Happy New Year folks!
I've missed you...if that makes any sense :D. I've come to know so many of you, and had some incredible conversations. Hearing time and time again of a person's pain so similar to mine, and how God has shone light into people's hearts through my own dark valley, well...there's nothing quite like it. Thank you for the comments and emails, you've given me perspective, encouraged me deeply and made me cry tears of joy. Keep 'em coming :).
My siblings and I grew up with pets in our home all our life. My first was a black and white cat who was my absolute soulmate, haha. When I wasn't in school, we spent all our time together,and she always spent the night next to me. To be honest I can't remember her name; pretty sure it was just "Puss Puss"...Kenyans raise your hands.
I was seven when we moved houses (Buruburu to Kahawa Sukari), and my dad thought it too much a hassle to carry Puss Puss. We got to our new home and I couldn't find my best friend; and then he told me that she ran away. Oh, the weeping! Days on end. I gave him a piece of my mind years later when I found out the truth! Parents please, let's put the pets in cartons on moving day please.
We then got our second cat, Sabi. She was a strong one. She gave birth to probably to 16-20 kittens in her lifetime. In hindsight, perhaps we could have sorted her out with some family planning sooner, but we are where we are people. She left us after 18 years...she was family.
Our folks now have a third cat, Coco, who I'm still getting used to. She's been around about a year, and lacks all the sophistication and class that Sabi had. Sabi was an ice queen with the sharpest side eye you ever did see, and took orders from noone. She walked slowly in such a stately fashion. This cat believed she was royalty.
Now Coco. Aiii. We called it like it is in her first three months. Girl had some hoodrat cats picking her up on the daily at the gate...she'd be gone all night, involved in who knows what, then saunter in at noon the next day, fur black with dirt, howling for food. Guys, she's as ghetto as ghetto gets. Naturally, she became a statistic of teenage pregnancy quite early, had two beautiful babies, who were adopted stat by our relatives, and then we tied her tubes immediately. Admittedly, the pregnancy and delivery were a rude shock to her, and she's calmed down in life. Her boyfriends don't come around much anymore. She's content to stay home and hang out with Lulu, our house dog who we've had 15 years now.
We've had many dogs too: Blacky, Emma, Maxi, Happy, Gus, Nana and now Lulu. Our house was always a full and noisy one, it was great. Ah, and there were the many fish that came and went in our aquarium...some were die-hards, others just died, swiftlu I might add.
Now I'm a parent in my own house, and there have been constant whines for a pet. The whining mostly from my husband for a dog; and he has sufficiently incited our son. I'm having none of it. Guys, a dog is like a baby. You have to wash it, feed it, cuddle it and clean up it's pee and poop off your furniture, floor and lawn. I'm sorry, but I'm currently still carrying out those duties for the babies I birthed. I'm not about to add another, that smells sooo much worse. Oh, and I would be the one doing EVERYTHING. Bryan's like, "We'll do all the work". Hmmmph! He's at work 6-6 every weekday, and Tito, well, he's Tito. Ain't nobody gonna be scrubbing sofas clean, mopping the tiles and picking nuggets off the grass, but me. NO. Not happening.
There was some campaigning for a cat, but I abhor potty training cats. Before they finally get the hang of it, they've poured libations over your entire house. And the fur. Oh Lord have mercy, the fur...everywhere. I cannot. I actually cannot.
So I gave conditions: the pet must be low to zero maintenance, quiet, clean and peaceful. I offered to buy fish. My offer was rejected. We were at a stalemate. But our Good Lord. He lives!
One morning three weeks ago, we found a tortoise in our driveway. It was inexplicable. Tito picked it right up and put it out on the lawn, declared him his. Bryan and I sat on the grass incredulous, wondering if he had dropped from heaven; because though we hadn't thought of it, a tortoise fulfilled all of my requirements. I was content to adopt the fella, but Bryan was the better man, and reported a lost and found tortoise at our estate gate the next morning. The owners picked him up by 11am, and just like that, the seed was planted. My son wanted a tortoise.
Enter Dip Dip (initially named Tito, by Tito, who later knighted the distinguished gentle one, Dip Dip). We brought him home on Saturday. He's so tiny; a one year old Leopard tortoise. Once we left the pet shop with Tito holding him in a little box, Bryan and I started to freak out. We kinda thought we'd get the guy and just let him loose in our backyard, and he'd sort himself out. Man.
We got home and just sat there looking at him; he's smaller than the palm of my hand. We were so scared. We asked each other the same question that entire evening: have we made a mistake? We literally felt like first time parents, with this baby whom we had no idea how to take care of. That first night, something strange and jolting happened to me. Bryan was holding him in his hand, trying to get him used to our voices, so he could come out of his shell and eat something. He hadn't had any food or water since we brought him home that afternoon. We didn't know what to do. He was so scared. We didn't know where to put him for the night. We eventually made him a little home in a crate in our guest bedroom downstairs, with some hibiscus leaves, and water in a dish. And closed the door.
All of a sudden, something in me cracked wide open, and I began to cry. Real, proper crying. "What have we done? We can't take care of him! He's too small! How can we just leave him alone like that? What if he refuses to eat? What if he dies in the night? We can't do this!". Sound familiar? If you've read my earlier posts then you know. Out of nowhere, the urns of pain from our first year with Tito shattered to pieces and I was transported back to that crippling, fear-saturated year of raising a premature little boy weighing 2 kilograms, all on our own. I still get shocked how the triggers blindside me. It could be anything. I mean, I was wrapped in Bryan's arms wracking with sobs over a tortoise. Thank God for my husband, because I didn't have to explain anything; he just knew and he patiently waited for the waves to retreat.
This is the nature of grief. It is a standard experience, regardless of what caused it: death of one you loved, separation and divorce, miscarriage, infertility, sudden, irreversible loss of wealth, disability and yes, depression. You move past it, you heal, but sometimes, the littlelest thing will slap you across the face, and the pain will sting raw all over again. And so here I was again, mourning the year I lost with my newborn son. I continue to praise God with an ever-grateful heart for rescuing me from the flood; the waters did not overwhelm me and I did not drown. Hallelujah.
Dip Dip is doing alright, we think. He's taking time to get acclimatize to his new surroundings; still quite fearful, taking time to be comfortable with us. He doesn't like loud noise, and when overstimulated he retreats into his shell for peace, silence and safety. Yesterday, I lay flat next to him on the grass and sang softly to him, stroking his shell...praying he would lose all fear. Yup. Exactly how it sounds, I was praying for a tortoise :).
When I described him to Bryan just like this two nights ago, he smiled and said, " He sounds like my wife. He's just like you Bui." And he was right. I identify with Dip Dip so much, because we're the same. After the battering I've endured the last three and a half years, my personality has changed somewhat. I'm much less the social butterfly I was for 28 years; I'm now a lot quieter, more contemplative, "allergic" to constant noise, tight spaces( cramped supermarkets, heavy traffic with cars close together, loud restaurants and clubs with so many humans packed in like sardines), and I need regular time-outs from engagement...long afternoons at people's houses, or hosting at ours; I periodically slip away and find a silent space (my daughter's room, in our rocking chair...or stepping outside of our friend's home), and I breathe. The silence is so rejuvenating. It's just me and Jesus. I pray, sing quietly for a little bit, and then I get a second wind...I can go back to the conversation and sharing and laughter.
Bryan's now calling me his very own Dip Dip.
Because he is my head, according to God's design of marriage, he's my cover; my "tortoise shell". All I have to do is look at him when I'm done...at a party, lunch with friends or a barbeque at our house (we roast meat so frequently we may as well be a joint). All I have to do is look at him, and he knows. We don't need words. He lets me leave quietly for a while, and when I'm truly drained, he says our goodbyes, or starts to hint that the barbeque's over :). In fact, the day we brought Dip Dip home, he cut our errand running short when he noticed I was struggling to stay afloat in all the traffic and people jostling in the malls. I thank God for my man.
And his love for me points me to Christ, my Rock, my Refuge, My Strong Tower...whom I run into and I am safe. It's in Him that I hide. It's in Him that I rest. Literally. Like sitting in the silence in Savannah's bedroom, hearing nothing but the soft rocking of the chair...in Jesus literally is where I hide, and literally rest, knowing I'm safe from it all: the stress, the insecurities, the grief, the pain, the anxiety, the soul-crushing fears..I'm SAFE. Many times I whisper to Bryan, "We need to leave, I can't breathe." It's Jesus; he is my very breath.
He's the ultimate tortoise shell. And He's the one that brought Dip Dip into our home.
He brought him for me.
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.
3For I am the lord, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour".
Christian, wife, mom, doctor, and an alien on earth, on my way to the city of God.