Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Forgetting Bentley

For as long as I can remember, my family has always been fortunate enough to have a "close your eyes gift" at the end of each Christmas morning.  This was a present that was always big, no matter what its actual size happened to be, and somehow had a way of keeping those butterflies fluttering, long after you'd stopped believing in the magic of Kris Kringle.  But the December of my seventh year had been much different from the rest; the ice cream sundae that I called Christmas, having this time been topped with a cherry so sweet, nothing could ever again be quite as delicious. 

I remember gathering in my grandparent's living room, my brother and I sitting Indian style on one of their many multicolored braided rugs with our tiny hands clumsily pressed against our pale faces, waiting as patiently as two children can on Christmas morning.  But as I sat there in the darkness of my own adolescent mind, I couldn't help but peek through the tiny slits of my fingers, hoping to catch just a glimpse of the ever-growing excitement forming all around me.  I first remember seeing the back of my eager father as he disappeared into my grandmother's warm kitchen, its mouth-watering aroma of turkey and gravy had been wafting through my nostrils all morning.  And then there was my radiant mother, anxiously staring into the kitchen after my father, the morning sun's reflection onto her face was making her look just like an angel.  And surrounding her were the rest of my crazy family, their toothy grins and wide eyes simply a domino effect of my mom's already contagious enthusiasm.

But not long after I had shut my eyes again in preparation for my father's return, I suddenly heard a mysterious melody; a clicking and clacking of the softest of footsteps playing a gorgeous tune on my grandparent's linoleum.  And then almost on cue, the melody suddenly stopped, replaced by my father's exuberant voice telling us that we could now open our eyes.  But as we did, the magnitude of what sat before us suddenly began to whip us in the face; its vigor that of a violent garden hose.  Our brains were just much too raw to even attempt to wrap around what our eyes thought we were seeing, causing the muscles in our face to instantly tighten into a frozen expression of complete and utter shock.  There he was, a magnificent Shetland Sheepdog named Bentley, just standing there,  ready to love us.  His shiny carpet of kaleidoscope fur swayed back and forth as he panted his tongue in a glorious wet smile.  And it was in this very moment that we both absolutely knew,  that he, was to be the greatest gift of our entire childhood.

And don't get me wrong, Bentley wasn't about to go and rescue us from the bottom of a well or anything.  But none of that seemed to matter to my brother and I, as he somehow just became our everything, walking side by side with us through the maze of juvenescence.  But to me, this isn't a story about my girlhood pet, more as it's a recognition of one of the most terrible parts of growing up. That being, how some of the things that we once loved so much in our youth, can be so easily disregarded later in life.

Bentley was my world for quite some time.  But then one day something changed inside me, and the tempting poisons of all things superficial started to sparkle more than they ever had before.  I just became much too wrapped up in my own little selfish world to want to be part of his anymore.  But why does this have to happen? Why must life force us to bloat in our own self-absorption, even for a moment? I guess it's all about pulling away and rebelling against anything and everything that makes us feel the least bit dependent.  It's just too bad that when maturity finally shakes us awake from our egocentric teenage comas, that sometimes those precious things are gone forever. 

I had always found it sad that my youngest brother couldn't have had more time with him.  But unfortunately, he's the one who found him lying there lifeless, being much too young to even understand what was wrong.  By then I was in college, still more concerned with boys and partying to pay too much attention at all, to the passing of my one-time best friend.   I had changed so much from that innocent seven-year-old version of myself who had adopted Bentley a lifetime ago.  A girl who would have at one time, simply been inconsolable upon the news of his death. 

The thing that I will always remember about Bentley was his unusual, almost non-existent bark.  His former owner had ignorantly removed his larynx in hopes it would silence him, leaving my poor dog with nothing but a raspy sort of cough which would be continually mocked throughout his short life.  But to me, the sound of his voice couldn't have been louder; its beautiful pitch still echoing throughout my mind to this very day, forever reminding me of how influential he truly was. 

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