Of dark days and silver linings

Happy birthday, Daadu. You would have notched up another year of joy with all of us grandchildren today. Except, you decided to bid adieu a month ago.

The last three months have been dark ones. We overheard grave conversations about hospital and ICU. We sensed anxiety. We were left nonplussed when Big Sis disappeared for two months, when we didn’t see Dad for weeks and months on end, when Mom left us without warning for a fleeting visit to you and then finally, when all our Folks disappeared from our lives for what seemed an eternity. We heard whispers of Big Bro flying home from Germany and waited impatiently for him. But he didn’t come home here.

We knew something was terribly wrong even before you actually left us, Daadu. Even before everyone travelled out, we knew. Mom did her best to calm us down; she knew we knew. We were jumpy. Then, we wanted Big Sis back; we’d mope around sniffing at her things. Now, we are glad she was with you. We wanted to come too, but there were too many travel restrictions in place. So, our Folks went and left us – agitated, bewildered, wondering if our story would be added to the canine grapevine about so many of us being abandoned by our folks (disgraceful, but more on that some other time.)

Our fears were completely unfounded. Friends of our Folks took us under their wings. The silver lining on the cloud of the dark times: we got ourselves another family. Another Mom, Dad, Big Sis. And a Biiigg Bro called Leo. When Mom first left us, it was only for two days. We had just got into the swing of things when she returned to take us back home. The second time she had to go didn’t start so well. We started off being Terribly Upset: a midnight call kept Mom awake all night, oozing stress that infected us. Her rushed packing of our things didn’t go down so well with us either. We were insulted, and not knowing the full picture then didn’t help. Before we knew it, we had been slipped into our ‘new’ home and our old Mom had vanished – pouf! Literally like a puff of smoke.

The first two days were spent in lying in the middle of the living room like two parallel arrows facing the door, just itching for it to open and bring our Folks. We almost didn’t realise how much we were being loved. Thankfully, good sense prevailed. We took to treat times and pampering like ducks to water. Big Sis there would plant herself on the sofa and the three of us would sit around her for all the biscuits. Mom there made the snuggest of beds with soft quilts and tucked us in. And if Dad there did not urge us, we would not budge to go down for our walks. Soon, we found our spots in our new home.

Morning yoga sessions on Zoom were no longer the same for instructor and Mom this side. They were punctuated by One of Us Whose Name Starts with Z coming in full camera range with a ball in her mouth, completely enthusiastic about exercising. When the interruptions got too much, everyone in the house took on the challenge to hide the ball beyond the range of the mouth of that One of Us. In 18 days, that One of Us unfailingly found the ball each time. The first time, everyone was puzzled at that One sitting for over an hour whining as she looked at the window. So puzzled that Mom there even sent our old Mom a message of concern because she could not figure out what the whine was for. Old Mom, in the middle of things far away, too scratched her head for lizard, pigeon, squirrel until it was revealed that One of Us Whose Name Starts with Z had with her unerring radar figured that the ball had been craftily hidden in the folds of the curtain on the sill.

On another occasion, this One of Us was caught trying to clamber on to the dining table to get to the sideboard on which lay a vase within which was The Ball.

The Other One of Us Whose Name Starts with S was more content to sleep under the sofa, less friendly and more in the pining mode. Except when Z leapt on her on being reprimanded. You see, One of Us is convinced that all evil that befalls her can be attributed to the Other One of Us, and the new Folks soon learnt that the even the gentlest of raising the voice on One of Us meant the Other Of Us would be jumped upon, usually when fast asleep and minding her own business.

The one with no interest in all our capers was Biiigg Bro Leo. We ruffled his feathers enough by demanding attention from his Folks and he would invariably retreat under the dining table and watch us from there if not asleep. We were a little in awe of him – after all, we had never had an older canine companion. So, initially, when our biscuit would land in Leo’s bed, all we could do was sit at the periphery and stare at it, willing it to move itself in our direction. But it did not take us long to commandeer Leo’s bed itself. We loved it so much so that Mom there ordered our old Mom to get similar beds for us, and the order was placed so that the beds arrived the day we returned to our old home.

Some days were quiet, others eventful. The bone of contention (pun intended) was invariably the meal. Old boy Leo ate at leisure. We are gluttons who barely know how to chew. For a couple of days, an out-of-sorts Leo did not eat. One of Us Whose Name Starts with Z, having been brought up in a disciplined manner, could not bear to see all that food wasted. So, that One of Us polished off Leo’s food one day (after eating her own), causing many an anxious moment to the Folks there, poised all day with a teaspoon of digestive to soothe an overburdened system. After two days of hunger strike, Leo got his own back though the hapless Other of Us bore the consequences when Leo polished off her food. Not having the guts to attack the actual perpetrator, this Other of Us took on the sister. There was some fighting, followed by sulking and no food was eaten out of pique despite a second helping being served to the sufferer.

However, Leo is not the crusty old man he appears to be. He just thinks the façade is cool😎 . He gave himself away one evening when this Other of Us, earlier victimised by both himself and her sister, yelped on the landing near the lift on realising that she was alone and her sister had not yet caught up with her. The usually lumbering Leo was up like a shot and galloped from his place under the dining table to the lift to check on the poor baby, even barking disapprovingly at the person on the other end of the leash. Biiigg Bro’s initial stupefaction at us grew into willy-nilly permitting the sharing of his precious bed, and finally taking walks together, stopping at the same time, with Leo looking back to check on the li’l uns every once in a while. Indeed, our old Mom felt extremely guilty taking us back when she saw the lingering goodbye looks exchanged between Biiigg Bro and the pesky ‘uns as they receded into the distance.

We are back in our old home, even though we tug in the direction of the entry to our other home during our evening walk, and life is limping back to normal. But for us, this is a new normal, a normal without you, Daadu. Adieu Daadu. You will be with us on your favourite festival Diwali, which is round the corner; you will be standing there, smiling at us when we get treats off plates holding things you relished; you will be there wagging your finger at us every time we try to pulverise a flower. You are with us today, on your birthday, and will be forever…

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