Wednesday, October 28. I wake up. It is a cloudy morning. All I see is ABSENCE. Beside my bed, there is no doggie basket holding the still sleeping, curled up black and white ball of fur. In the living room, the chair with its colorful cushions is empty; there is no toy bag under the small side table waiting to toss up its balls and sticks. The dog dishes are gone, washed and put aside to give away; the floor of the kitchen is without objects to trip upon.
The hallway is empty; no little four-paws waiting by the door, no leash hanging from the coat hanger, no small raincoat drying on the radiator near the entrance way. Only empty space waiting at the door for me to open it.
As I sit at my computer, I can feel the empty black armchair behind me, the armchair she always slept on while I worked and that in the last few weeks she could no longer jump up on. I remember the way she would stand in front of it, looking up, and wait… wait for me to turn around, notice, get up, and help her to climb onto the chair for her nap. Now no one waits… There is a vibrant space where the small black and white body used to be, where I used to see her when I turned from my work. Absence…
Silence is not a problem. She was a very quiet dog, never barked… I mean never… well except when I held the ball and she insisted I toss it… she would bark. But never, not when someone strange came to the house, not when there was thunder, not when she was hungry. She commanded by her gaze. She would look at me, and look at me, and look at me until my attention –doing whatever it was doing in that moment- came unglued from my task and turned to her.
Today there is no look, the space between the armchair and me is empty… there is only Absence.
When I step into the shower in an attempt to wash away the sticky tears I couldn’t stop last night, there is no small black schnauzer creeping in to lie on the floor mat in front of the small electric heater I turn on.
Nothing is asking to be fed this morning except my own stomach which refuses to be satisfied with nothing but choked back and swallowed tears. No small nose pokes at my thigh asking to partake of whatever it is I am eating.
I think: ‘I should get dressed, I should go out…’ and then remember there is no rush, there is no imperative reason, there is no-thing that makes it necessary to go out this morning.
I remember that it has been a long time since I have had a brisk walk, a long time because little legs began dragging behind not wanting to walk far, not wanting or being able to walk fast. I can today go out and have a brisk walk with nothing but Absence trailing behind.
And then I know, as I approach town and begin to see the folks I pass every day, they too will see it, they will see the empty space behind or beside me. And they will ask… Absence will have to be explained over and over and over until she is all gone. It is called mourning, and each neighbor, each kindly question, each tear shed carries it nearer to ending. After that, only the beautiful memories remain… I so look forward to that day.
But this morning is only the first morning of ABSENCE, the first day when I will notice every corner and cranny of this space that we have shared for the last ten years, of this lifetime that we have spent 14 years of enjoying together… and only see its emptiness, its not-thereness, its memory-of-herness…
And as the tears begin once more, ever more, to fill my eyes and slip silently down my cheeks, I cry out to that oh so present ABSENCE, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you for being part of my life, for being here with me for so many beautiful days and nights… Thank you, thank you, thank you…”
And she fills my heart with love once more and the tears run again down my cheeks and wet my pajama top and I reach out my hand and clasp to my chest the small blue mouse with red ears and feet that has been her ever-so-carefully guarded toy since she was a pup. I can feel her in this tiny soft toy, all her joy and all her beautiful being wrapped up in a silly mousy toy that squeaks. Thank you, thank you, thank you… forever my sweet ABSENCE.