When I lost everything, I gained everything.

Posted: February 6, 2014 in Pets
Tags:

I took one last look around. The deal was done. The paperwork had long been signed. My pets were secured and everything had been moved. The house had been cleaned, scoured and every nook and cranny gone through. Twice. Maybe three times.

The house was bare and the only sign that I had ever lived there was the slight crack on the mirror above the fireplace. That was where I had thrown a glass against it years before. It didn’t shatter like it does in the movies. Instead the glass broke, left a small chip on the mirror and landed on the carpet. I had a unfulfilled expression of my justified anger at the time.

Empty rooms and houses have always given me the chills. Now with everything gone, I felt uneasy with standing in the kitchen and looking around. It was cold, barren, deserted and a few other words that all came down to one meaning: void of life.

Even my breathing seemed to echo. This was going to be the last time I walked through the front door and I would never return. That was the plan. That was what I had agreed to. There was no turning back and even though I knew this day would come, and I often looked forward to it, but now that it was here I no longer knew what to feel.

Relief? Sure, if you call losing everything and almost everyone relief that it was now over and you realized you were a big, fat failure.

Excitement? Perhaps, but who wants to turn 50 and have nothing to show for it and be alone and financially destitute? Excitement about what?

Hope? That had dissipated when I lost the house.

I was trying to feel numb. That’s what I wanted. Nothing. No feelings, no sensations, no thoughts. I wanted to be wrapped in cotton and oblivious to everything around me.

I glanced around at the kitchen and saw myself sitting there at my table with stacks of work and the phone in my hand while I sipped coffee and chain smoked as I sold another deal in my pajamas. I turned around and saw myself doing the dishes and laughing as a friend sipped wine and entertained me with her stories. There I was taking a turkey out of the oven as friends and family helped. I could hear the men in the living room, watching football and cheering on the 49ers.

I walked towards the sound of their voices. I came around the corner. The room was empty. The couch and chairs and tables were gone. Their voices were only in my head but I could still hear them. I could see them cheering and opening another beer. I knew it was all in my mind, but for a moment, I wanted to sit down and join them.

I looked in the mirror above the fireplace and stared at my reflection for just a moment. I didn’t want to look too long because I didn’t want to see myself. Not now. Not today.

I walked down the hall and ran my hand over the wall. Yes, it was still there and it was real. I could feel it. I looked in the first bedroom and saw the bed against the wall and on the floor. I saw the desk against the other wall and I saw my friend fast asleep. He was snoring quietly with the covers pulled up to his chin.

I walked into the next bedroom and saw all the shelves full of books and the curtains softly moving in the breeze. I saw boxes to still be unpacked after all these years pressed against a bookcase that was overfilled with books. Books were everywhere. I smiled at my inability to ever let go of a book, even if I knew I would never read it again. There just always seemed to be something sacrilegious about destroying a book, even a bad one. I had a hard enough time selling them to used book stores.

I passed the bathroom. The white tile on the walls and floor had never looked this awful to me before. I shuddered and tried to remember why I had never remodeled such an ugly bathroom.

Walking into the master bedroom was much harder. I stopped at the door and began to turn around. My footsteps had echoed through the house as the hallway was hardwood floors. Only the bedrooms had carpeting. I had always liked the look of hardwood and was convinced that it would be easier to keep the house tidy when the dogs were inside, but that was a foolish idea. It just meant that their shedding traveled faster throughout the house and would end up on the carpet in the bedrooms. Either way, my weekend mornings included sweeping and vacuuming.  I smiled as I remembered them running down the hallway. I often referred to that as “The running of the bulls.”

I turned back around and took my shoes off. I loved the carpet in this bedroom. I walked across it and out of habit, stopped where the bed used to be. It was long gone but the imprints of it were dug deep into the carpet. I outlined a bit of it with my toe and smiled. I had loved that bed and now it was gone. It didn’t fit into the tiny studio apartment I had rented. It was a floatation bed and I could have spent my life in it. A water bed inside a mattress in a large frame with shelves in the headboard and drawers underneath the bed frame. Since getting rid of it, I was once again waking-up with back, neck and shoulder pain.

I looked at the empty closets and remembered how much fun I had filling them up with nice clothes and shoes. I fondly remembered those days when I not only made enough to pay my bills and eat, I could afford to spend money on myself and still have a savings. I missed the Porsche I had driven for many years and hoped the person I sold it to was taking good care of it.

I saw myself sitting on the best bed in the world, putting my new clothes away. Some I tried on again and rummaged through my jewelry chest to find the perfect pair of earrings. I saw myself unpacking the shoes and boots I bought once at Nordstrom’s and not even worrying about being able to afford them.

I sighed and knew it was time to leave. I was fine and had made the best decision possible. I would be alright and pull myself out of it. All I needed was to be able to sleep again, have a fling and get my bearings. I knew it would all work out. I just didn’t know how.

I walked back into the kitchen and picked-up my purse. I took one last look around and then looked out into the yard.

I should not have done that. I knew it but I did it anyway.

I put my purse back down on the counter and walked towards the sliding glass door. I stopped but couldn’t turn around. I had one more thing to do before leaving and it had to be done.

I slid the door open and stepped out onto the patio. The backyard had also been stripped of any remembrance of me. The lawn furniture had been sold (since I now lived in an apartment, I had no use for it) and all the plants had gone with me. I had hosed off the patio and the gardeners had recently mowed the lawn. I took my shoes off again and walked on the grass. I knew I would miss it. Living in an apartment on the second floor meant no longer being able to sit outside privately with my morning cup of coffee and cigarette.

I slowly walked towards the corner of the yard. I don’t know if I could go any further, so I stopped. I peered over and saw the headstone. I knew what it said because I’m the one that wrote the words. It’s the one piece of my life that still lingers here. It’s the only thing that would let anyone know that at one time, this was my house. My yard. My life.

I closed my eyes and I saw him all over again. Running to catch the ball that I threw for him thousands of times. Lapping up water from a bowl that I filled-up countless times. I saw him lying on the grass under the big oak tree during a heat wave. I could hear the clicking of his nails as he walked through the house to investigate some sound that only he could hear.

I could feel his head on my lap and hear his quiet growl to get me to pay attention to him. My hand runs down his face and over his shoulders and I could feel the softness of his fur. I heard a groan from him and I rubbed his ears and felt the gentle pressure of his head against my hand to not stop.

I felt him run by and for a moment, I was happy. I was happy to see him again and then that moment was over and I was back in the yard, looking at his grave.

I moved closer to it. I got down on my knees and brushed the dirt away from his headstone. It had been 2 years since I had buried him but now it felt like I had just placed the last shovel of dirt over him. He was wrapped in plastic and buried with his favorite toy. I still carried his tags on my key chain and kept his collar and leash in a box.

I don’t know when the sobbing started. I was in the middle of it before I knew what had happened. I didn’t want to leave him there but I knew that was an insane thought. I knew he was dead but I never thought I’d lose the space where I had laid him to rest.

This was the worst loss of all; walking away from him. Had I known this day would come, I would have had him cremated and buried with other dogs. It was too late for that and suddenly, everything was too much to bear.

My crying was about everything and nothing. I felt the loss all over again and vowed to never bury another pet in the yard again. I felt like a traitor.

“Good-bye Roscoe. I love you,” I finally said.

It took me half an hour to get up and walk away. I finally allowed myself the time to grieve for all that had gone wrong, for every dream that had been shattered and for all the people I had lost. I cried for what I had become and who I had not. I took the headstone with me and put it in the trunk of my car, buried beneath boxes still to be moved.

It took me 6 months to move those boxes because I was afraid of seeing it again and having another sobbing fit.

When I finally did, I smiled. Somehow I had survived and was beginning to find my way. Throughout the last 6 months, every morning I got up and put one foot in front of the other. I kept going. I got out of bed when it was the last thing I wanted to do. I went to a job that I hated but did the best I could. Every day, I came home and cried and went to bed and did it again and again and again every morning.

Eventually debt was paid off and bills were manageable. I still had a roof over my head and a prospect of the perfect job for me. My family was well and the friends that were left were always there when I needed them.

At some point, happiness had arrived and the sadness left and I don’t know when that happened. It was just there one day when I woke-up, rolled over and saw Maverick staring at me. He began to wag his tail when my eyes opened and instead of an alarm clock, I was greeted with a cold wet nose on mine and slobbering kisses all over my face.

The cycle was beginning again and I was glad.

Advertisements
Comments
  1. wow ! this made me cry so hard ! the only time I have ever cried from a blog entry! powerful stuff ! I am 45 and alone and have experienced the death of a beloved dog !

  2. Rich Miller says:

    Wow Susan. Very open and touching. A perfect description of the human condition. I felt I was experiencing this myself. Great writing!

  3. Nice write Susan! It hit me at a particularly hard time. My rent goes up $200 more a month in one month and I found out 2 months ago and I don’t have it. I’m sure I’ll squeeze it out somewhere but me and my cats need to move to a smaller place and I am already in a one bedroom. This is a tale that almost everyone can relate to I’m sure.

    • Susan Lewis says:

      Oh I know just what you’re going through. There was a time when I thought I would end up living in my car with 3 dogs! Somehow I managed to find a place, but I was in a panic the entire time. At least we’re not alone. Please keep me posted on how you’re doing. If nothing else, you’ll get someone to talk to.

  4. Really timely. I’ve been going through a rough patch. Went from a 20 year job that paid me really well and had benefits to starting over. It’s easy to be optimistic and positive in spurts, but sometimes, late at night like this in my tiny house with half my stuff sold and the other half in storage… sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s doable again or that it’s not going to be just this, this hovel, this one pot meals that you eat over and over, forever. At least I have a roof and I have food I tell myself. But at night sometimes it’s hard ya know?

    • Susan Lewis says:

      Yes, I do know. I go through that often and also first thing in the morning. Almost every night and every morning. I call them “the demons” that arrive when I’m not quite awake/asleep. They pop in, pester me when I am at my most vulnerable and I have to push them away each time. I’ve had to start over a few times and I have found that you have to work at being happy. It doesn’t happen just because you want it. It happens because you push through each day, somehow.