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Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Vacations that are not vacations

My company has a policy that any vacation time from a given year can carry over until the end of March of the following year. Of the 20 vacation days I had to play with for 2004, I only used 8 within the calendar year, for my trip to Stone Harbor (see the photos here) and for my between-Christmas-and-New Year's adventure.

One of the remaining 12 vacation days I used last Thursday for the trip to Cornell with Haley.

I had planned to use the remainder of my vacation days on a late-March trip to Ireland. I was a little late in getting around to making the arrangements, and even early last week I was at odds as to whether I should order tickets. Wait to hear what they have to say at Cornell, I thought. Maybe you'll need to make a follow-up trip.

What they had to say was that the tumor in Haley's chest that had first shown up in an x-ray last November - when we were trying to figure out the source of her persistent cough - had doubled in size in the past three months, until now it is roughly the size of her heart. At that rate of growth, the vets stated that the tumor will probably kill her within two to three months.

Two to three months. Eight to twelve weeks, over the course of which she will probably become sicker and sicker, until - one way or another - she dies. How could I skip off to another country for two of those weeks?

But there was still the issue of my remaining vacation days. How best to use them? One day is set aside for a visit to the local vet who referred her to Cornell - not the final visit, but an interim one on March 7. Then there were still ten left. I reasoned that at the end of March the weather would probably be nice enough for the two of us to enjoy together, so I set aside the last week - the last four days of March. The eighth week. Maybe that will be the week that she dies. Maybe that will be the week that we have to put her to sleep.

I then selected days throughout March and February. Every Friday from the 18th of February through the 18th of March - March 25th we already have off as our Easter holiday. All together this will give me six long weekends - one of them four days long - and one slightly lopsided week of vacation time. What sort of shape will Haley be in for each of those weekends? What will the weather be like? Will we be able to enjoy our time together?

It hit me yesterday as I was working on something totally unrelated: In eight to twelve weeks I will very probably be having one of my best friends put to sleep. Someone I have walked hundreds of miles with. Someone I have spent many hours with. Gone.

I have made the decision to try not to mourn her before she is gone, to try to make the best use of what time we have together. We skipped our walk this morning to give her a chance to rest - I noticed that her pace had slowed from last Friday to this Monday and even more by yesterday morning. Perhaps soon I will need to modify our path to make it less strenuous, less hilly. Weather permitting, we will walk again tomorrow morning.

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