The life of a dog

The sunset was now 8:51, sunrise 5:39. A thick layer of marine clouds on my morning walk to the lake, suggestion of fall by the gray color tones and ripples around the shore. Leaves starting to fall like a bunch of tired, arthritic fists. The grass dried out around the cedars, the color of sand. The return of those pink, Maxfield Parrish clouds and cooling-off nights.

I hugged Beth and said goodbye to Charlotte, and she came out on the side deck to look down at me as I was pulling away. We came close to getting in another fight but I restrained myself and thought driving home, was it her spirit I was up against, or mine? How I’d said to Beth (I can’t believe I said this), I love Charlotte but sometimes I can’t stand her. Then I wondered if she overheard me saying that from the other room and how bad I’d feel, having to explain. It was more me I didn’t like, and what I felt like she turned me into. But she was just a reflection of me, like what they say about in dreams, how everyone’s just another version of you. And why that makes dreams so troubling at times, like that scene from The Matrix with all those figures splitting into thousands of copies of themselves, it was hard to tell which one was the original.

They’re really only kids for 10-15 years which goes by fast, the life of a dog. Lily was off at camp the whole week, and chose not to take her phone—so we had no way of connecting with her, but she was at an age we didn’t have to worry so much, she was well supervised.

She hugged me goodbye on Sunday, glad to get away, and needed to. And that left me alone with Charlotte, prepping for her week-long dance classes and overnight bag for Nana’s. But we fought about stupid stuff and by the time we got to Beth’s, I didn’t even want to go. When I came back to the house it was clean, but empty. And I sat on the recliner in the quiet for a bit, imagining what would follow.

Tuesday morning I worked from home. I cooked eggs and made toast for her and she ate it all up and said dad, we have to go—and ran upstairs to get ready. I shouted after her ‘brush your teeth!’ and took the dishes to the sink feeling sad, it went by so fast.

I finally finished the Kundera book; one of the last scenes they’re putting their dog to sleep. And because I’ve done that with a pet I could relate, and go inside the characters for a time. I went in them, and they went in me. And I wondered how that would be for Charlotte, when our cat dies. To stand over the dead and try our best to comprehend. To sit with loss, and the space it occupies within us, carving us out so we can expand through our emptiness. To hold those we love tighter while we can. And to then regard these petty trifles in proportion, with a broader view. That’s what I wanted to do.

Now the spiders have grown plump and the edges of the yard are all brown. I sit in my lawn chair at the top of the yard waiting for the moon to come out, watching until it goes pink, retiring early, rising in the morning again to repeat.

Photo of Lily and Charlotte — September 2009, south of France

Categories: identity, Memoir, parenting

Tags: , , , , , ,

19 replies

  1. sounds like lots of things are on the cusp of change


  2. Weird this says it was published a week ago…
    How old is Charlotte now? When my girls were 10, 11, I found them tough to tolerate. I may have mentioned that before. But now they’re young women (my older two) and have mastered the art of being unreadable.


    • You nailed it: Charlotte is 10, going on 11. That could explain things, like a threshold you trip over between passageways. Thanks for calling out the publish date, I tinkered around with scheduling it for later this morning. Now I see who reads from their email notifications vs. the Reader, perhaps. Ha. I don’t know. I’ll call the Help Desk. Have a great Friday Ross.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I especially like the first five paragraphs. They are deeply personable and vulnerable, and kind of suck you in. And I can definitely relate, too. What is it about pictures of our kids when they were littler than tugs so hard?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t often go back to older pictures of the kids or anyone; I’m too sentimental. But yes, have been playing around with the vulnerability thing and glad you saw it as such. In bed on a Sunday morning, about the best place to be.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice little piece. Day to day life with some lovely descriptive metaphors mixed in.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. …”carving us out so we can expand through our emptiness. To hold those we love tighter while we can.”

    Liked by 1 person

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