Pug Ugly!

This one is a little sad.

My mother died over twenty years ago, after which time her older sister, Hilda, and I became close. Hilda married her navy sweetheart, Dick, during WWII, working on the theory that even a short marriage would be better than no marriage at all. In the event, he came back safe and sound, and they enjoyed sixty years of wedded bliss — they were one of those rare couples who never fell out of love with each other, even after all that time.

Hilda had a good life, but there was one thing she’d always wanted. A pug. Why a pug, I have no idea, but a pug was the one thing she never managed to own.

In the early days, she and Dick lived with my grandmother who barely had enough room for them (and my parents), let alone a small dog. Then they both had full-time jobs, so she didn’t feel she had the time to dedicate to a pet. Then her son (my cousin) was born and took up all her attention. Then she went back to work, but always thought that, when she retired, she’d get a pug and take him or her for nice little walks to the park and back. By the time she retired, Dick, who was somewhat older than she was, was showing the first signs of Alzheimer’s.

As the disease progressed, Dick knew no one, not even Hilda, it seemed. And yet, he’d cry as if his heart would break if she left the room, and smile so happily when she returned. The pug would have to take a back seat. She had enough to do looking after Dick.

She was 80 or 81 when Dick died, too old, she felt to take on a pug — not because she felt unwell and incapable, but because she thought she’d leave her pet ‘orphaned’ and unwanted. And it did seem likely that she’d follow him to the grave — he’d been the focus of her entire existence — how could she rebuild a life without him at her age?

Somehow, though, she lived for another 15 years. She said she’d found adjusting easier than anyone had ever expected her to because Alzheimer’s had taken the man she married a long time before, so she’d already done her grieving. She even travelled alone to Spain to visit me when she was 88 and again at 89. When eventually she realized the end really was near, though, her regret at never having had a pug increased, and she spoke frequently about how she’d have liked one and how she would have lived long enough to care for one if she’d only had the sense to get one straight after Dick’s death.

So, a few months before she died, I drew her this little fella and his amigurumi chums to try and fill a little part of the gap in her life.

Hilda and her pugs

Graphite and coloured pencils on board; limited edition of 50 prints.

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