Toby’s days are numbered. This summer, our sweet yellow lab developed cancer. A diagnosis of a nasal tumor has brought old age clearly into focus. I see in him stiffening bones, a listlessness at night, an appetite that sometimes is more waning than whet.
But not at the beach.
At the beach, with his people, Toby’s inner puppy comes alive. His senses awaken to the waves as he dashes in and out of the white ocean foam. He chases his ball; he greets every other dog with curiosity and canine etiquette. At the beach, he is ageless.
At the beach, he simply can’t wipe the smile off his face.
My husband has said the same is true of him on his dirtbike. He says he feels 20 years younger as he maneuvers the bike over “baby-head-sized rocks” (his words, not mine) and traverses through forests, over streams, and up hills. He doesn’t mind the aches and pains that come after the ride because the time on his bike makes him feel refreshingly alive.
Helping Toby through this stage of his life is both heartbreaking and full of love. Even through it all, though, Toby is teaching me an important secret to aging. We need to find those things that allow our inner young person to take over for a while. We all need to feel the tug and pull of play, to give in to the joy.