Not big about “firsts.” You know, first kiss, first car ride, first day of school, first marriage…

But I do remember the first time I saw death.

In April 2008 I flew to Delaware on business. It was the first time I’d been out East in, oh, over 30 years.

A lot came rushing back to me as my coworkers and I drove our rental car through the countryside toward Newark. It was spring: the dogwoods were in bloom and the salty slap of ocean air … well, reminded me of life in Maryland.

So many things I’d forgotten about in our time between Indiana and Maryland: when Dad took us to a carnival and we went on the train ride, those bug-like spinning rides—and one particular ride, the water tunnel where I sat next to Dad and feared for my life. My beautiful picture

Don’t know how old I was then, but it must’ve happened in Indiana. I recall the tunnel, the clanking chain and gears grinding below the car, the splash of the water around us, then as the car rose and rose toward the light leading us out of the tunnel—the downward plunge toward the unknown.

Yeah, I’m the sensitive sort; Dad really wasn’t, so I’m guessing he didn’t figure it would terrify me that much. Well, I’m talking about it now, aren’t I? Isn’t that the ultimate cliché about death: a long tunnel, a light at the end, a plunge to God knows where?

Water was the prime element for my father. He had to be around it as much as he could: the Broad Ripple pool in summer, with transistor radios blaring Nat King Cole’s “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer,” or whatever was current in the early ’60s. The chlorine smell of the pool, the sun-hot beach towel, the splashing and laughter echoing through the concrete walls. Past the gate, summer sun burning through the oaks.

Before we left Indiana, Dad took us to the Butler University campus. I remember hedges, poplar trees, Holcomb Observatory, and a carillon bell. Why we went there, I haven’t a clue. The architecture? The grounds? A picnic? Dunno.

And I don’t think I mentioned my first pet, our Cocker Spaniel, Taffy. She shepherded me and my brother if we wandered too close to East 64th Street. Her fur was soft and she slobbered a lot.My beautiful picture

In Maryland, it was a lonely time. New place, new people, and we were sloppy with an accent that sounded like a cross between John Mellencamp and Dan Quayle.

Our new neighbor, British expat Tom Harrison and his wife Winnie, became fast friends with Mom and Dad. Mr. Harrison flew as an RAF pilot in World War I, collected books, and had an observatory in his backyard.

We stayed in touch via letters even after we’d moved to Minnesota and I’d graduated high school. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about the amazing Mr. H.

Olney was a convergence of streets, on the corner of which was Olney Drug. Dad used to take me there and we’d sit at the soda fountain while Mom bought stuff. I remember punching buttons on the tabletop jukeboxes, playing songs like The Lettermen’s “Goin’ Out of My Head / Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” Olney Drug was stuffed with everything you could imagine, and I especially remember the gag gifts and postcards and novelties that hung on every shelf-end.

Taffy died in Olney, Maryland, shortly after we arrived. She was old and couldn’t run with us anymore. Dad had moved her food and water bowls into the huge garage, and we checked on her daily.

I was with her when she died. She was lying on her side, her breathing shallow and nose buried in the dust. As we petted her, she just stopped breathing, one last snort into the dust.

That was the first death I saw: being, then struggle, then silence. I was surprised at how quickly it went, because I remember watching her and not thinking this was the last time I’d see Taffy.

Dad picked her up and buried her in the backyard, near the playhouse.

I hadn’t really thought about all this until now.

~ by completelyinthedark on October 23, 2010.

2 Responses to “Taffy”

  1. oh Taffy..poor girl….how lucky she was to have you nearby Mike. How lucky you both were to have each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Completely in the Dark and commented:

    Six years ago I restarted this blog on WordPress. Here’s a post from around that time. All-new post next Friday. Cheers, Mike


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