 2 ill kids and needed to bow out. So, seeing as we were literally at the Last Possible Minute, we volunteered to just move the party to our place. 'Cause, you know, not enough else to worry about.
Shortly after we headed out to the dojang at about 9:15 to prepare for my kyo sa test clinic. Set up chairs, chatted a bit, welcomed people as they arrived, and then we kicked off the clinic (a bit late due to late arrivals, as is typical). My performance was a mixed bag: had some real problems with my white/orange belts that I had real hard time straightening out. Recovered somewhat, but not well. Green belt session went far better, but was cut short by the masters and Grandmaster in order to keep things on schedule for the remainder of the day. Not a total loss, by any means, but not what I'd hoped for. Comments from the kodanja and Grandmaster were uniformly constructive, if uncomfortably pointed at times. All feedback was deserved and accurate.
Grandmaster's clinic followed immediately after. The scheduled 1.5 hour clinic instead ran to nearly 3 hours as he attempted to teach a large number of red belts and dans a series of sword forms that are being integrated with our curriculum. Due to the large number of clinic participants, one 1/4 of the students could train on the mat at the same time for a to of the class (whacking each other with swords was an issue ...). Interesting stuff, but frankly it ran way too long for my tastes, especially given that I was still reeling from kyo sa stuff and trying to get my head back on straight for the test.
Following the clinic we are advised that there will be no lunch break and that we will go straight into the test. Grrreat. I wolf down a Powerbar and hope for the best.
Test goes well. Very well. About 6 hours total. I had no significant issues at all, Christine and Trevor did quite well too. I flubbed my break (jump split kick -- broke one board on the first try, then blew the jump double front kick follow up) but otherwise performed very well, Christine needed to redo her break as well, and Trevor needed to do some minor retesting. My friends and classmates all had good testing experiences as well. Spirits were good throughout the entire test. All in all a terrific testing experience, and far superior to what I experienced on my Cho Dan exam.
We wrap up and head back to the house, to prepare for the arrival of 2 dozen or so of our closest friends. Upon arrival, we find that our sweet old dog Scarlett, who has been ill with pneumonia and on all sorts of medication for a few weeks now, is having a tough time breathing. We are concerned, but assume it's just another episode, brought on by the stress of being alone all day. We resolve to just hold her throughout the night to try to keep her calm.
Party goes well. Having been advised that this was a very last-minute soiree, many friends arrive bringing beer, wine, food, liquor, etc. We have 3-4 hours of fun and chit chat. Folks leave by about midnight. Our pup continues to have many, many issues, her breathing labored and her overall demeanor ... not great.
I begin to worry.
We show our last guests out, then retire to the couch, resolved to stay up and get Scarlett calmed down after the hectic day. At 1 Christine takes her to bed, and I doze off on the couch. An hour later I head up to find Christine still comforting Scarlett, who is seeming worse than before. We discuss bringing her to the emergency vet, but decided against it since a) she is terrified of the car and I worry that the ride could make it worse and b) I've been drinking and would need to call my mom to drive us down anyway. I bring her downstairs so Christine can get some sleep.
I spend the next 5 or so hours trying to comfort her, dozing when I could. She becomes progressively worse, her breathing more labored, her behavior becoming more and more worrisome. At 7:30, after sunrise, I bring her up to Chrsiitne so I can climb into bed and rest for an hour or so.
At 8:30 I get up and make coffee. Scarlett is worse still. We begin to discuss that we might need to make some hard choices here, after over a month of trying to fix what initially seemed a simple problem. As Christine holds her and I pour our coffee ... she stops breathing. Christine cries out to me that she's dying.
I run across the room to them, and Christine holds her in her arms as I lay my head on her chest, listening to her heart beating, stroking her head and telling her it's OK, it's OK, let go little baby let go. Despite the other circumstances her heart, awfully, is beating strong and steady. I wish briefly IU had just given her all the pain medication we had in our drawer for her recurrent back injuries, but obviously it's too late now. She strains briefly, convulses 6 or 7 times, shudders a bit, then exhales gently, a raspy little rattle, and her hear continues to beat.
And as I listen, her heart stops. Then beats two or three more times. And stops for good. Our son, who was in the kitchen, begins crying a high, keening cry. Our daughter, who had been sleeping, comes downstairs and stands, stunned.
An hour or so later we drive her lifeless body, wrapped in our daughter's red cuddly blanket, to the emergency vet so she can be cremated. I spend the rest of the day utterly exhausted energy consumed by the testing experience of the previous day and my spirit crushed by 2 days of almost no sleep followed by this last, vicious little gut punch. As it is also my mother's birthday we have her and my brother's family over for pizza and cake. We commiserate and keep on as brave a face as we collectively could.
As they prepare to leave, the masks crumble. We cry quite a bit more. And then we go to bed.
We had her nearly 16 years, years before children, having bought her from a breeder shortly after Christine got a job with an attorney in Greensboro. We wanted our other dog, Raven, to have company. I remember driving home from the breeder with her, my hand resting on her back as she sat nervously in a shoebox on the front seat of my red Dodge Neon. She was about as big as my open hand. When I brought her home she and Raven chased each other around our apartment, jumping up onto furniture and then diving off in a mad dash. While chasing Raven Scarlett tried to dive under the coffee table from the couch and miscalculated, nearly knocking herself unconcious. She had worms, and ear mites. We briefly considered suing the breeder, then decided to just get on with life.
Raven died unexpected a few years later, at 7 years of age just after Halloween in 2000 as we were preparing to move from North Carolina to Texas, breaking our hearts.And 11 years later, just days after the anniversary of Raven's death, Scarlett leaves us. 16 really good years in total. Hearts broken once again.
Goddammit I miss her so much.
So, the test was really good. And I don't care so much about that right now.
I mean I know I did well, I know my family and friends did well. I just don't, you know, give a shit so much. I'd trade that day for 6 more months with my pup without flinching. Someday I guess it will feel better, and maybe I'll be able to finally feel some pride of accomplishment in our performance during the test, but right now I just can't access that whole thing. Right now, I just miss my little red dog.