My dad has never been a dog person and he is falling in love with mine.
I am in my hometown, exploring the breathtaking marshes and soft, white sandy beaches. Meditating on bittersweet memories and mulling through ideas as I always do when I visit the home of my beloved and missed mother. I took my pup along for this ride because I felt he needed to meet the most important person in my life, my dad. I am witnessing their love affair grow every day.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” I’ve been thinking about how ridiculous that saying is. I’ve been thinking about the ways we change and the ways we don’t and all that lives in the in-between. I’ve been thinking about the new tricks we learn every day.
My closest friend from childhood often talks with me about how much we have evolved over the years. How self awareness is a trait we actively wear like a pin of pride. I believe you are never too old to grow. I believe there is always room for deeper listening and internal shifts of the mind and heart.
I didn’t love this town growing up. Its lack of equality and understanding always felt very stifling. This community’s blind stubbornness in an attempt to keep everything always the same used to rub me the exact wrong way. But now when I come back there is a fondness. A warmth. An acceptance of a town that is never going to be quite the same as me. A love for that town and for all of our differences.
In my 20s and 30s, I hated my body. I would cover my arms with cardigans in the dead heat of summer, and constantly obsess about what I did and did not eat each day. Now I cherish my body and try to give it unconditional love and affection. I still have many moments of struggle, the importance of a certain image so ingrained into the female psyche, almost impossible to erase completely. But I now look at my body with great appreciation and caring. It has taken me so far and continues to do its best for me, defending itself against spontaneous attacks from an irrational terrorist called MS.
My dad always said no to a dog. My parents were both adamant cat lovers and except for the occasional gold fish, no exceptions were made. This week in our first post-vaccine reunion, my father plays with my dog. He gets on his hands and knees with toys, late at night after a long day of heat and work. More than mere acceptance, there is love and bonding happening here.
Life and time and pain and loss help us learn new tricks.
But maybe these things don’t actually change us. Maybe all of it, lived and lost, simply reveals the really good stuff that was already there.