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Grief

August 24, 2010

Dedicated to my dear friend Rainey and her dog Wolf

 

On the day the tumor ruptured and Virginia clung to the floor in her safe place, Bob was the first to come home.  He called me on my cell phone, I was on my home and he did not feel it was reasonable to tell me about it.  He did show alarm when I arrived.  Earlier that day, Virginia was slow retrieving her football.  This had happened a few times in the months leading up today.  I knew there was something wrong, but three different veterinary specialists said there was not.  I immediately called her vet and told them we were coming.  Bob carried her to the car and put her in. Bob did not go with us.  He had a meeting to go to and asked if I would be back in time for dinner.

This is a story of grief and loss.  Virginia’s story cannot be separated from Bob’s story.  But this is my story, not theirs, and I will do my best to keep it that way.

When I saw Bob for the first time, I told to stay away from him.  He was known at the ax man and everyone who he came in contact with got fired.  That explained why he was standing alone passing back and forth with a cigarette between his stained fingers.  I said yes when he asked me out weeks later even though I was married to someone else at the time.  I enjoyed working with Bob, sometimes working against him, and wanted to spend more time with him.  From the start he held on to life with white knuckles as he tried to build the business and a new life for himself.  After I divorced my husband and moved away, he continued to hold on.  Bob held our long distance relationship together for over a year until we were together again then got married.

Virginia loved the mornings.  She would greet me everyday with a smile.  She would sit on my chest and insist I pet her on her belly until I got out of bed.  In time, I saw the mornings through her eyes and came to love them with her.  I would let her outside with the other dogs to take care of her business.  She was always the last one back to the door.  Virginia never learned the business first rule, no life was too short, and she always played first.  After chow, she would lay on the couch with me while I drank my coffee.  If I didn’t pay enough attention to her, Virginia would stand up rub her face in the cushion and stomp her feet.  Not sure what she was trying to do but it got my attention.  We would laugh a bit, then she would lie down and I would go to work on my computer.

When I married Bob I knew that I would take second place to his work.  He did have a business first policy.  His work was important to him and that was okay with me.  There was enough of him left over for me.  We were always together.  We worked together and we danced together.  Every local band and bar tender knew us.  We enjoyed each others company.  That all ended in the months leading up to his sobriety.  He fired me from work for the third time.  Well, the second time, the first time he fired me, I didn’t technically work for him.  The business was becoming hostile.  Bob was losing his grip as the alcohol and the bankers wore him down.  I could only watch as the alcohol softened his brain while the bankers hardened his soul.

My biggest fear when Bob went into rehab was he would come out a jerk.  I decided I would rather have 10 good years with him than 30 bad ones.  We had what appeared to be a very loving relationship.  After ten years of marriage, many of the people we met thought we were newly weds.  But Bob was deteriorating.  None of his forefathers lived past 65 and that milestone was only ten years away.  Every time I asked him to stop drinking his response was always the same “not going to happen”. So imagine my surprise the day he answered “okay”.  I knew Bob.  I knew he meant it.  I knew he was going to stop drinking.

Virginia loved to ride in the car.  She would lie down and hold her head up so she could see out the window and get some fresh air in her mouth.  She would smile in anticipation of where we were going.  That day on the way to the vet, she had a different kind of smile; the kind I knew meant pain.  We both knew this was not a ride like the hundreds we had taken together before.  She went to agility shows and demonstrations with me, to elementary schools and to visit friends and family.  No this ride was different.  It was the beginning of a new journey we would take together.  The very next day she was able to walk to the car following emergency surgery.  They wouldn’t tell us how long they thought she would live.  I was hoping for at least four days I got six months.

At the time we put Virginia to rest, Bob had been sober for nearly 2 years.  In that two years the only time he really hugged me or showed any emotion was the day we buried her.  Even today as they are trying to bury his business, he is emotionally bankrupt.  Before he was born, alcohol took over the part of his brain that controlled emotions.  Without alcohol he has no emotions.  Many wives of drunks lost their husband to alcohol, I lost mine to sobriety.  Virginia was my dog.  She was one of four dogs in our house, but Virginia was mine.  She filled that place that Bob held for the first ten years of our marriage.  She loved me unconditionally, as I now try to love Bob unconditionally.  I want to be like her.  Even in pain, she loved.  She greeted every day with a smile.  I try, I really try, but I have not smile for him.

Grief is like a bright orange life vest.  It weighs heavy on my chest, but somehow keeps my head above water.  It is so heavy, sometimes I cannot breathe, but it reminds me of when Bob would hold me tight as we danced well past midnight in the bars and night clubs and of Virginia sitting on my chest each morning.  As I long for the past, grief floods my mind with memories of Bob and Virginia.  But it won’t let me sink into despair.  It pains me to keep me in the present.  It is stronger than pain or love.  Perhaps it is all that is left when the pain is over and the love is gone.  Grief is mine.  And I will hold on to it with white knuckles until a greater love comes to take its place.

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