Ginger and I Have Done the Dance
And Are Alive

Yogi Berra was a hall of fame baseball player and manager. However, he also was famous for his tautological sayings, which stated a similar thought twice in the same sentence. Most people called his habit “Yogi-isms.” This was one of his famous saying, “It's déjà vu all over again.” In a strange way, that saying describes precisely what I am experiencing.

This is the backstory. My early life was spent in Merchantville and Pennsauken, NJ. As I look back upon my life, I would describe those years as my golden years. Just before I entered sixth grade, my father moved to Mt. Lebanon, PA. I have written a great deal about that personal trauma. Mt. Lebanon was the 19th best school system in the country, and I wasn’t prepared for moving from a nice but average school to a superlative one. However, that was my personal problem.

Not long before we moved, my mother had a radical mastectomy. I wasn’t really aware of her medical problems, but she was. Back nearly seven decades ago, they didn’t have the modern-day treatments and procedures that we have today. They simply cut out the tumor and hoped for the best. While I was attempting to deal with a new school setting, my mother tried to adjust to having a radical mastectomy in her early 30s. Beyond the personal feelings that she surely had about this issue as a young mother, she worried about whether the surgeon was able to remove all the cancer.

It wasn’t long before she developed rheumatoid arthritis. The next medical issue that she soon faced was lupus, which is an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis. My years of junior high, high school, college, and graduate school were a living hell for her. She tried everything to attempt to deal with her pain and suffering. I don’t recall all the medicines that she tried. However, I do remember one—she took shots of liquid gold. Liquid gold was a new medical discovery years ago.

None of the various treatments did much of anything to improve her condition. She died two decades after the family moved to Mt. Lebanon. During those years, it was a rare occasion that I didn’t see her in a house coat sitting on the sofa in the living room.

That was my mother’s journey. How did my father deal with her never-ending medical problems? He loved my mother and cared for her. They would have preferred a healthier and happier life together, but they faced reality together. That is the backstory.

When I started to work after graduate school, the first thing that I got was an Irish Setter. I don’t recall why I wanted an Irish Setter. I got Ginger as a puppy. For over a dozen years, Ginger was a part of my family. As Ginger got older, she had several medical problems. It became obvious that she wouldn’t make it much longer. Her last week’s weren’t in pain and remained with the family and me. She died one Saturday morning. I sat there next to her and just petted her during her waning hours of life. It was the worst day of my life.

In the twilight years of my life, I got another Irish Setter. And as before, her name is Ginger. Again, I don’t know all the reasons for this second acquisition. I am sure that part of my drive to get another Irish Setter was to relive my Camelot-esque moments with the first Ginger. I guess that it was my way of saying, “Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot,” which I shared my dog, Ginger.

We began our lives together just a couple days before Christmas of 2016.

We had a wonderful Christmas as began our lives together. By the spring of the following year, we began our daily circumnavigating the lake. As Ginger grew older, she loves to chase flocks of geese that are sunny themselves in vacant lots around the lake. She would return like a warrior coming home after a victorious battle.

Ginger spotted a deer twice. The first time she looked at me as if to say, “What should I do?” Several months later, she knew what to do. She began to chase the deer in the tall grasses at the end of the lake. However, the tall grasses made her chase impossible.

Our lives continued as we both expected…until a year ago. She started to get sick. Ginger would drool thick salvia, scratch her ear, vomit, etc. I took her to see her vet, Dr. Sabedra. We began weeks of tests and medicine without resolving the problem.

Dr. Sabedra suggested that I take Ginger to Purdue University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, which is a huge hospital for small animals. I signed her in as a patient and returned home. Over the next two days, they watched her and ran some tests, which included an esophagogastroduodenoscopy. Essentially, it was a procedure, which contained a device with a light and an instrument to get biopsies of her esophagus, stomach, and the beginning of her small intestines. Additionally, she had abdominal CT.

I was scared as I waited. She had lost a lot of weight and won’t eat. As I waited, I wasn’t sure that she’d make it. Finally, the vets at Purdue concluded that she had irritable bowel syndrome.

Since then, Ginger takes prescription dog food and a handful pills to address the gastrointestinal issue and related problems, which helped…for a while. Various problems directly or indirectly related to the irritable bowel syndrome started. In the past year, I have made countless trips the Hobart Animal Clinic to see Dr. Sabedra and Dr. Diana. During this timeframe, there have been three occasions that I wasn’t sure that Ginger would live.

It has been four days since we last saw Dr. Sabedra. Ginger has improved a great deal and is almost back to normal. This is where the haunting thought enters my mine, “It's déjà vu all over again.” My mother was repeatedly treated for some presenting problem. The cancer didn’t return. However, she had new problems. Her last dance with death was due to lupus.

I watched my father deal with my mother. It reminds me what Randy Pausch said, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.” They tried to make the most out of the time they had.

I have danced with death twice a dozen years prior to COVID-19. Whatever will befall either Ginger or me, we will enjoy the time we have.

Additionally, Ginger wanted to thank Dr. Sabedra and Dr. Dianna.

One of the great benefits of my subdural hematoma, traumatic brain injury, and prostate cancer, which had metastasized, is that I learned my clock is ticking. Although I watched my mother die over a couple of decades, I didn’t grasp that I would have my dances. Intellectually, I knew that all people will die someday, but I didn’t know that reality in my gut. I do now.

I know that Ginger is also dancing with death. I can hear the deafening tick of our clocks. I don’t know when either of us won’t have anymore time of our dance floor of life, but we will enjoy the time we have. It changed my Weltanschauung. While I make plans for the future, I also live in the present with Ginger. I have looked into Ginger’s eye and have told her about living life to the fullest. As I looked at her, it was as if she knew that there was something important about our relationship.