‘Tis a time for taking
Gary Caruso | Thursday, December 6, 2018
In this loveliest of seasons when our hearts and homes have traditionally been filled with peace, joy and happiness, the last 10-day span has become a time of loss for me. It began with the recent passing of my 14-year-old (101 in dog years) German Shepherd named Peso. Then our 41st President George H.W. Bush — with whom I worked while he was Vice President and I a staff member for Texas Democratic Rep. Solomon Ortiz from Corpus Christi — passed, which added to my grief. Those losses remind me that we must take time to savor our moments together.
Christians view Advent as a time of preparation before the arrival of Christmas, which is the ultimate time for joyful giving. This frantic season of scholastic semester finals, holiday shopping and family gatherings will be tempered for me. My heart aches and is hollow from losing Peso. He — like is the nature of all canines — carried a spirit of gentleness and calm that conveyed happiness to all. He always loved others more than they may have valued themselves.
If Adam named all the creatures during biblical times, was it a coincidence that “dog” is “god” spelled backwards? Peso’s unconditional loyalty to me, love of me and trust in me has grounded me day by day. I am soothed somewhat in that I was able to speak comforting words to him and look into his eyes as he peacefully passed in my arms. As his pupils quickly dilated from the tranquilizer injection, I thought of the once written line, “My sunshine doesn’t come from the skies. It comes from the love that’s in my dog’s eyes.”
Upon later hearing that former-President Bush had passed, my thoughts were of the poem, “I have a rendezvous with Death” by Alan Seeger. Written in the early 20th century, the timeless insights can carry anyone struggling with grief:
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear …
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.
In my dealings with President Bush, he and his staff always placed humanity above all, followed next by country, Texas and politics. Since I worked for a Texas Democrat, I was considered a Texan regardless of my lifelong ties to Pennsylvania. He vigorously supported our effort to locate a naval training station in Corpus Christie. On policy, he worked with us to end disability barriers and provide educational opportunities for those with disabilities years before he signed the landmark law as president. Bush also graciously met with our constituents on more occasions than his schedule should have permitted, and he wrote personal notes of encouragement and congratulations more often than I can recall. His genuine demeanor and commitment to serving others always overshadowed his politics.
Ironically, during Bush’s 1989 inauguration as president, I sat near Donald Trump. In Bush’s inaugural address, I could tell — having been around him for years prior — that he personally wrote much of what he said:
“America has never been united by blood or birth or soil. We are bound by ideals that move us beyond our backgrounds, lift us above our interests and teach us what it means to be citizens. Every child must be taught these principles. Every citizen must uphold them. And every immigrant, by embracing these ideals, makes our country more, not less, American.
Today, we affirm a new commitment to live out our nation’s promise through civility, courage, compassion and character.
America, at its best, matches a commitment to principle with a concern for civility. A civil society demands from each of us good will and respect, fair dealing and forgiveness.
Some seem to believe that our politics can afford to be petty because, in a time of peace, the stakes of our debates appear small.
But the stakes for America are never small. If our country does not lead the cause of freedom, it will not be led. If we do not turn the hearts of children toward knowledge and character, we will lose their gifts and undermine their idealism.”
While our national and personal losses may leave us with silent nights this holy season, we rely on memories to sustain us. Yet we oftentimes neglect to sear our souls with the most loving, inspirational or thankful moments. I personally regret not doing more and valuing more while I was a Texan or while Peso was near. However, Peso’s spirit and my golden memories of him fill the air.
During this festive time of the year, clutch onto your moments with family, friends and pets. Make an extra effort to take from them an extra special memory for yourself. And may your holiday season along with the upcoming new year bring as many loving, warm and wonderful moments to you as Peso joyfully offered to everyone he met.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.