Hello from the other side

Dear Beau,

I didn’t really like you much when you first came to live with us. You were annoying and disruptive to my peaceful existence. The house was all mine after Fred died. At times, it might have been a little lonely but I really didn’t mind. It isn’t easy growing old. I was 13 and a half when you arrived and my bones ached, my insides didn’t work right and I had to take pills with my food. One day, you’ll understand how it feels.

As obnoxious as you were, I have to admit that you brought me back to my days as a young pup. I guess it was fun romping at the beach with you and taking your chew toys. I give you credit, as much as I tried to intimidate you, you never gave up trying to make me your friend. Thank you for that.15 months

You’re looking good, kid. A solid 77 lbs, you’re probably full grown. I bet you’re finally neutered, too. Now that you’re all grown up, you need to know what’s expected of you:

  1. Bark at strangers. It’s your number one job. Heck, bark at everyone. It’s hard to know whose strange and who isn’t.
  2. Walk in front of Mom. You’re there to protect her no matter what she says.
  3. Always, always be the first one in the car so you don’t get left behind!
  4. Cuddle often. It’s the only reason Mom lets you on the big bed.
  5. When you have to go number 2, go off the trail so Mom doesn’t have to pick it up (even though she does anyway).
  6. Eat fast. Someone might take it from you.
  7. If Mom gets the watering hose, RUN!!
  8. Practice your “sad puppy” look. You’ll get more treats.
  9. Chew the furniture. You’ll get more toys.
  10. Give lots of hugs and kisses. Mom will give them back.

It took two of us, both Fred and I, to take care of Mom. It’s up to you now, kid. If you need some help, just look at our pictures on the mantle and we’ll help you figure out what to do.

Looking back, I guess it’s a good thing Mom got you when she did.

Love,
Ethel

 

 

 

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Ashes

“All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one’s heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
Cormac McCarthy, The Road    

I picked up Fred’s ashes today. They came in a cherry box inside a cardboard box with his name on the outside, Fred Tremain. I never called him Fred Tremain. It was always Fred Dog or Freddy Boy but mostly just simply Fred.

Margaret called me last week from Wilderness Animal Hospital to let me know they had Fred’s remains, or cremains as I heard them called. I don’t know why but I’ve been avoiding picking them up. Somehow, it felt like the last step, the final act, the harsh reality that Fred’s body is gone for good. I’ve been numb. At work, at home, I feel numb. When my thoughts slip into the emotional memories of my last day or the final minutes with Fred, I quickly brush them away. It seems strange this steady decrease of emotion that’s significantly less each day. Part of me wants to still feel the deep sorrow, to dignify his passing, to hold on. The other side says to move on, to heal, focus on the future.

I saw the box come out and sit on the counter while I waited for Ethel to get her nails trimmed. When it came time for me to go, Beth gently picked up the box and respectfully handed it to me with one arm reaching out in a supportive embrace. The box was heavier than I expected. Tears surprised my eyes and rolled down my cheeks. When I reached the car, I sobbed as I held the box tightly to my chest.

Ethel and I made it home. Back to the nightly routine. Walk, dinner, clean up, check email, go to bed. The box titled Fred Tremain sitting unopened on the counter.