My house is quiet. Too quiet. Yeah, I know, the kids are back in school, I should be embracing the calm after the summer storm. But I’m not talking about the peaceful bliss the return of the school bus brings. I’m talking about a hollow, empty feeling that’s brought on by loss.
My faithful writing companion—my dog, Jetta—is gone.
Not that she made all that much noise during the day. Outside of the scratch of her nails on the hardwood floors, the harrumph of her laying her big body down somewhere, or the whimper or bark uttered during a bad dream, Jetta was the strong, silent type, letting her eyes and her tail do the talking. But I always knew she was there.
She’d follow me from room to room, listening to my mumblings and musing, panting at my jokes. Somehow, she could sense when I was struggling and frustrated, offering her head for a pat and a nudge when I most needed it. Best of all, she was a fabulous alarm clock, reminding me with a head butt to the thigh when it was time to meet the bus or have dinner. Seriously, she must have had a switch inside alerting her to dinner time because, like an alcoholic barfly, she NEVER missed five o’clock.
Now, it’s just me rattling around the house all day.
My heart still breaks each morning when I get up and don’t trip over her lying in wait in front of my bedroom door—and she’s been gone nearly two months. When I sit down to write, I nearly suffocate under the heavy silence of my own company. And, don’t tell my family this, but I’m not really great company. I’ve tried turning on music or the television, but both are too distracting.
I’m not putting this out there as an excuse for not meeting deadlines, because I will meet them. I’m just surprised at how deep the ache is still. When my daughter arrives home from school each day, we’re both a little flummoxed. Her homecoming was always greeted with a big, furry hug–mostly because Jetta knew she was an hour away from dinner! And now, without the fanfare, it’s anticlimactic. Just crazy Mom waiting beside the door.
I don’t regret the decision we made regarding Jetta. It was time. The cancer had spread so that she was gargling her food and walking into walls. The hard part was, she was still wagging her tail whenever anyone came near, happy to nuzzle her head under any hand willing to pet her. That’s the way I wanted to remember her. But now I’m left with silence.
Everyone says we should get another dog—if not a puppy, maybe a rescue. But I don’t want another dog. I want Jetta. And she’s not coming back. Yes, I know, she was only a dog. It would be a lot harder to lose a child, a spouse or a parent. But with the loss of a loved one, you expect a depth of pain. I didn’t expect to feel the same staggering emotions about losing my pet.
For now, I’ll just have to content to myself with a photo or two. And, maybe a few tumbleweeds of dog fur hiding behind the sofa amongst the pine needles of Christmas trees past. If that doesn’t work, maybe I’ll get a fish.
Growing up a military brat, I always lamented my lack of “roots”. I often dreamed of being Opie Taylor, living in idyllic Mayberry or George Bailey, suffering through life in Bedford Falls. Connections, shared memories of living in one place all my life, surrounded by family and neighbors who were just like family, I yearned for all of it.
As an adult, I realize the experiences I gained from my nomadic upbringing prepared me well for the real world and I wouldn’t now trade my youth for anything. Yeah, I know, with age comes wisdom. Yet, I still always wondered: what if?
Last weekend, my husband and I dragged our two kids (and the one extra child we’d taken to the beach with us) to the 47th Annual Lane family reunion in picturesque Marion, South Carolina. My maternal grandfather, Paul Lane was one of nine children born in the early 1900s to Sampson and Roma Lane. While my grandfather left home to make his fortune in that other country known as New York City, many of his siblings stayed put and raised their families within miles of the Old Ebenezer Methodist Church—a congregation that dates back to 1731—where the reunion was held.
I’d only been to one other Lane family reunion and that was as a young girl my daughter’s age. Needless to say, it took some courage to walk into a room full of strangers. I was waiting for my feelings of “rootlessness” to overwhelm me.
Only that feeling never came.
Instead, I was embraced by a room full of people I’d only met once or twice before in my lifetime—and even then it was decades ago. It was as if I’d been there all along, a part of the sprawling family tree—now practically a forest—of Lane’s who celebrated my accomplishments and hugged my children as if they’d seen them only last week. I wasn’t the long-lost Yankee cousin. They reminded me I was a South Carolinian by birth—a quirk of serendipity that had my father stationed at Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter, S.C. when I was born.
We gathered in the church annex for pot luck and socializing and I was reminded that families are the bedrock that holds this country together. The reunion was opened with a rousing chorus of America the Beautiful followed by Amazing Grace and a devotional prayer. Then lots of good food. All of it homemade.
After lunch (or dinner as it’s referred to in the true South) my cousin, Cathy, took my family on a tour of the small family cemetery nestled behind the single room, original church a few miles away. It was built in 1856 and added to the National Register in 1973. (The congregation met in a log cabin for the first hundred and twenty-five years.)
So I had the family history after all; the connections and the roots I’d been wishing for all along. I’m proud to be a part of such an historic family that documents and celebrates its heritage.
Does your family gather for reunions? What special things do you do at those reunions?
Really, I do. For the past seventeen years, I’ve been navigating suburbia in the quintessential ride of soccer mom’s everywhere: the stylish minivan. Yep. Seventeen. Years. Not all in the same minivan, mind you. I upgraded nine years ago to the then-Rolls Royce of minivans, the Chrysler Town and Country Limited Edition. Complete with on-board entertainment, heated leather seats, a moon roof and five doors that open automatically with the touch of the key fob. (Those automatic doors were a must-have after driving preschool carpool for two years.)
I’m going to go on record here and say I love my minivan. I really do. It’s just that I’ve reached middle age and, well, I want something a little snazzier. My kids can drive themselves now and they’d much prefer to drive anywhere without me. Unless it’s to the mall. Then they are happy to have my credit cards—I mean me—accompany them.
Unfortunately, my minivan hasn’t outlived its usefulness. Did you know an entire dorm room of crap can fit into that vehicle if you take the seats out? It’s also the perfect changing station at a horse show, not to mention it can fit all the tack and my daughter’s trunk on board. And then there’s tailgating. What’s not to love about the on-board table? All are important things to consider when deciding whether to purchase new wheels.
Worse, I can’t find a car that I want. My minivan has become as comfortable as the worn, leather recliner in my family room and I loathe parting with either. Sure, a convertible would be nice, but I’d only hate myself in ten years when I’m battling skin cancer. The purr of a German engine is enticing, but do I really want to waste all that gasoline?
So, I’ll spend another summer with my ride doubling as a mini-barn (yes, there’s an ‘n’ on the end of that word!) until I can decide what I want. It’s actually a good thing, too, because I’m about to spend all my car money for horse power of a different kind.
Meet Tessa, my daughter’s new ride. Yep, I’m a sucker. But her show name is Game On, so Mama wins either way.
So what are you driving?
My husband calls it my “spidey-sense”. You know, that feeling of intuition one gets proclaiming something just isn’t as it seems; or worse, that gloom and doom are on the way. My spidey-sense is fairly refined and pretty darn accurate. It’s what made me an effective congressional investigator for so many years. It’s also something my family knows not to mess with. My kids can’t outrun it. Believe me, they’ve tried. My BS detector is just too well honed for them to get past. They’ve learned to just fess up and live with the consequences. When it comes to the doom and gloom, let’s just say my track record is pretty accurate there, too; enough so that my husband doesn’t question my predictions. Actuality has made him–the wearer of rose-colored glasses—a firm believer in my intuition.
Does having such a strong intuitive nature make me a cynic? I don’t think so. I’m not Dr. Greg House from the television show, House, whose mantra is: Everybody lies. Basically, I’m just a “glass-half-full” kinda girl, who’s also a realist. There are very few things I take at face value. Perhaps it’s my inquisitive nature or just living through some hard knocks, but I like to know the facts. I’ve been known to Google statements made during a church sermon. I like to kick the tires and dig in the dirt to assure myself things are legit.
That’s why this whole Catfishing mess with Manti Te’o makes no sense to me. How does something like this go on for sooo long? Perhaps the better question is: why did it happen in the first place? What did the person perpetuating the hoax hope to gain? Sadly, Te’o is just one of thousands of people who get swept up in these types of scenarios every day. It’s kind of like that silly insurance commercial where the girl believes everything she reads on the Internet, including that her slovenly date is a French model. Are people just that gullible? I really don’t think you need an enhanced spidey-sense to fall for such nonsense, but maybe I’m wrong.
How about you? Do you have the gift of “spidey-sense”? Have you sniffed out a lie or a hoax?