Not all of my skin is purple, just the parts exposed to the sharp, little teeth of our daughter's new four-month old puppy. The skin on my arm is not normally purple, I’m just incredibly sensitive to bruising and scrapes, a condition that comes with age. My wife, who also suffers from the same process known as “aging,” calls it “onion skin.” All it takes to turn our skin purple is a four-month old puppy that is a lot faster than we are.
I tried to convince myself I am as physically capable now as I was just a few decades ago. I know it isn’t true, but I do my best to maintain the myth that old age is just a state of mind when I know full-well that my daughter’s puppy has made our arms and hands look like we suffer from a major skin disease. Besides, their reflexes make us look like we move in slow motion. The puppy probably thinks I am just another wiggly chew toy that squeaks. The louder I squeak, the more fun it is to chew!
I gave up climbing on the house roof a few years back when I realized I couldn’t swing my legs around the aluminum ladder to climb back down. Insecurity swept over me as I stood holding the ladder looking at the grass some twenty feet below me. I carefully, slowly, finally got a secure step on a ladder rung and climbed back down to reality. Gone were the natural abilities from when I scampered up a cylindrical, aluminum tube only forty-four inches across but forty-feet long, mounted at a seventeen degree angle, in dim light with an Air Force tool bag in my hand while wearing combat boots. Gone was the inherent sense of balance, the quickness, the absolute confidence that falling wasn’t going to happen.
I knew damn well I was about to fall off the roof, though. I remember thinking “If I get down from here in one piece, I’m not ever going back up another ladder!” Believe me, aging isn’t just a state of mind. My mind knew I was in a precarious situation that I had sorely underestimated. To paraphrase comedian Flip Wilson, I let my ego write a check my body couldn't cash.
Taz was a seventeen-year old Golden Retriever that had been a real test for us when he was only two years old, but our arms never looked like we rolled around in barbed wire. He was our last dog, and while we miss all of our wonderful dogs, we have decided not to add any more to our family. All our dogs developed into wonderful companions, each with its own personality, to become real members of our family. We know our daughter’s puppy will do the same for them.
Someday, in a weak, quiet moment many years from now, long after the latest cute bundle of fur has passed on, they’ll probably say, “You know, we need a puppy…”
They may not have arthritis by then and maybe they might still be climbing up and down ladders. There is however, a real, real good chance they’ll get purple skin.