The Christmas of Our Discontent

by John Delach

I returned home on December 23 from an overnight stay in St. Francis Hospital where I received a clot preventer called, “The Watchman.” This device was implanted into a chamber in my heart to prevent blood clots from exiting that chamber and killing me. My Watchman is nothing more than an inanimate shield that blocks threatening clots from leaving their source. Delach:One, blood clots: Zero.

A device almost too good to be true, I still can’t abide by the name, Watchman. It sounds like something Sony introduced in the 1970s. So, I decided to name it Stevie.

I did experience a few delightful quirks on the way to my operation. The surgeon was late for the procedure. His crew covered for “MD God.” On arrival, he did give me a “We got this,” in the prep room cameo.  

When I arrived in the OR, I was wheeled into the room to the voice of John Fogarty and CCW from a speaker. They shaved my groin after which I was introduced to all the operating staff. My last recollection before everything went dark was a bit disconcerting. As I began to fade toward midnight, I heard two nurses observe: “You know, he has high blood pressure and a low heart rate at the same time?” followed by a sarcastic: “Perfect!!”

I desperately wanted to call a time out, but I was too far gone toward the other side to voice my objection.

My procedure went well, and after an overnight stay and a morning echo-cardiogram confirmed Stevie was in place and on guard, Tara, my supervising nurse said I was good to go.

Absolute and total relief was my reaction. Relief that Mary Ann, me, the doctors and the nurses had pulled this off during attacks by both the Delta variant and this new hyper- contagious, Omicron  COVID variant. The last thing I needed was to test positive for either one of these abominations, and I had avoided both.  

Mission accomplished. A stop at, Let There Be Bagels, our local bagel store for a lox and cream cheese sandwich on a plain bagel let me know I had made it home.

Meanwhile, the Omicron variant continued to go through America faster than the Metroliner went through Metuchen, New Jersey. Vaccinated or not, it seemed there is no place to hide and no place to run. Friends and family seem to be infected in the blink of an eye. 

Our daughter, Beth, and her family, chose to spend their Christmas vacation at Little House, our place in New Hampshire. Our Son, Michael, and his family decided to stay in Connecticut.

We cancelled all our plans and chose to weather the pandemic at home in Port Washington until we can  turn the page. We had to minimize our expectations. Unbelievable, almost two years removed from the first assault, and every one of us completely vaccinated, we remain trapped by this latest variant!

But life’s own matters do not always wait for better times. That same day, December 23, Ruby, the Connecticut Delach senior family dog experienced noticeable distress. Michael and Drew took her to the emergency veterinarian who determined Ruby had massive tumors blocking her digestive tract. Brave souls, both, father and son did right by their very best friend and put her to sleep.

In honor of Ruby and all our very best friends, I have included the piece I wrote about the day we met Ruby and her brother, Max, for the first time.

Max and Ruby’s’ Arrival

Max and Ruby were eight weeks old when they arrived by truck from Missouri on Thursday, November 11, 2010.

 Their litter was born on September 9, and they were transported to Long Island by a dog trucking company called PetEx Express as part of a shipment of eighty-two puppies destined for private owners and pet shops in Virginia, New Jersey and New York.

As disturbing as this sounds, think about the alternative; flying the baby Golden Retrievers to New York by a commercial airline. .

When Mary Ann and I were first presented with a plan to fly the puppies to New York, at first, it seemed to be fine.

 We had lost Maggie that summer and decided that we had one last Golden in us, but we would wait until November to welcome our new addition. In the interim Mary Ann decided to buy a second pup for our daughter-in-law, Jodie, as a birthday gift.

Jodie wanted a female, and we wanted a male. We picked the name Max and Jodie picked Ruby after the other principal characters in the comic / cartoon show: Max and Ruby.

When our flight back to JFK from Fort Myers, Florida turned into an awful rockem-sockem, rodeo ride. I dreaded what would happen to the puppies if they had a similar experience. “Mary Ann, I fear that we will find two traumatized pups covered in poop.”

That’s why we were relieved when the service we were using advised the puppies would be coming by truck. However, that had its own complications. Steve, the driver, a good fellow who gave me his cell number, was clueless when it came to delivering in the New York Metropolitan area.

He expected to arrive on November 10 and Jodie drove down with our three grandchildren, Drew (11), Matt (8) and Samantha (4). The idea was for them to be with us that evening when the dogs arrived so they could meet and greet their Ruby. By eight o’clock that night, the kids had had it and poor Steve was lost in Manhattan. Mary Ann took charge, called him and told him, “We’ll see you tomorrow.”

 He told her they had a stop at a local Port Washington pet store called Barkingham Palace and would deliver our puppies after that stop. “We’ll sleep in their parking lot.”

Knowing that my oldest grandson, Drew, was an early riser, I found him in the kitchen watching TV when I slipped out of bed the following morning. “Hey, Drew, let’s take a ride to find the truck. Don’t bother to change, just throw something on to keep warm”

Drew’s eyes lit up. He threw on slippers and a coat and off we went only to find an empty parking lot. Right, I called Steve on my cell phone: “Where are you?”

“We’re at Burger King having breakfast.”

“Don’t go back to the pet store. My house is between Burger King and that store. Use your GPS.”

I gave Drew my phone so he could call home to tell his mom and Mary Ann what was up while I headed for Burger King. “Grandpa, how will we know what truck to look for?”

“Simple, Drew, look for a truck with Missouri plates.”

We arrived to see a panel truck with “Show Me” state plates pull out of the lot. “See those plates, Drew, that’s our truck. Let’s follow it. Call home, tell them we’re on our way.”

Drew and I reached the driveway at the same time as the PetEx truck. Everybody poured out onto Roger Drive in eager anticipation. Steve’s helper emerged from the truck and presented these two beautiful babies into the loving hands of their new families.

Mary Ann and Jodie each hoisted a into the air to confirm who was Max and who was Ruby.

Shouts of joy, squeals of delight, pandemonium, we welcomed two very confused puppies who soon would come to realize, they were home. Once again, we had a big orange dog in our lives.

And so, it goes…Ruby has gone to that place where the spirits of all good dogs go.

We will intern her ashes in New Hampshire next summer under our baton rouge.