The Cat Came Back

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I remember this song (the title of this post) from my childhood but it never had as much meaning as it does now.

Those of you who read my blog know I had to put my dog down on January 3rd. It was a terrible start to a new year and a new decade. My emotions have been raw, to say the least, and it took every ounce of my strength to really process that loss and keep putting one foot in front of the other. My dog was my world.

Fast forward to last week. My boss and his wife were going away and the person who usually tends to their cat during their absence was also going to be away so I naturally agreed to look after Lulu. In the temperate weather, she is an indoor/outdoor cat. She loves to roam the property and in the winter months she is content to limit her time outside to a couple of hours. I let her out last Tuesday morning and she was there to greet me at noon when I arrived to let her back in the house. Last Wednesday was even milder and she was anxious to get out and enjoy the early spring weather but when I arrived at noon to let her back in, she was nowhere to be seen. When I went back at four o’clock, she was not waiting for me on the porch.

For the two days that followed, we checked the porch many times, searched the area and continually shook her container of treats hoping she would return, but all our efforts seemed to be in vain. I was devastated and finally had to make the call on Friday morning to let them know Lulu had been missing for two days.

The gentle temperatures plummeted at night. Spring was a thing of the past and the icy talons of winter had their grip on us once again. We hoped for the best, but we feared the worst. My boss’ son was home over the weekend with friends and there was still no sign of Lulu. I was gutted. Not only was I still dealing with my loss but was now dealing with the fact that I felt responsible for the loss of another family pet.

My boss and his wife arrived home late on Monday and were greeted by an empty house. They spent yesterday shedding many tears for Lulu and trying to process the fact their family pet was gone. But the cat came back! After six days, Lulu appeared at the sliding glass door yesterday. She has shed a few pounds, but she is home. I cried when I got the text and am still fighting back tears. Lulu is home.

 

 

I knew the day would come

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One of my worst memories after the death of each of my parents was gathering the strength to go through their belongings and decide what to keep and what to donate to charity. It is hard to discard anything that once belonged to someone we loved so much. It felt like a betrayal, throwing out the things, even the ugly 80’s sweaters, that were so much a part of our every day life.

For the first time since saying goodbye to Callaway, I vacuumed my house on Saturday. It may sound like a strange thing to struggle with but I couldn’t bear to not see her hair on my floor. It didn’t matter what the season, my dog could shed like an Olympic champion if shedding were a category, and I had moments where my grief was so raw that I thought I might leave that hair on my floor forever.

But grief is a fickle thing. It can be debilitating and then one day it becomes different, not easier just different. I still greet her when I come home and say goodbye to her and tell her I love her when I leave. I’m sure that, too, will change over time but I find comfort in knowing wherever she is on the other side of that rainbow bridge, she can still hear me.

Before I vacuumed, I rolled up the three runner carpets I had put down in my kitchen when she began to have difficulty on hardwood and linoleum floors. Her golf-themed dog dish that had always claimed its place on that same kitchen floor has been carefully stored away but her dog bed will stay in its fixed spot in my living room. The pieces of carpet that were picked loose when she stretched in the morning will remain tattered strings to remind me of the best and funniest parts of her.

The window in my bedroom will be the last chore. It was the place she loved to spend her time while I was gone and those nose prints are going to be a hard thing to wash away. Every day I take more steps without her and every day I try to change my habits so my day-to-day life isn’t saturated with her absence. It will eventually get easier, but embracing the overwhelming sense of loss only reminds me of how special she was.

Time doesn’t heal, it just changes your perspective

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I presumably share more things on this blog about my personal life than people want to read. But starting this blog eight years ago gave me a forum to write about whatever I choose to write about and if you, who are following, still want to read along, I thank you for being a part of my journey.

The beginning of this new month, new year and new decade has not started well for me. I had to say goodbye to the truest form of devotion I have known and I miss her presence every single moment. One day at a time, I have had to forge ahead and rewrite the scenes as I go. I thought I would be performing the original script for many more years to come, but such is not the case and the blank pages are waiting for a new story to unfold.

Slowly, I am beginning to build my new life one sentence at a time. As I construct those sentences, they become paragraphs and those flowing, connective words will eventually become a new story. It is an arduous task, but one I have to undertake with a strong will and the faith that good things wait ahead for me.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have begun to focus more on myself. I have selfishly decided the needs of the one (me) might (if only temporarily) outweigh the needs of the many I have been focusing on for a very long time.

Time doesn’t feel like it is healing me, but merely making me look at things with a fresh, and possibly transitory self-indulgent, perspective and, for once, I am giving in to that prospect. I go into the unknown with the understanding that time holds me in its furtive embrace, willing me to see things in a new light.

Side line – as I was writing this post, I was called out on social media for wanting to get a “look at me” tattoo to honor my faithful companion of twelve years. I was made painfully aware that the money I will spend on having her memory etched onto my skin could be seen as a frivolous expenditure and money better spent on causes that could use that donation. My rebuttal to that notion will be as brief as I can make it.

For the past four years, I have spent every Sunday, weather permitting, from November to April, bringing together volunteers to make crockpot meals for our local food bank so the clients can have healthy, home-cooked meals at least once a week. The time spent choosing the meals, making the shopping lists, picking up all of the ingredients and preparing the meals has healed many parts of me and has certainly changed my perspective in many aspects of my life.

Time will never heal my losses. It won’t bring back my parents, my best college friend or my dog. But time will give me many opportunities to put my best foot forward and help in the most essential ways I feel I can help. Time will allow me to engage those volunteers. Time will help me shop for those groceries. Time will help plan those meals and orchestrate the process from food preparation to delivery. And time will help me heal the gaping wounds of my losses by getting tattoos that help me surf the gigantic waves of the grief I encounter from losing those close to me.

Thanks to that hurtful message on social media, time has, once again, changed my perspective. I have time to ignore that viewpoint. I have time to wipe my tears and realize it shouldn’t affect me as much as I let it. And I have time to focus on the good in me and let that good change my perspective on someone I thought was a friend.

 

 

The signs we shouldn’t ignore

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When the souls we hold dear move on to the next realm, I believe with my whole heart they send us signs. As strange as it sounds, when my friend Sandra passed away in 2003 I found my ear drums pummeled by the strains of the song The Girl From Ipanema. It was not a song I would ever have on my play list, and she knew how much that song made me cringe, but its chords would sound in random places and that same song magically appeared on the list of music I have on my iPhone. I have gone through my iTunes history and I have never downloaded nor have I ever paid for that song, but it IS there and I don’t have the will to delete it.

When my dad passed, it was owls. I would hear the Barred Owls at night having what seemed to be a profound conversation and one of those miraculous creatures would frequently visit and perch itself on the largest branch of the tree closest to my deck. When I am having a bad day, those owls seem to make themselves known with their signature call and the calming effect takes me back to when I was a child and would curl into my dad’s protective embrace.

Years later, when we lost my mom, it was butterflies. Although Monarch butterflies are relatively common where I live, these stunning winged creatures would appear in such a way that we knew my mom was letting us know she was close. There was a playfulness to their flight, like she was reminding us of how strong her spirit was on Earth and how that spirit continues to be a part of our lives even though she has been gone for almost six years.

Today, still fresh from the raw emotion of having to recently let my dog go, it was birds. Callaway and I used to sit on the deck together and I would marvel at the unique species that would visit my feeders. There have been many different birds who have frequented my deck, but Chickadees have always been my favorite. With the tears still sneaking up on me, I sat in my living room today and watched at least five dozen Goldfinches jockey for a position on the feeder through the window to my right. The slight movement to my left made me look out the other window and a single Chickadee was sitting on the window sill, looking directly at me from outside the glass. It stayed for longer than a confused bird would and its gaze was trained on nothing other than me.

These are the signs that make me feel like our lives are not limited to where we are now. Every one of the signs I have acknowledged over my lifetime gives me a sense of peace. They provide me a continued connection to those important souls in my life and let me know that they have not actually left, but they are now able to communicate in a way that is special to me.

 

And just like that, I felt a sense of peace

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Many of you who have read my recent blog posts know I had to say goodbye to this beautiful soul on January third. We had twelve and a half years of a wonderful relationship together. She was so much more than just my dog and every facet of my life changed drastically when I had to make the decision to let my baby girl go.

There has not been a day during the last two weeks that I haven’t cried. The moments of grief have ranged from glistening tears slowly rolling down my cheeks to sobs that mimicked the sound of a mewling animal being viciously slaughtered. I have been physically and emotionally eviscerated.

Morning is the worst time for me. We had a routine that I loved. Even if I was ready to get up, I would rub her ears, give her the butt scratch she was waiting for and tell her “ten more minutes”. She would dutifully acknowledge my request and lie back down in her bed, anxiously waiting for that ten minutes to go by before we went for our morning walk. Her level of intelligence and understanding was remarkable.

With the passing of each calendar day, I knew the phone call would soon come telling me her ashes had been returned to the veterinary office. That call came at 1:22 pm yesterday while I was at work and I was crying before I even ended the call. I put forth my best effort to do my job as effectively as I could but I wanted nothing more than to bring my baby home. I left work early, took care of some deliveries to the food bank and slowly made the turn into the familiar parking lot.

After the welcome distraction of giving some love to the vet assistant’s beautiful dog, I took the package that looked like a giant Tiffany’s box and made my way home. When I got home, I couldn’t open that blue box. I poured some wine, paced around my house and finally gathered the courage to remove the urn that held Callaway’s remains. I placed that urn in its rightful place and I came unglued. I cried so hard I made sounds that are not of this world. But as suddenly as those tears came, they stopped. I don’t think my words will ever do justice to the sense of peace that washed over me just knowing she was home where she belongs.

There will still be many more tears shed as I remember the life we had together and how special she was but I know the happy memories of her will slowly replace the overwhelming sense of loss I currently feel. I miss you, baby girl.

 

My house is a very, very, very fine house

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Crosby, Stills and Nash permeate my brain as I write this post. In April of this year, I will have lived in my little house for twenty years. Twenty years. The walls surrounding the six-hundred square feet I call home have protected me from the elements, shrouded me from the realities I wanted to avoid and comforted me in my greatest moments of sadness.

These walls have listened to me converse with the numerous characters I have created in my stories, they have reaped the benefits of my good times and they have absorbed the many tears I have cried while facing the catastrophic losses in my life, and there have been several since I have been a resident here.

I dealt with the loss of my grandmother in this house. I came home and sobbed for the loss of my best college friend in this house. I spent many sleepless nights in this house after the loss of my father. I awoke in this house to the early morning phone call that my mother had passed. I conquered my divorce in this house. And most recently, I came home to this empty house after saying goodbye to my dog, who was my child and who lived here with me for twelve and a half years.

These walls are not just walls, they are my asylum. This home is my retreat, my security. There have been many moments when I thought my home wasn’t enough but, when I consider everything it has given to me during the past two decades, I know this home is everything I needed it to be. It will never make the cover of any magazine but it covers me in ways I could never have imagined. It will never be featured in Architectural Digest, but the bones of its structure, to me, are more formidable and more hospitable than any million dollar mansion ever could be. This is my protection. This is my refuge. This is my home.

 

 

An ocean of sorrow

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I have cried a million tears for you
and I will cry a million more.
The house is so unnaturally quiet now,
like it’s never been before.
I’m talking to you like you never left,
like you’re lying by my side.
I’m waiting for you to lick my tears
like you always did when I cried.
My heart is broken knowing you’re gone
and I will never again see your face.
An ocean of sorrow fills this house
and I’m drowning in the emptiness of this place.
But I know, slowly, I will come up for air,
face my grief one breath at a time.
I will cherish the memories of the bond we had
and forever thank the Gods who made you mine.
I miss you, sweet girl, your smiling face
and the love you unconditionally shared.
Your paw prints remain forever on my heart,
and together we will always be paired.
You went to sleep, knowing I loved you
and you will always be in my heart.
And each moment I spend thinking of you
means we will never truly be apart.