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My Personal Side

By Craig Hastings
What keeps me feeling young, younger than I am anyway? Responsibilities to my sons and my career drive me to take care of myself and back away from taking some of the risks I used to take. However in the past several months I’ve discovered there is more. Maybe I’ve been selfish. It could be even at sixty-five I’ve got some growing up to do. I’ve taken more time out to think and dwell about what’s happened in my life and career in the past year. Maybe it’s because I’m in my final third of my lifetime on this earth. At least I hope my life is broken down into thirds. Anyway, I feel I need to include a few more people and one dog into those. I feel some responsibility to stay well and not take unnecessary risks.

New people come and go in our lives. New animals come and go also. I’ve had many dogs in my lifetime and all were family members. I cried each time one of them passed away. It hurts for a long time especially when you’ve shared eleven or twelve years with them. Well, my oldest son Payton has brought a labrador into our home. “Brodie” came to us one year ago this month via a good friend of Payton’s. Honestly, I did not want another dog in my life because the loss of my last one hit me hard. I couldn’t get my last German Shepherd’s passing out of my mind. I had to hold his head as he was administered the shots that would end his life due to hip health issues. Sadly, it was only this that kept him from being a normal and healthy dog. He still had the drive and the desire, even the strength, but his hip joints had given up. He could no longer walk and he was in pain. The only option was to put him down to stop the pain. This was too much because I’d been through this four other times with four other German Shepherds over thirty-one years. I was done. No more dogs.

Payton pressed me for many months before I finally agreed to meet this dog of Cole’s. The agreement was that we would give the dog a try. Brodie was about four months old then. Payton agreed to put part of the fencing back up, that I’d used for the German Shepherds, and he would keep Brodie in the finished basement which Payton has taken over as his own since his younger brother moved out to go to college. This gave me the upstairs pretty much all to myself except of course we share the kitchen. Brodie would be gated off from the staircase leading to the second floor of my house. Mostly I was hoping this would keep me from getting too attached to Brodie and him to me. What about when Payton wasn’t home? Brodie would be crated in Payton’s basement living quarters. Perfect.

Who was I kidding? How was I going to completely ignore a four month old labrador that was crazy friendly and was dying for attention whenever he was awake. This breed has a much different disposition than that of my German Shepherds. My last three German Shepherds were imports and these dogs had intense protective instincts. How they progressed from puppies to adults was much different than our first year with Brodie. Brodie loves everybody and barks at nothing. Needless to say in the first two weeks Payton broke his promise to keep him downstairs only. It started with Brodie just following Payton upstairs then following him back down. In just a few days Payton was no longer gating him off and was leaving Brodie to wander. Wander he did. Right into my bedroom and anywhere else he could find me or someone else to play tug with. Needless to say, one year later Brodie and I have become close. Close enough I take him on walks out here in Hillcrest every night it isn’t raining between 10:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. With summer coming into full swing naturally Payton is on the move more and there is no way I’m going to crate Brodie if I’m home!

Payton and Lukas. Twenty years ago when Payton was born I changed my life and my lifestyle. His brother Lukas followed two years later. These guys have been my world since their conception. They were my sons from the first sonogram. Being born was just the next step in their lives. They had already become part of my life long before taking their first breath on their own. At the time my boys were born I was taking care of myself pretty well but for a different reason. I stayed fit, I felt, out of necessity. Because I was and still am a police officer, sometimes people want/wanted to hurt me. Some did. It only makes sense to me that to lessen the chance of that pain it would serve me well to stay fit. So for the past forty-two years I still exercise that includes strength regimens to increase my chances of not getting beat up in a bar fight or domestic dispute of some kind. Heck, anymore there’s a few people out there that would just like to hurt police officers for the fun of it. I don’t want to be one of those so I try to stay fit. I eat well and exercise regularly.

Other people come and go in our lives. Many of those people move on and start taking responsibilities on their own. Selfishly I think now, I’ve just kinda accepted that I no longer needed to concern myself with how I might still play a role in someone else’s life. My thoughts about this changed with my mother’s health starting to fail and her eventual passing last November. I had become an important part in keeping her affairs in order and seeing to it that all of her business was tended to. All of my siblings also had to play their own roles in our mother’s well being and care of her physical property. This was something as her child, her little boy, that I would have never imagined. Me helping take care of my own mother? How and why would I need to do that? Fortunately in our family, all five siblings were in good health and in good positions to help see mom through her last months and weeks. Good health which sometimes required good strength was a huge asset in accomplishing proper home care for our mother. In this past year I’ve come to realize there is more to caring about someone than just seeing to physical things. It took me sixty-four years to figure out there is something more important than the physical needs I could provide someone in my life. Meeting someone new and sitting down and having long conversations with that person I’ve realized that emotional support is more important than anything else I could ever “give” to them. Sixty-four years and no one has ever expressed their emotional needs as the most important asset I might have to offer. Someone lifted the concrete block off of my head. That’s what I feel like it took to open my eyes and heart to see what should have been obvious. My generation was taught to work hard and long to provide for your family. No one ever told me that just maybe a family member or someone else in my life might not need nor care for any physical assets that I could provide. Instead they might need me to just be there for them emotionally should the need arise. Something someone might consider priceless. All of these years, how did I miss something so simple to understand?

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