Old Sounds

Two months and a day. For the first few days there was silence. Since then I’ve listened to the same album on constant repeat. Over and over again. A new album that held no memories. Today was the first time I listened to something else. No tears. That’s a start.

When I’m at the sink in the kitchen I still hear the sound of her paws on the tile. I don’t know if there’s another explanation or if it’s just the ghost of a memory. I wonder if I’ll notice when I stop hearing it, if I ever do.

I get on with things. I have to I make my way through eahh day. But I feel her absence. Every day I feel it. And my heart misses her 😔💔🐕.

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Waves

“Alright, here goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents. I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see. As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive. In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life. Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out. Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”

Today would have been Penny’s 12th birthday. If I’m honest we wouldn’t have made a big fuss about it, I think I baked cakes for her once for her birthday. It just wasn’t something we did. I wish we had. I’d bake her cakes every month if it meant she’d be here again.

I read the quote above a few weeks again, and it is exactly how grief feels to me. Every word. The waves are coming in less frequently, but they are still 100 feet tall. Today was a wave I expected. Yesterday were waves I didn’t expect. Twice people brought up Penny, mostly to check how I was doing. Grateful that they remembered my loss, as I have been grateful every time someone has reached out to ask me how I am. I have survived those waves. As I ate spaghetti for dinner and Cordi didn’t want even a single noodle I was hit by a bigger wave. I was reminded again that with Penny there, I never ate alone. And I felt myself drowning again.

I allow myself to be engulfed by that wave because I know I will surface on the other side. I laugh again now. I hear music. I find happiness in moments. I can do those things knowing a wave will come again because I am glad to have a Penny shaped scar.

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Month One / Day One

It took almost two weeks for me to wash the throws on the sofa. I didn’t want your scent to be gone from Cordi. I wanted you to still be there even though I couldn’t see you there anymore.

You came home last week. I haven’t been able to open the box. I’m afraid of what will come if I do. The tears have started to escape again. I’ve stopped fighting them. The other night they wouldn’t stop, it was like I felt your loss for the first time. And that’s exactly how it feels every time I look at your spot on the sofa, or I take Cordi downstairs and she starts looking around – I think she’ll always be looking for you. I know it will be like this for a long time still to come. Perhaps always.

I have kept these words inside me because I haven’t had the strength to let them out. I know I’m still not ready because every word is accompanied by a tear.

It’s been a month, and I still miss you. Every day.

Day One

At 5am I took you back into my arms. The sun was starting to come up. I lay you in the middle of the bed, still wrapped in the towel. I lay down next to you and I put my arm around you. I wanted to hold you tight but I didn’t want to squeeze you too hard, you never liked being held.

I closed my eyes for maybe an hour. It wasn’t sleep, it was exhaustion. It was not restful. I felt myself fighting a fever. My mind racing trying to make sense of what was happening. I knew before waking that it had not been a bad dream.

Cordi pressed her nose against you, trying to see what was happening. She must have been asking herself a million questions. Where was her sister? Oh there she is? Why is everyone crying? How come she’s letting them hold her, she never lets them hold her? They’d better be careful or she’s going to bite them? Why isn’t she growling? Why is she so quiet? Why isn’t she moving? …Sister?

We called the vet. Told them of your passing. They asked us to bring you in. I held you in my arms one last time as I sat on the bed. Wrapped in the towel you looked so peaceful. Your tiny face. Almost peaceful, only you would never have slept through the noise of our tears. You would’ve woken to see what the fuss was about.

We took the bus even though it’s only a short walk. You always liked the bus. The seat on the right at the back so you could look out the door. We held you as your sister looked out the back window and I started to cry again, her first bus ride without you.

The vet said you looked peaceful. You did. I stroked your fur again and placed my head against yours. Rubbed your neck. You always loved when I did that. Your favourite spot. I ran my hand down your back. Still so soft. My Penny. My pretty girl.

You’ll always be my Penny.

================================

The Rainbow Bridge

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together…

Author Unknown

I’ve imagined the Rainbow Bridge. When I am done with this world and I’m hopefully destined for the Good Place. I imagine standing there at the bridge, and I look for my Penny.

I know that she won’t be running and playing, not because she can’t but because that would never be her idea of Heaven. There might be the occasional bird she might run after, her little lop-sided run because that’s how she always ran, only now it doesn’t hurt.

I picture myself getting there, and I see her. Coat all shiny. Nose still crooked. No collar on the way she always liked to be. Head down in a bowl of food. I see her first, surrounded by her brothers and sisters.

Her head slowly turns up when she realises everyone has paused. She turns and sees me. She tilts her head to the side the way she always did when I would come home. She sees me, and I smile. My heart is full.

And she bounds towards me and for the first time ever she lets me scoop her up without a fight and I hold her close. She is as soft and as warm and as round as I remember.

My Penny. My heart is finally whole again.

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Back to 0

It’s been 2wks. I still miss her. Every day. But it’s at this time of night, when no one else is awake, that I feel her absence the most. She’d be asleep, snoring away. But she’d be here with me. My constant companion. My Penny.

I haven’t been able to watch a baking show, or any cooking show, since she’s been gone. Those were her favourite. It was the only time she’d lift her head up and vaguely pay attention. I wonder if she was making mental notes about what she wanted to eat.

Back to Day 0.

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It’s Quiet Uptown – Day 6

‘It’s Quiet Uptown’

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
Then push away the unimaginable
The moments when you’re in so deep
Feels easier to just swim down
And so they move uptown
And learn to live with the unimaginable

I spend hours in the garden
I walk alone to the store
And it’s quiet uptown
I never liked the quiet before
I take the children to church on Sunday
A sign of the cross at the door
And I pray
That never used to happen before

(If you see him in the street, walking by himself
Talking to himself, have pity)
You would like it uptown, it’s quiet uptown
(He is working through the unimaginable
His hair has gone grey, he passes every day
They say he walks the length of the city)
You knock me out, I fall apart
(Can you imagine?)

Look at where we are
Look at where we started
I know I don’t deserve you
But hear me out, that would be enough

If I could spare his life
If I could trade his life for mine
He’d be standing here right now
And you would smile, and that would be enough
I don’t pretend to know the challenges we’re facing
I know there’s no replacing what we’ve lost
And you need time
But I’m not afraid, I know who I married
Just let me stay here by your side
And that would be enough

(If you see him in the street, walking by her side
Talking by her side, have pity)
Do you like it uptown? It’s quiet uptown
(He is trying to do the unimaginable
See them walking in the park, long after dark)
Taking in the sights of the city
Look around, look around, look around
(They are trying to do the unimaginable)

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There’s a grace too powerful to name
We push away what we can never understand
We push away the unimaginable
They are standing in the garden
Standing there side by side
She takes his hand
It’s quiet uptown

Forgiveness, can you imagine?
Forgiveness, can you imagine?

(If you see him in the street, walking by her side
Talking by her side, have pity)
Look around, look around
They are going through the unimaginable

~ Lin Manuel Miranda ~

I realise I have no pictures with Penny. She hated hugs.

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Normal Service has Resumed – Day 5

I woke up this morning. No tears. Managed to make tea. Almost a necessity because I’ve developed a cold. A reult of my being so run down. No tears. We went to Costco yesterday so that means pastries for breakfast. Penny would have been all over that. No tears.

I’m being left alone for the first time. I’ll busy myself. There are things in the fridge I need to do something with before they spoil. I understand now why people bring dishes of casserole and meals that freeze beautifully to families who are grieving. Everything feels like you’re moving through treacle.

A beautiful three day weekend, our first in so long. Clear blue skies. I plan to sort through laundry. Well, that’s the plan. It’s not like we would’ve gone out anyway. It’s Sunday, Lazy Sundays. When Penny and Cordi unapologetically lie on the couch and do absolutely nothing, encouraging me to do the same. Mostly I would read or catch up on shows. Not wanting to disturb their Sunday because I never wanted to do much on the either. Everyone’s day of rest.

Cordi has gone back to demanding meat be the major part of her meal. No more eating carbs to make us feel better. She sticks close to me. If I sit on the sofa she’s right up by my side. I go to have something for lunch. Again by my side. I look down at her. I know Cordi, you don’t have to be so fast anymore. No one to snatch away your treats.

On the sofa again she’s on my lap. I take her collar off and give her chest rubs. Is that what she think always happened when she was our of the room? Is this why Penny always stayed out here with me? No Cordi, I didn’t give Penny half as many chest rubs as she deserved.

Occasionally she glances up. Are you looking for her again Cordi? I don’t know if I’ll ever stop wondering if she’s looking for her. And I say to her, trying not to cry, “I miss her too Cord.”

First day without a breakdown. Day one.

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Who Tells Your Story – Day 4

I didn’t cry when I woke up today. Progress. For the first time in months I didn’t go to my escrima class. I always go. I even went on my birthday. No days off for me. But I still can’t today. I can’t carry on with my routine as though everything is still the same, not yet. I am not ready to let life start rushing by me as I start…living.

I decided to make a cup of tea because my throat is a little scratchy. My first since Penny left us. I was doing okay. Teabag. Boil the kettle. Then I got told there were mini doughnuts. That did it. And we’re back to tears.

I went to see Hamilton last night. I bought these tickets over a year ago. Fourth row. I wasn’t sure if I would go. Because of our ticketing system I knew I had to go get the tickets, but in my mind the option was also there to leave. This from the person who listens to show tunes all day, every day. I loved it. It was smart and well-written. The cast were amazing. It was exactly what I love about musical theatre. And to my surprise, though there were some moments that could have triggered me, I did not cry. An earlier hug might have taken care of all I had left to give that day.

I spent today listening to the soundtrack. It is intricate enough to occupy my mind without the thud being too jarring when I think of Penny again. More than white noise but enough of a distraction. It is the first music I have listened to since that day. But where I would randomly burst into song, I do not. I feel the music but it does not move me. The lyrics become familiar but I do not even hum along. No fingers tapping along to the beat. I feel numb, but at the same time I feel everything.

I can’t turn it on. Who I am. My default is the smile. I accommodate. I joke. I make people feel at ease. I apologise when people brush into me. I offer help before it needs to be asked for. I charm. I find the joy. I am an automatic ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you.’ A ‘Bless you’ when you sneeze. I can’t be that person. Second nature feels like effort. I cannot find the smile.

There is a lyric in the show, ‘Who lives? Who dies? Who tells your story?’ I suppose that’s what I’m doing with these posts. Telling Penny’s story. Our story. The storyteller. That one part of me that still works.

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