I went to the park on Sunday for the first time in months. Life has changed so much in the past year, I almost don’t recognize it as my own. There have been some wonderful improvements, some (okay, lots of) horrific stress, and a dramatic shift in day-to-day priorities. When I started this blog almost three years ago, I had nothing to do but walk the dog and write about it. Now I’m commuting to school, single-parenting, and was, for a bit, working part-time as well. The dog? Other than loving him to death, his needs were not being met. Heck, I hardly feed the kids.
Sunday was gorgeous– about 21° (70° F) and sunny. The Ex took the kids out for the day, and I decided it was time for me and Our Best Friend to spend some quality time.
I sat at a picnic table, reading, a book, while Our Best Friend bounded about in pure joy. I marvelled at the fact that I knew he wouldn’t get into a fight, that he came every time I called, and we revelled in the spring-at-last weather.
But something was different. There wasn’t a soul I knew, and not only that, I didn’t feel like walking around and making new acquaintances. Something had shifted, and a little sadness crept into my day. The place didn’t feel like mine anymore. It felt public, the way I feel at City Park– beautiful, and familiar, and full of strangers.
Then Robert walked in. I last saw him in December, when we ran into other in the supermarket, a bizarre, out-of-context meeting, but nice. “Hey!” I greeted him, glad to see a familiar face. “Where’s Happy?”
“Oh, I had to put him to sleep in February.”
I just looked at him in shock. “What happened?”
Happy had cancer. And his lungs looked “milky” in the x-rays. Wasn’t always eating. Didn’t want to go for walks much. Treatment wasn’t working. I knew it wasn’t a matter of money– Robert had spent thousands fixing Happy’s knees just a few years ago. Happy was twelve, and it was his time.
“So what dog are you here with?” I asked him.
“Oh, I didn’t get another dog yet,” he said. “Not ready. Have to process this first. I just came to visit. Second time I’ve come since Happy was put to sleep.”
I just shook my head and smiled sadly. “Robert– you have to get another dog. You know you do. You’ll never be happy without a dog in the house.”
“Yeah, well, I have to get a few things straightened out, then I will. I will, don’t worry.” And Robert said good-bye and went for a stroll around the park.
A few minutes later Blanche came in. Her dog, Princess, had also died within the last year, but unlike Robert, she’d gotten another dog immediately. In fact, she now had two. I knew Princess had died because Blanche had affixed a memorial poem to the bus shelter wall, but I had no idea what had happened.
“I just saw Robert,” I told her.
“Did he get a new dog?” she asked.
“No,” I told her. “Said he isn’t ready. But he has to. He’s not going to be happy until he has another dog.”
“For sure!” she exclaimed. “He must! You know Princess is gone–”
“I know,” I said, “I saw the poem, but what happened?”
“She ate oleander leaves. The vet had her in intensive care for three days, but it was no use. By then I had Katie here”– she indicated a husky nearby– “and I had it in my head that I was going to have two dogs, so I searched all the rescue sites until I found Kiwi.”
Kiwi is an absolutely gorgeous and sweet-natured Australian shepherd mix. She looks nothing like her predecessor Princess, but she’s very like her in temperament.
Blanche and I chatted a bit, then she went off to find Robert and put in her two cents about him getting a new dog.
Even though I don’t even know their last names, I find I care about these near-strangers, no matter how rarely I see them. Something brings me back to that park, the park where everything has changed but my friends remain the same. And even though I’m barely a blogger anymore, there is some part of me that won’t let go of that either. There’s this feeling that if I skip a month, if the blog archives move from March to May with no April in between, something has ended, something has gone wrong, something is missing.
It’s April 30, 11:00 p.m.. I have a two-hour drive tomorrow at 10:00 a.m., but something is making me sit here and write my one post per month, so in spite of the changes, the new responsibilities, the new priorities, I still have this one thing that was suppressed and suffocated for years…. so I can say I still write, if only occasionally.
Maybe that something is me.