Distance makes the heart grow fonder. Consider that…
Have you ever come home or gone somewhere without something or someone who’s usually by your side – bedside, table-side, heel-side? Then there’s that crazy feeling of loneliness and the moments you keep looking over for them, keep expecting to find or hear them. You just didn’t comprehend how much they’re a part of the puzzle, and that without them a day is incomplete.
But let’s go even further than that, how many times – with how many things or people – have you felt this way about something or someone that drove you nuts? You’ve taken breaks from them, you get space from time to time, and it feels good when you do. And yet in the back of your mind you always know it’s still there, that safety net of fact. What about when it’s gone? That tightrope isn’t so fun now is it?
Recently I took my dog to the kennel (haven’t in a while) because I had plans for the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, however our plans fell through. I spent the night looking and listening for her scratching and shuffling about from the corner of my eye. There was nothing to see, nothing to hear. I’d turn to see her looking at me, watching me eat with that annoying stare, but she wasn’t there let alone staring at me. No need to let her out at some ridiculous hour or take her for a walk; even when I walked with the birds I felt incomplete. Her absence was more than evident, it was real.
Due to our plans being cancelled I picked her up early. Back were my responsibilities: let her out, let her in, let her right back out, walk her and struggle against the pull to see that other dog 100 yards away, make her lay down when she insists on watching you eat, safeguard your food when you leave the room lest your dinner disappear. But there she is, sitting on her bed watching you eat, stretching to suggest it’s time for a walk, waiting patiently for the treat she didn’t deserve because she tricked you into letting her out even though she didn’t really need or want to go, she just came right back in. All these things make up what is my home, what is my puzzle. I sat on the same couch and it didn’t feel strange anymore. I prepared dinner in the same kitchen, nothing felt like it was missing.
I think about the fact that she’s almost 10 years old, she doesn’t really show it all that much, but that’s her estimated age. I think about the fact that I had Spike for almost 12, almost 12 years he was in my life. There were eye-drops, eye-cleaning, multiple medications more than once a day, bathroom messes, regular appointments, and always needing to find someone capable and responsible enough to watch him should I want to go anywhere he couldn’t. Then one day he was never more…
Then there was Raja. So timid and nervous about everything it was difficult to walk her sometimes because she would cower if a truck or bus or anything really noisy or big drove by. She had a fragile heart, literally and figuratively. First cancer, next bloat, then heat stroke, and finally cardio myopathy took her. Meanwhile she suffered from serious separation anxiety, but Raja was a sweetheart, so gentle. I only had her a couple of years before her heart gave out and I had to watch her die; it was a matter of seconds but it was torture because I knew there was nothing I could do. I worried about how scared she was, Raja was always scared. Then Raja was out of my life.
Now here I am many years later and Omni looks nothing like them – they were Boxers – but the idea of her absence is real and just as painful. I think about my dad’s last dog, Kenobi, it’s been years (many) since he passed and still I think about him greeting me when I visit. I miss his presence when I’m there, I miss the knowledge of his existence. I think about my mom’s dog Cookie who’s Omni’s age but showing it much more; she too is showing signs of heart complications although she’s already surpassed Raja in years. Here are all these companions we found along the way, yet when we lose them they signify a time gone past, things we will never have back, a shift in the tides.
Some people don’t have dogs because their lives are too short-lived. Some people won’t adopt an older dog because just when you’ve found them you turn around and you’ve lost them. Some people don’t want a rescue dog because they want to know what they’re getting [into]. And yet, like I’ve said before, at least with dogs you know what to expect more than less. Sure you can’t guarantee your dog will live out their life – they may get hit by a car at four or live to be 15 – but you don’t have the lingering possibility of 60, 70, 80, or even 100 years. Not like people. I think I cross my fingers when someone else makes it another year; I don’t care if they’re 7 or 95, I thank God they got another year and may they many more.
When we lose our pets we recount the memories, revisit the walks, and miss the years they’d have spent with us (moving into your new apartment, meeting your spouse, meeting your child). Heck I even think about how much my current dog would or wouldn’t have liked the others. Kenobi and Omni probably would have got along quite well, I think even a friend’s dog Francie would have enjoyed playing with Omni. I relish those little day dreams to be quite honest. Suddenly all those things that you enjoyed getting breaks from aren’t so bad; letting her out in the middle of the night only to watch her run to the middle of the yard and turn right back around without doing a thing doesn’t seem so bad after all. It’s no different with people.
I found after we lost my brother that I wanted to do a lot more with him. He’d bought me a learning DVD along with my camera but then kept asking me if I’d watched it yet because he wanted to borrow it. I thought, dude you bought it for me I’ll get to it when I get to it, if you want to watch it so bad then why don’t you get one! (Makes me feel like a bitch now just reading that.) Now I wish we could share Photoshop tutorials and I could call him about how I mainly try to shoot in manual, how I’m learning what to adjust, and getting accurate orchid colors is the bane of my existence.
There’s this hill I climb [translation: struggle] at the end of my bike rides that I so love flying down as fast as I can; I can’t tell you how many times I imagine my brother along with me. I can see his face, his smile, the expressions and gestures he’d make as we get all pumped and ready to go as fast as we can around this corner that corner. I take him along with me through the whole trail, we split at the Y to see who gets to the other end first, we dodge in and out of pedestrian traffic like vocals around the tempo. We’re like little birds you swear didn’t make it from under your tires, oh yes we did. I like to imagine, no I like to remember how excited he would be to see me so excited about my bike rides, and vice versa. Everyone always says he’s watching you, he’s with you, he knows and he loves it, and sure I believe that, but no amount of predictable spiritual imagery will make up for the unpredictable nature of another person. Now I only find the spontaneity in the rainbow that emerges from behind the cloud, the field of lightning bugs at the end of the trail, or the bright pink sunset shocking its way into my view just as the music from my mp3 player says that we’re like spaceships. Yes, yes bro we are, thanks for that I often say.
So just as we didn’t have a great relationship, it was on the mend, all of the things that made him him were little pieces even in my puzzle. I’ll take the constant calls to go here or here or his needing to know more about what I choose to keep to myself if I can have back what has been lost. In the wake of this loss I’ve found myself in another land. My adulthood has taken on a different meaning, much has been left behind out of necessity. The things in me that so need work and help are more evident now; his memory is suddenly like a flashlight I’d thought I’d never find. Still though I know there are things coming from this loss that I don’t know need to be found or have even been lost. When I dissect the notes I’ve been taking for my second poetry collection I find a lot of raw emotion, and not even emotion that was lost or I didn’t know was there, rather with each emotion is a packet of humility. Sometimes I unfold it and like a fortune cookie there is more to discover…
Left with Memories…
For my brother Jake, 1985 – 2011
Where cold makes the water turn,
And shadows shift to make room,
Life leaves quietly and we
Are left to mourn.
I can only so much
Think of how much better things
May be on the other side
For you, before I stop to cry.
But you were here and does that
Make it better for you too?
I cannot a leaf fall, a deer run, or
Music sweep through my ears before
My heart stops time and my brain
Must endure in only its ability to rewind,
Because where my memories can go
Even then I am forced to remember
That you will not be there either.
Sometimes I need my tears to come,
I need them to quench an understanding of
What is real,
Because what life has chosen for me
Has brought me some kind of drought.
Precious pieces have been drawn up into
The sky where they will stay
And so I cry for tears.
Still no amount of words can rise
Like the sun to give back to me
What once was.
They are now but mere attempts
To find something past the shadow
That reality sometimes leaves,
The hole that truth can bring,
The bitter cold that replaces warmth.
From here your warmth can only live
On in me, even then, it will never cease
That I find it hard to believe
Where once your breath was drawn in,
Now there is a gap in time and space
Where you have joined the wind,
Or perhaps the something of
Nothingness that surrounds us.
Darkness brings solace as it
Makes sense I cannot see you,
Yet now the sun can cheer me on
To live again, though it will never
Be the same as back when
I knew that somewhere space was
Interrupted for you,
And you were under the sun too.
In loving memory of my little brother Jake.
I hope you’ve joined the sun
So your life can live on just as bright
As when you watched it from a far.