While I—er, I mean Henry, our dog—composes his own blog post, my younger son (the Cadillac man) drifts through the kitchen.
I pull up a previous post on my phone and hand it to him:
“Here, read the comments about you and Pa-Pa’s Cadillac.”
He reads, smiles. He’s pleased but says little. He’s a man of few words.
He won’t ask, so I tell him what I—um, Henry—is working on: “This is the next post. Henry is writing it in response to one I wrote about him interrupting my writing.”
“Hmmm,” replies the Cadillac man.
“Want to read it?”
So the Cadillac man sits down at the table and takes my laptop. He reads Henry’s post-in-progress.
“I like it,” he says.
He sits for a minute.
Then: “I wonder if I could write from Nik’s perspective.”
Nikolaus is our sixteen-year-old dachshund. We got him as a puppy when my son was four.
As I take my laptop back, I say, rather airily, “You should try it.”
I don’t expect him to.
He hates writing.
This is a big, jagged stake in my heart.
His older brother loves writing and even maintained a blog for a while, long before I started this one. But the Cadillac man has gone all the way through his academic career cracking books only when he had to, writing only when forced for assignments, and utterly exasperating me with his lack of interest. He didn’t struggle with reading or writing. He just didn’t care about any of it.
At all. Ever.
He’s a brilliant musician, however, and a powerful vocalist. He’s loved music all of his life. At age seventeen, two weeks after graduating from high school, he was hired as a church music director. He’s working on a degree in that field. He’s adapted songs, composed a little—”just the music, not the words. I don’t do words”—and coaches others as they try playing instruments new to them. He speaks beautifully before a crowd, did so at Ma-Ma’s funeral despite not having any notes, because . . . he hates to write.
So, when he mentions writing about Nik, I think he’s just wondering out loud, nothing more.
He leaves the room. He comes back to the kitchen table with his new Chromebook.
“Do you have homework?” I ask.
“No, Mom, it’s spring break, remember? I’m going to write a story from Nik’s perspective. To see if I can actually do it.”
The first time in his twenty years that he’s chosen to write a story.
I feel like the floor under my feet is shifting, that the Earth itself hangs in the balance. I have to leave the room.
I can’t stand it. I have to know.
I creep back into the kitchen.
He’s typing away.
“How’s it going?” I dare to ask.
“Is it . . . fun?” I hear my voice quaver.
“It’s sad, really,” he says.
He finishes, lets me read it.
We know Nik won’t be with us much longer. He’s old. Frail. He’s going blind; his eyes are turning milky. My son’s words show Nik making his peace with all of this, that he’s satisfied he’s served his family well, and how he knows our other two dogs will “carry my torch of comfort and protection long after I’m gone.”
The attribution reads Nikolaus Haley, expert red dachshund.
My throat is tight. Nik and the Cadillac man have been together almost their entire lives. Every single day. They wear a matching red-and-black checkered friendship bracelet and collar.
“It’s a powerful story,” I manage.
“Thanks,” says my son, softly. He gets up from the table, gathers Nik, who’s been wandering aimlessly around the kitchen this whole time, and takes him upstairs to “the lair,” as we call it.
I read the story again and again.
Thinking how he said to see if I can actually do it.
I think he meant getting in Nik’s head to write from his beloved dog’s viewpoint, rising to meet a challenge he set for himself.
And then I think how, when you finally show up for the writing, the writing shows up for you, and pulls you through.