My dear Uncle Sam used to always tell me, “When a sick dog won’t eat anything else, he’ll eat sardines.” Pearl and I joined forces in rejecting this food item, too.
As Christmas approached, home-baked items began to flow into our hospital. One special baker, Lucy, brought sourdough bread for me and muffins for the rest of the staff. I was tempted to do my “usual,” devour the entire loaf on my way home. Thinking of Pearl, though, I decided to save some, just to see if she were interested. “Interested” turned out to be a strong understatement, and I regretted eating the portion that I did.
Every day when I arrived home, Brenda would have a new “spread,” one we began to call Pearl’s “smorgasbord.” She would have as many as ten things to choose from, in hopes that she would consume at least a morsel if the mood hit her. Sometimes, when we were at home but busy with other things, we would pass by her room and see her snacking on oriental noodles, bacon, or some other delicacy we had imagined she might eat.
Then, one Friday, Pearl stopped eating, and she wouldn’t drink at all. She’d had days like this before, and, with her Energizer Bunny previous ten weeks, we didn’t think too much about it. Her routine, however, was to perk up and eat when I got home. That day, however, she didn’t.
Ten PM, my bedtime, rolled around, and I knelt down by the couch where Brenda was resting. “Baby…”
Brenda put her right hand up, just as Diana Ross had done four decades before. Tears rolled down her face. Without allowing me to say it, she, too, knew that Pearl was “very close.”
Saturday morning, before leaving for work, I took a few extra minutes to speak to and scratch her. She was quite responsive to my affection, so I didn’t think today would be “the day.”
We had a smooth morning at work and I had errands to perform on the way home. I was eating lunch when my cell phone rang. It was Brenda. “Can you come home now?”
“Oh, Baby … is she gone?”
“Yes. Just come home.”
I had one last, quick stop to make, and when I arrived home Brenda was sitting in the bay window, holding Pearl’s lifeless body.
“I think she passed away about 11:30. I stayed up with her until 3 AM, then I had to get some sleep. I had just gotten up to check on her about 10, and she was still sleeping, so I didn’t disturb her. I went back to bed, and when I got up at Noon she was gone.”
We sat there for a while, just holding and stroking Pearl.
Finally, I forced myself to stand up and make her cremation arrangements.