by Eric Anderson
Last Christmas my mother read Marley and Me.
It's a story of a family's time spent with the "world's worst dog." Those who have read the book rave about the mischief Marley, the dog, gets himself into, and the positive impact he has on his family. My mother, a dog lover, could not wait to read the book, but she failed to realize that Marley was like any other dog. Dogs, as much as their owners try to prevent it, die.
This fact hit my mother like a ton of bricks when, sitting on a beach in Maui, she began to cry. No, crying doesn't adequately describe how Marley's death hit her. My mother wept, like someone who weeps when a loved one is taken from them. I was coming back to our spot on the beach when I noticed Mom's condition.
"Are you alright," I asked nervously.
"Marley died." Her tears and sobbing clouded her speech, but her emotions were clear. A friend of hers had just taken. A friend who happened to be a dog she had never met and would never have known if not for reading the book. I shook my head in puzzlement and took a dip in the Pacific.
Fast forward 13 months. My roommate, Janelle, began to hound me about seeing the movie adaptation of Marley and Me. I resisted strongly at first.
"Oh it's just a chick flick."
"The critics hated it."
Owen Wilson in a serious movie? Not buying it."
However, two weeks later there I was sitting in a darkened theatre with Janelle waiting for Marley to hit the screen. I was nervous. Friends who had seen the movie had warned me that I would cry, especially since I was a dog lover. I do not like to cry. I have rarely felt the need to express myself in that fashion. I told myself that tonight, in a public place, I was going to remain strong. I was not going to be my mother on that beach.
I was doing fine for the first two-thirds of the movie. It had its funny moments, and the South Florida locale was a nice respite from the - 40 C weather. In fact, the only thing that brought me close to tears was Jennifer Aniston's acting. The Rachel Green monkey remains large on her back.
But then Marley started to get older.
There were more close-ups of Marley's face as his fur began to turn grey and his eyes lost their youthful spark. His pace was slowing, and he had a close call at the Vet regarding his stomach. The writing was on the wall, and it was at this moment I clutched my scarf.
The last third of the movie is a drawn out goodbye between Marley and his family. One particularly heart-wrenching scene is when Owen Wilson takes Marley for his final walk.After getting halfway up a hill, Marley's legs begin to slow. The two sit down and overlook the grassy field below. Wilson turns to Marley and asks, "When it's time you'll let me know...ok?"
Marley looks back at Wilson in a way that lets everyone know that Marley will live up to this arrangement.
My glasses begin to fog. I look down to see my scarf firmly entrenched between my teeth. I look beside me to see if Janelle is crying. She is. I try to fight back the temptation to cry for the final 20 minutes with little success. By the time the credits roll I am emotionally drained. Crying is hard work; especially when it's over a dog you knew for 90 minutes.
Janelle and I walked back to the car, and I made a phone call. My mother picked up. I told her I understood why she cried so hard that day on the beach. I apologized for making fun of her, and I asked her to hug our family dog Maddee before she went to bed.