St. Michael’s Cove
Chapter Four. Does Dad know?
They had been in the airline cargo waiting room for 30 minutes. Liz couldn’t figure out why it was taking so long. The airline employee had come back to tell them that the plane had arrived on time, so what was the hold-up?
Twenty minutes later, they finally received what they had been waiting for. The employee was leading a small fluffy black and white dog on a leash in one hand and carrying a dog crate in the other. “We just took him outside, so he’s fine to get in the car.”
Liz took one look at him and fell in love! She swooped him up and carried him to the car, while Bernie carried the crate. “Bernie, meet Keller, my new furry baby—oooh he’s so soft!” she exclaimed.
For his part, Keller looked a bit anxious.
Liz continued, “He’s an 8-month-old Havanese and he’s completely house trained.” She lifted him up and kissed his head, adding, “He’s a champion too! He won a few puppy ribbons.”
“Why don’t you drive, Bernie—I want to hold him.” Liz tossed the keys to Bernie and climbed into the passenger seat, putting the small dog on her lap. “The poor little guy is shaking like a leaf.”
She and Brian had decided that they would keep the name the breeder gave him—Keller. The fact that it was an Irish name endeared it to Brian, whose relatives had come from County Galway during the Potato Famine.
As she tried to calm the frightened puppy Liz thought about how this day had come about. After several years, Liz had finally convinced her husband that a dog would help Kevin. She had learned that the bond between an adolescent boy and a dog is one of the strongest bonds a boy will have, and because Kevin was spending less time with his friends due to illness, he needed a companion.
Liz’s first inclination had been to get a shelter dog, but Judy, a friend from church and experienced dog owner, advised against it. Judy knew that Kevin was extremely allergic, and had some experience with the hypoallergenic Havanese breed. “If you bring home a dog that Kevin is allergic to and the kids fall in love with him, you will have another problem. You already have a sick kid at home—you don’t need to bring home another problem if it can be avoided,” she warned.
Liz followed up with her own research on the breed. Not only were they hypoallergenic, but they were billed as calm, affectionate, and happy dogs. They are physically active dogs, but will lie quietly on a sick person’s bed for hours. They enjoy learning tricks and playing games with their owners—perfect for a busy household with several children, including a sick child.
Bernie took the onramp to the northbound 405 freeway. After she had merged into traffic she asked, “Who will take care of him while you’re at work?”
“Our housekeeper Marta, comes Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and we’re having a dog walker come on Tuesdays and Thursdays to take him out for a walk and to play with him for half an hour.
And if Kevin does need to be homeschooled for the rest of the year, he will be home with him. LA Unified School District has a three-day homeschooling program for sick kids if we need it—we can schedule his home classes for the days that Marta comes. One of my arguments to convince Brian to get a dog was that he would be a companion for Kevin when he’s sick and will give him an incentive to get out of bed a few times during the day to take care of him.”
“Well, if you ever need a back-up, for Keller or for Kevin, Molly and I would be happy to take Keller for a walk around the block or bring some chicken soup to Kevin if Rosa is not there.”
“Thank you! That is so nice of you to offer. Fortunately, with my working early mornings, and Brian starting work later, Kevin and Keller will never be alone on Tuesdays and Thursdays longer than five or six hours. But with four kids, a full-time job, and now a dog, I know from experience that I will probably need to take you up on your offer at some point—so thanks again.”
The rain had all but stopped when they arrived back in St. Michael’s Cove. As they drove into the village, Liz noticed a faint rainbow partially obscured by the mountains. Pointing to it, she remarked, “There was an August shower a couple of days after Kevin was born. I looked out the window after the showers stopped, and saw a rainbow. I took it as a good sign.”
Nodding, Bernie agreed. “Rainbows are a reminder God will keep his promises to us. That he will care for us in good times and bad.”
Liz’s eyes softened, “Yes, I think it was God’s way of telling us that there would be a rocky road ahead, but he will see us through. And that has been the case; we have been so blessed.”
Then briskly, “We need to make one more stop before we go home—can you wait in the car with Keller while I run into Pierre’s to pick up a cake?” It wouldn’t be a special occasion at the O’Connell house without Jean’s signature flourless chocolate cake with ganache icing!
“You mean the one with the flakes of white chocolate around the sides and topped with the glazed strawberries?”
“That’s the one!”
“OK,” Bernie replied, “But pick up a couple of treats to have with our tea.”
Liz hopped out of the car and into the bakery. Jean had baked their wedding cake 18 years before. She loved everything he baked.
She greeted Jean’s wife, Francoise, with the little French she remembered from high school, “Bonjour, Francoise, comment allez-vous?”
“Je vais bien, et vous?”
They both knew that was just about the extent of Liz’s conversational French.
Liz peered into the refrigerated glass display case. “Can I have one of your flourless chocolate cakes? The one with the strawberries on top?”
“But of course,” Francoise replied. “Jean always bakes an extra for drop-ins.”
Liz continued to examine the items in the glass case.
“And two of those small buttermilk lavender scones, s’il vous plait.”
Twenty minutes later, they were sitting in Bernie’s green leather wing chairs in the bay window in front of the fire, sipping tea from her Belleek tea cups. Molly was at Bernie’s feet. Keller had stopped shaking, and was curled up sleeping contentedly on Liz’s lap.
Leaning back and resting her head against the back of the chair, Liz said, “I love these chairs. They are warm and cozy on a cold day . . .
Speaking of chairs, that reminds me. Brian has a new exercise regimen. He bought a special chair for his exercises. He sits in the chair while he does his exercises.”
“Wow,” Bernie replied, chuckling. “Sitting in a chair, that’s my kind of exercise!”
“Right?” Liz asked with laughing eyes, “And I love sitting on these chairs with you in your cozy cottage. I can’t think of a better way to spend a chilly February afternoon than with you and our dogs.
She added, “As soon as I leave, I’ll be caught up in carpools, chattering kids, homework issues, and getting dinner on the table, but for now, I am just enjoying a rare afternoon with my friend.”
“Enjoying the moment is a great gift.” Bernie said, gazing out the window for a moment in silence before continuing.
“There was a Benedictine monastery in Limerick, about an hour’s drive from where we lived in Ireland. I remember going to mass there with my parents, a few weeks before they died. We had lunch at a long, polished wood table in the dining hall with the monks afterwards, and I remember my parents talking about the priest’s homily. He had preached about the importance of living in the present moment. It’s a major Benedictine theme.
It was prescient, because I was so enjoying being in that moment in time with my parents and sister on that day. When we got home, my dad got out his fiddle and played some traditional Irish tunes, and encouraged my mom, sister, and me to dance. My mom had been an accomplished step dancer when she was a girl, and my sister and me had been taking lessons after school since we were wee lasses.
The priest had talked about how we should be open to God’s movement in our everyday lives—in the people and circumstances he puts before us every day. I guess taking out his fiddle and encouraging us to dance together was my dad’s way of taking the priest’s words to heart. What a fun day it was. The memory of that day is seared in my mind.
So enjoy today—savor every moment. Later will take care of itself.”
Liz responded, kindly, “You were lucky to be left with such a wonderful memory of your parents . . . thanks for sharing that with me, and for being in the moments of today with me . . . and Keller, she added, giving him a pat.
She paused. “Funny, I was just thinking this morning . . . that Jesus said not to be anxious about anything. When we spend time worrying about what has happened or what could happen, we are not living in the moment.
Speaking of which, I need to get going if I’m going to be on time to pick up the boys. I’ll drive you back to my house so that you can pick up your car.”
At home, Liz set the oven for 400 degrees, and pulled a grapefruit size chunk of bread dough from the plastic container in the refrigerator to rest on pizza peel while she put a load of clothes in the washing machine and finished up a few other household chores.
An hour later, Liz slid the bread dough from the peel onto the baking stone in the oven, set the timer, and put Keller in the car on the floor in front of the passenger seat while she drove to Christ the King to pick up the boys. She waited in the carpool lane on the street in front of the school for the first group of parents to be let in to the parking lot.
After being motioned in, she backed into one of the spaces around the perimeter of the lot, per school protocol. The children were released to find their parents after all of the cars had entered and parked.
Liz waved when she saw Liam, Kevin, and Sean. Kevin was the first to arrive at the car, and opened the passenger door to claim the shotgun spot. As soon as he opened the door, Keller jumped up on him.
“Who is this?” he cried out in surprise. “Are you taking care of someone’s dog, Mom?”
Liz smiled as Liam and Sean hopped into the back seat.
“This is our dog, Keller,” Liz replied, laughing.
“What??!! Are you kidding? No way!” Liam and Sean leaned over to the front passenger seat to see him. Keller was sitting on Kevin’s lap and was basking in the attention.
“Are you, serious, mom? Is he REALLY ours?” Kevin asked.
“I can’t believe this! How did you talk Dad into getting a dog?”
“Wait, does Dad know? Where did he come from?”
“ Do we really get to keep him? He’s really OUR dog??”
“Is he a boy or a girl?”
“How old is she?”
They were all talking at once.
Liz looked up and noticed that Sr. Mariela was getting impatient. She was motioning for Liz to leave the lot so that the next group of parents could be ushered in to pick up their kids. The lot wasn’t big enough for all of the cars to come in at the same time. Liz asked the boys to all sit down and put their seat belts on as she drove out of the lot.
“He’s a boy, 8 months old, named Keller, completely house trained, and he came from Florida. He has hair instead of fur, so he is hypoallergenic– Kevin won’t be allergic to him. Dad knows about him, and yes, he is our dog and we get to keep him!”
The ride home was noisy with the boys’ excited banter and demands for Kevin to give Keller up so they could hold him. Liz put the kibosh on that. There would be no handing the dog from boy to boy while the car was moving.
When they got home, they decided to take Keller for a walk around the neighborhood after Liz took the bread out of the oven. It would be too dark to go after dinner. They took turns holding his leash during the walk around the block, and the boys played with Keller in the backyard afterwards. Keller was in his element chasing the boys and being chased. He loved it as much as they did. The excitement started up again when Anna arrived home a few minutes later. Finally, Liz called them in to start their homework before dinner.
Looking at the clock, she realized it was Keller’s dinner time. She turned to the new furry member of the family and said, “I guess you must be hungry, boy.” Keller looked up her expectantly. She had purchased the kibble recommended by the breeder, and he practically inhaled it after she set it down next to his bowl of water.
Gathered around the kitchen table an hour later, they said their everyday grace in unison, “Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest, and may these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.” The dinner conversation revolved around Keller, who was scouring the kitchen floor looking for food that may have accidently-on-purpose found its way to the floor. Liz noticed that the children ate their salad more quickly than usual, since Keller had appointed himself the floor monitor. Brian, who had resisted getting a dog, was grinning from ear to ear—happy to see the kids so excited.
Reflecting on that first dinner with Keller a few weeks later, Liz realized that Keller loved salad almost more than anything—especially if the lettuce had bits of ranch dressing. After Keller arrived, the kids were mysteriously transformed into champion salad eaters!
When they finished dinner just after 6 o’clock, Liz glanced at the chores chart on the refrigerator and noted that it was Liam’s turn to do the dishes. She handed him her empty plate and utensils, signaling that it was time for him to clear the table and load the dishwasher. While he was clearing the table, Liz went to the garage refrigerator to fetch the pièce de resistance–the chocolate cake in the pink box.
Back in the kitchen, she was greeted with a cheer after removing it and placing it in the center of the table. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.
Almost. The kids fought over whose bedroom Keller would sleep in. Sighing, Liz took a few minutes to create yet another schedule to post on the refrigerator. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++=