Often, when someone loses a pet, they talk about how unbelievably sad they are. How even they are surprised at the depth of their sadness. If I hear of someone I love who has lost a pet, I share this story with them…

Shortly after losing our beloved 13-year-old basset hound, Mary, my husband and I attended an art show in a city nearby. Our feelings were still quite raw and the slightest thing could bring on a new set of tears.

We met a lovely woman, a little older than we were, who shared her story. She told us that she too had lost a basset hound of many years and how, after its death, she just couldn’t stop crying. No matter how hard she tried, she just cried and cried and cried. One day (many days after the basset’s death) her husband said “OH FOR GOODNESS SAKES!!!! You love that basset more than me!!! I’ll bet that you are crying more for her than you will cry for me when I die!!!!”

The woman told us that a few years later, her husband passed away. Then she paused, looked straight at us with a slight grin said…

“You know, he was right.”

I don’t know why, but she helped us. Her story helped us the same way the line “Hit Weezie.” helped in Steel Magnolias. Her simple words, her charming story made a difference. And, I thank her for them.

If I had to start somewhere…

I guess Sumter, South Carolina was as good a place as any. My dad was in the Air Force stationed at Fort Sumter in the early 50’s. My mom settled into their dreary, military, cinder block apartment shortly after they were married on June 24, 1950.

I arrived early November 1951. My mom was 19, turning 20 exactly one month later. From what I understand, I wasn’t the most pleasant of babies. Since they had shipped my Dad off to Korea, my mom was left with my 24/7 care. I am sure she constantly questioned her decision to move from her family and friends in Maple Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio – the only place she’d ever lived (or been to for that matter.)

My Aunt Joy, a couple of years older than my mom decided to head down for a week or two and help out. From what I understand, Joy’s visit was a total disaster. Sumter was experiencing a horrific heat wave – quite normal for the area. But this heat was so much hotter than anything Aunt Joy or mom had ever felt before in Ohio. To top it off – the southern humidity was a killer. Military housing was not especially nice in the first place and was without air conditioning. It was practically unheard of back then in any home let alone one of an Air Force Sergeant.

I picked the hottest day of Aunt Joy’s visit to test out my lungs. From the moment I woke up, I was crying. I was fed, my diapers changed, I was rocked, held, walked, bounced, anything just to get me to shut up and unfortunately, nothing worked. My face was bright and shiny red from the tears. My eyes were squished up and solid red. My arms and legs were flailing every-which-way. My mouth was as wide as it could be and with every scream, my tongue hung out for maximum volume.

While I can’t say for certain, I would be surprised if I found out there hadn’t been alcohol consumed that day. Because what happened next could only happen if you are punch drunk or just plain old snockered.

I don’t really know whose idea it was. Both Aunt Joy and mom had a bit of the devil in them. Both are likely candidates. One decided to put me into the baby carriage. The other sat on the floor across the living room. All of a sudden, I was in my baby carriage, crying my eyes out and hurtling across the room stopped only by the other’s feet as the carriage pushed her legs up to her hips. In one gigantic push, I was flying in the opposite direction to the instigator’s feet only to be flung back across the room once again. With each push of the carriage, mom and Aunt Joy laughed harder and harder. Tears were flowing down their cheeks. I was screaming bloody murder and they were holding their stomachs and pounding the floor with their hands while sweat poured off of them. One big push after another with rails of laughter while my cries engulfed the room.

All of a sudden, the baby buggy tipped and as if in slow motion. mom and Aunt Joy watched the carriage fall onto its side and I rolled out. They both fell flat on the floor and rolled around laughing so hard that every part of their body hurt, wiping tears from their eyes and dripping snot from their noses and both yelling “Oh God! Stop! Stop!”

“What the hell did I get myself into?”