Gigantic by Carla Bender

The rays of the morning sunshine pierced through the window and landed on the floor with a silent gong that had more effect than a grandfather clock striking time at the start of a new day. She had a date, but it wasn’t with just anybody. In fact, it was a date she held faithfully every day. Not a word was uttered, for she knew, and he knew, it was their time. They had this habit for the years they were together, and it was much easier when he was young and uninhibited. In fact, a fresh snowfall made it even more pleasurable. She remembered…

“Oliver let’s go for a walk. Are you ready?” She clipped the leash around his collar and opened the door. Oliver sprang from the top of the two steps that exited the laundry room of the house. The morning light was glorious, the air was fresh, and the singing of the birds was like a heavenly chorus sent to say, “Good morning! All is well!” Oliver leapt into the fresh snow in the same manner as a child that falls to the ground to tussle in it and make an angel, but he was belly first. Laughter echoed in the silence despite his inability to project it. It bounced from the ground and up into his mumsy and she felt filled with life. “You funny boy! You like this, don’t you?!” and she grinned.

The two trotted along, mumsy and canine, a black and white (or white and black), fluffy, ball full of energy and wordless wit that danced within his eyes as he pranced along, tail end in a back-and-forth motion mimicking a set of windshield wipers keeping rhythmic time as if choreographed by music, but without any hearing pleasure to set a pace. The morning dew was barely wet, but it satisfied, bringing enough moisture after the dryness of a day’s closure the night before, and quenching the thirst of a new day after being parched. It speaks of their beginning, newly found, or Newfoundland. He was going to be a big boy!

Down the winding driveway, like a black eel without the slither, and the green blades of grass nipping at its edge, they went. The neighborhood looked to be asleep as they crossed the street, for the houses that dotted each side of the ribboned roadway held little to no activity, but the two did not mind; it was if the world was theirs and there was nothing to interrupt it, and nothing to suggest it would ever come to an end.

The sideroad to the neighborhood glistened with light; the trees were tall, green, and robust, full enough with foliage, but dancing enough in the mild wind to create pockets that let the light in. Nature’s energy was exhilarating!

 “What do you think, Woliver?” Woliver was his name of endearment. Sometimes she even called him Wally. He looked like a Wally, especially when he had his mocking face on and was ordered to come back into the house after taking a pee. Tauntingly, he ran to the flower bed and refused to come, just like a stubborn mule fully delighted with his disobedient refusal to conform. The gentle giant emoted stubborn in a you’re-not-going-to-tell-me-what-to-do manner and the crimson geraniums that he frequented in the pooled planter of dirt off the kitchen deck were like floral little cheerleaders encouraging his game, in a photogenic setting that later brought memories of nostalgia and an absent realization that he had made her mad.  

“Oh, Woliver! Somebody bring me his towel!” The shaking of his head and his drool let loose, like a quiet rainstorm, scattered, and finding it was all but a scavenger hunt: on the walls, on the windows, on the furniture, and on the floor. He did not know that it was grotesque, for a dog is forever comfortable in his own skin, or drool, and is as unoffended by this displeasure as a human baby to a normal upchuck. Love overlooks the not-so-nice occurrences.

“Is that dog a cow?” Children were not sure what to call him. He was almost big enough to be a cow, or at least a small one, at his full-grown weight of 160 pounds. Thankfully, no one tried to ride on his back, but he did become a fully alive substitute bear rug, toddlers climbing all over him and rubbing their pink-cheeked faces in his fur. He just laid there, unruffled, basking in the pleasure of loyal attention. Like a little kid, his carefree ways were of the purest, but when he was scared, he trembled. He released many of his own emotions, never showing that he was angry. He never had moods, and he never displayed rejection. Sadness was one of the clearest emotions he displayed, and when his family vacationed, he laid outside of his mumsy’s bedroom door and cried. 

“Is Oliver loaded up?” The sun was shining brightly, and little boy was off to third grade. Oliver was his best friend, and he loved the days Mumsy drove him to school. He did not have to take the school bus. “Ready, up, Oliver!” Our favorite passenger was ready to go. These glorious moments of laughter and the gigantic dog held a secret, for big dogs do not know that they are big! Truth be told, when they encounter a loud little dog and shake in fear, their lack of understanding leaves them clueless that their size has power! There were no little dogs today. There were no loud dogs today. There was Mumsy and little boy. There was love. There was a doggie desire for closeness to Mumsy and Mumsy was not prepared… Halfway to their destination, big dog decides to crawl into the front of their white Suburban to sit on her lap.

“Oliver, no! You can’t be up here!” Mumsy frantically pulls over to the side of the road to let him out. Hearts racing, a plan is set to action. Blonde-headed little boy, with gigantic blue eyes, immediately jumps into action, for this was all working against the effort to make it to school on time. Out the door behind his best bud, little boy flings his favorite bacon, egg, and cheese breakfast sandwich in hand back into the white Suburban and Oliver jumps right in, a victim of distracted by food, forgetting he had made other plans that morning. Where else will you find the magnificence of rush, frustration, panic, and laughter all within a short-distance drive. The school day started with a story and a very funny one at that where Oliver ends up best fed, or beast fed!

“Bye, son!”

“Bye, Mom!” And little boy reached up to kiss his dog; this, the little boy who shows minimal affection otherwise. Mumsy knew that Oliver had reached his heart.

A family picnic is the perfect setting for outdoor comradery. The red and white checked tablecloths create an old-fashioned aura amongst the picnic tables placed end-to-end. Everyone was going to be there in the meadow, and if memories were living and present, Grandma B. would be bustling around getting ready for the next skit she had written and would perform in. The flowers on the tables would be perfectly arranged and carefully selected. Would we enjoy white daisies? Or what about the elegant ivy simply placed in crocks one of the years?  Mumsy was working hard at home and was surprised that she was providing the meat this year, after all, this was the peak amongst a carnivorous family who will devour every thread of it. She pulled the sizzling BBQed brisket from the oven. The mouthwatering aroma fragranced the entire house and children soon came asking if dinner was ready. “No kids, that’s for the picnic,” said their mom, Woliver’s mumsy. She left it out to cool on the counter, planning to slice it up later. Perfect planning and the saving of time and cleanup; the meat could be warmed again before the picnic the next day. Mumsy had the checklist in her head with all that needed to be done. She flitted about the house taking care of household things, for the picnic would be an all-day event. Clothes, shoes, and school papers needed handled early to be out of the way for Monday’s start. Plan and prepare ahead was her motto. Much to her relief, when she returned to her cook’s paradise kitchen, the brisket was already put away. She thought to herself, “My husband is the best!” She knew that he had taken care of it and one more thing was out of the way. Off she scurried to the laundry area with little piles of clothes in a trail of big dots, looking enough like steppingstones to leap across on the blue tiled floor. Littlest sister was happy and light, a busy bee buzzing amongst the sunshine of the day helping Mumsy with the to-do list that was near enough to being complete. Walking past Dad in the living room, Mumsy froze in her tracks when he asked her, “Did you put the brisket away?” Her eyes grew as big as saucers. “I thought you did!” She ran to the kitchen and looked at the counter. It was perfectly clean without a trace of any foul play. There was no slobber, no drool and nothing to suggest that Oliver had been there, but that did not mean that he had not been there. He had committed the perfect crime and the thief of the beef revealed himself later that day with protrusion in liquid form. It had to be on the rug. Ugh!

On this particular day, the sky was black. The bolts of lightning were sharp and brilliant. With every rumble of loud thunder, the atmospheric explosions got louder and closer to the house. Oliver was always extra afraid, for he had gone through the horror of being left outside on the fourth of July. The family was ashamed to have not thought about him reacting that day, but fate brought him back the next day after the heartfelt prayers given the night before from the far corners of four little hearts in agony. As the lightning struck closer and closer, Mumsy cried out, “God, please don’t let it hit the house!” Having no sooner said it, a dynamite explosion jolted the atmosphere and Mumsy shrieked as the fire alarm screamed. “We’ve been hit! Everyone to the car!” And the race to the car began, Oliver, in tow. The silver Pontiac G6 was a little car, but no one cared because it was the same as a lifeline or lifeboat to keep everyone from drowning. Mumsy felt like a superhero giving orders to safety. The gigantic dog, herself and four kids piled into that vehicle, looking like a clown car in a circus, then pulled out of the house garage. Far enough away from the house, Dad gets a phone call to tell him what happened. Pausing, Dad responds, “Did you smell any smoke or see any flames?” Mumsy quietly responds, “Well, no.” What next? The little clown car with the dog cow emptied itself and the kids started to look for where the lighting hit. The oldest boy, with gigantic blue eyes, made the discovery; there was no smoke, there was no fire, but about fifteen feet from the laundry room door where Mumsy had prayed was a very large hole and stone blown out of its way. Mumsy remembered her prayer as the lightning got closer, “Lord, please don’t let it hit the house!” And it didn’t.

What is an end without a beginning, for one magnificence completes the other. While Spring is the start of fresh new beginnings, this Spring it wasn’t to be so. Woliver had reached the end of his adventures, and it was time for him to go to sleep. With heavy tears and broken hearts, his family said goodbye that day to their gentle giant, remembering how it all began. That weekend not so very long ago after Mumsy said to Dad, “I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a major change in the family and we lose one of your parents in the next year. I’d love if we could make a special memory around Christmas and give the kids a new puppy.” They newly found their newfie and brought him home a November weekend to surprise the kids, not knowing what would happen the following day. Biggest sister was asleep in bed when the phone call came and Mumsy went to her, “Pappy is in the hospital and he’s not going to make it. Would you like to go?” And off she went. The sadness of loss is a difficult one at that and the newness that fills the hole in a gigantic way can come in a profound way. On the drive to the hospital Mumsy said to biggest sister, “I want you to know why we got Oliver,” and she told her the story. She looked at her mother in disbelief and said, “How could you have known this would happen, Mom?” With a smile and a peaceful heart, Mumsy said to her daughter, “I didn’t, but God did.” Who else could know that during Pappy’s eulogy the following week he’d be referred to as a gentle giant. He and Oliver both bear the middle name George. God’s love is gigantic and was gigantically displayed in the life of this furry dog that looked like a cow. For all the gigantic holes life brings us, the glory of God can show up gigantically, too. He is the keeper of the heart!

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