Posted 08-29-2003 at 06:11:34
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Fred came into the house last night about nine o'clock carrying the runt of Hannah's litter. The difference between me and Fred is, that I knew on sight that this little pig wasn't going to make it. I would have left it where it was and gone about my business.
I've seen too many runts go the same way. They get kicked out of the milk line too many times and they just never catch up. Even if you bring them in the house and feed them by hand, they are always weak and sickly and the first time they get stepped on or they catch a cold they are goners and die a worse, longer, harder death, than just letting nature take it's course.
"Make me a penicillin shot and fix me up some of that milk replacer." He told me as he wrapped the piglet up in a towel.
"No." I replied. "You fix a penicillin shot and you make the milk replacer. I'm sick and I'm going to bed."
"Well, you're a fine help."
"Fred....that piglet is as good as dead."
"How do YOU know?"
"I can tell from here without even touching it that it has no body heat, it's not protesting the fact that you're holding it IN the house, and it hasn't opened it's eyes since you came in the door." I put my hand on his shoulder. "If I didn't feel so bad, I would humor you, but this cold is kicking my butt and I can barely do the things that HAVE to be done. I have no energy to invest in something that's a waste of time." I didn't want to squash his hope, but I was dead on my feet and not in the mood to play step'n'fetch it.
"You're a cold person." He said, looking at me like he was seeing me for the first time.
"I couldn't just not try." He informed me with a haughty expression. He had waded out there to the pasture, collected this little pig and tenderly carried inside wrapped in the tail of his shirt, and was not prepared to hear that there was no hope.
This is the same man who is never home, who has to work daylight to dark to keep this place going and is lucky if he gets to spend fifteen minutes a day with the animals. I see every litter, every piglet almost, come into the world. I handle them all at one point or another. I've seen them come and I've seen them go, and I know what I'm doing.
"Well I know it seems that way, but it's not really coldness, it's resignation and I know what I'm talking about. I spend way yonder more time with the piglets than you do. You do what you like, but it's a waste of time and resources. That piglet has pneumonia. He's probably dying right now. We might be able to save it if we took it to the vet but the three hundred dollar vet bill is going to far outweigh anything we are able to sell it for down the road."
He did it anyway. He gave the shot, he gave the milk replacer. He wrapped the piglet in two towels, plugged the a/c vent that leads to the bathroom, and closed the bathroom door to keep out drafts. I took an overdose of Niquil and went to bed.
About four a.m. I woke up needing the bathroom. The piglet was in a box by the sink. I nudged it with the tip of my finger and it's entire body moved. It was stiff as a board. Rigor mortis had already begun to set in. I felt terrible. All his efforts gone to nothing. But I also felt vindicated. How could he think that I was just too lazy to try?
When I got back to bed he was just getting up.
"Your patient didn't make it." I told him. He didn't say anything for a long time, and then....
"I guess that makes you real happy."
"Of course it doesn't make me happy."
"Want to say I told you so now? Or save it for later."
"Look Fred." I sat up in bed. "Do you know how many piglets just like that one that I have tried to save? Do you know how hard it is to work on one for ten hours straight and the minute you get too tired to try anymore and leave it for ten minutes it dies! The only way for you to know how that feels is to let you experience it first hand. The next time I tell you to let it go, maybe you'll let it go."
"I'll NEVER stop trying." He said firmly.
"Well you just go ahead and bang your head against the wall all you want, I used to do the same thing until it got to where it hurt too much. I think it's wonderful that you care, but if you're going to leave me here to handle all this stuff by myself, then give me a little credit for knowing what I'm doing, and NEVER EVER insinuate that I don't care or that I don't try hard enough."
He got ready for work and we didn't say another word to each other until he called me a few minutes ago and apologized for doubting me and for leaving the piglet for me to dispose of.
"Well for future reference, I am not a cold person, I am a practical person, okay?" That stung, so I had to say something sbout that.
"I know, I know, I was grasping at straws."
"If you're here and you want to try, then you go right ahead and I will never say anything to you about it, but when I know it's a lost cause and say so, don't tell me that I have no heart, and just so you know, I wish I had been wrong."
"I know." He said gently.
"Look at it this way, if nothing else you gave it a place to die in peace, a warm, quiet, dry environment where it wouldn't be stepped on and pushed around. That's worth something, right? I think you are one of the most caring, compassionate people I have ever met and I wouldn't have you any other way."
Silence from his end.
"And just for the record, one day when I'm old and sick and maybe dying I'll be proud to have to have you on my side."
He hung up abruptly then, the same thing he always does when his emotions get the better of him, and I felt the sting of the beginning of a tear. A tear of gratitude that somehow, some way, in the grand scheme of life, with all the odds firmly stacked against us, I had found this wonderful, warm man, and he had found me and we are now us.