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Like Generalissimo Francisco Franco

September 6, 2013

I’m presently writing a sad piece about the marital dog, which has inspired plenty of moping about other dogs I’ve loved and lost. Fortunately, I will soon be reunited with my mother’s wonderful long-haired German Shepherd, who slept by my side and followed me everywhere when I was home for my grandmother’s funeral, to the point where my mother got a bit pissy. “Honestly, I don’t know why she’s doing this,” my mother snapped, when the dog cried to be let into the bathroom while I was taking a shower. “Maybe you have an incurable disease. I’m serious! They can sense that, you know.”

The dog that came before this one in my mother’s house was a bigger, shaggier, long-haired German Shepherd named Misha. He was best friends with my marital dog–they were puppies together, and we have a series of adorable pictures of them, including one where they are sitting side by side on my mother’s porch, holding (I kid you not) paws. Misha was so enormous that my ex-husband used to open his jaws and stick his head inside. He was incredibly sweet, though terrifying to look at. I desperately wanted to dress him up in a flannel nightgown and a lacy nightcap with holes cut out for his ears for Halloween, and dress my son as Little Red Riding Hood, but we were never with my mom for Halloween, more’s the pity. You never saw such big eyes, such big ears, such lovely big white teeth.

Misha died when he was eleven. About a month later my mother was visiting and my younger son, aged three, looked up at her one day out of the blue and asked, “Is Misha still dead?”

So, here I am at the end of the summer, having failed to write anything on this website in ages, for which I apologize. I’m fine, mostly. The summer went quickly, once it finally took off, and now it’s over and gone. The kids are back in school–sixth grade and twelfth grade, shockingly enough. I’m over the shingles. In the mornings, I drink coffee and read the paper on my porch, in the shadow of four enormous hanging Boston ferns, and I thank Zeus and all the gods for this excellent little house, which I’m always happy to come home to. My boyfriend and an assortment of our various children and I drove up to Maine to camp and visit friends and, eventually, my mother and stepfather, and we had a lovely time, and the weather was stunning. It was a wonderful summer, on paper at least.

And yet subtending everything is the simple fact that the dead–my grandmother, the beloved dogs, that Spanish dictator, all of them–are, astoundingly, still dead.

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. September 7, 2013 12:17 am

    You’ve said it perfectly. My words can’t follow your words without sounding meagre. So I will tell you that I know that feeling exactly.

    And that I’m glad you’re over the shingles and hopefully feeling (at least physically) better.

  2. September 7, 2013 12:24 am

    I desperately miss my dead grandmother. I do not much miss the dead family-dog.

    I’m glad you enjoyed some good things this summer. Mine had its ups and downs, and I’m not really ready for fall even though it’s already underway.

  3. September 7, 2013 10:49 am

    I know whatcha mean about having a wonderful summer “on paper”: I made my annual NM pilgrimage, & last week fulfilled my teenaged fantasy of riding through Grand Canyon country…
    But all of my lost ones are still dead too; my dad continues his slow decline into dementia, taking my M&M’s vitality w/him, and I face another legal struggle w/Ex as I try to help my son gain some small measure of autonomy over his own life…
    It would help to blog about it but who has the time???

    • September 7, 2013 10:51 am

      WTF iPad??? (HATE autocorrect function!)
      That would be my MOM’S vitality, not goddamn M & M’s!

  4. Exactly permalink
    September 7, 2013 10:50 am

    Last night I dreamed that my mother came back from wherever she’s been these last 15 months since her death and was annoyed to discover that I’d appropriated all her wooden coat hangers. “Why would you take ALL my nice wooden hangers without asking me?” she said. “Because you died, Mom,” I said. “You were dead.” “Oh,” she said. “That’s okay, then.” But it isn’t okay at all.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      September 7, 2013 11:25 pm

      This absolutely kills me. “Because you died, Mom.” Wow.

  5. September 7, 2013 2:00 pm

    My sister’s dog recently took to sitting and staring at her. Occasionally she (the dog) would start to whine and muzzle against her (sister’s) tummy. This happened every time the dog was near, much to my sister’s slight annoyance. ‘Maybe you’re pregnant!’ my sister’s boyfriend laughed. He’s not laughing now, so much as reading baby books… (The dog went on to have a full blown phantom-pregnancy, to the point of getting v bloated, making nests all over the house, and mothering small stuffed toys. Aw.)

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      September 7, 2013 3:55 pm

      So you’re saying I have a fatal disease? Great….

      • ivfcycler permalink
        September 8, 2013 3:20 am

        no, the dog just knew you needed comfort the most after your grandmother died. (your mother was pissy because she thought she was supposed to need comfort the most and didn’t appreciate a stupid dog telling everyone otherwise and making her somehow “look bad.”)

        but you knew that.

      • September 8, 2013 8:33 am

        Or PREGNANT. Mwah hah hah… ( but hopefully what ivfcycler said, rather)

  6. September 7, 2013 11:11 pm

    The fact of still deadness sneaks up on me all the time.

  7. Jenny permalink
    September 12, 2013 1:54 pm

    To The Young Man on the Bridge

    The newspaper caption read: “Two officers talk to a young man, name withheld, as he stands on a bridge above the Merrimack River, distraught over learning that his mother is terminally ill.”

    When I first saw you
    I could glance up from your image in the paper
    and out her kitchen doorway watch
    my mother trim her artemisia,
    scraps of silver trailing
    her green wheelbarrow.
    And I imagined yes,
    if mine were dying,
    I would be on the abutment too,
    about to release the cable
    ignoring those attempting rescue;
    imagined your rock-weight drop
    pierce Merrimack gray
    driving you through layers of silt and barge wake
    till your heart burst
    its knot of color
    oiled into molecular black.

    And now that, years later, I have lost mine,
    also to disease, I see your face again
    transfixed in white and black,
    a pale sphere caught
    in the newspaper’s grainy net.
    But now I would coax you back
    from the railing to tell you:
    no matter the number of months that have passed,
    what whole rounded year has slipped
    a marble from my pocket,
    there is a moment of breaking
    the surface of whatever hour
    and plunging past the floating glass
    of doorknobs turned in pain
    light shafts driven
    further into the enamel
    of an incandescent pedal Singer
    rimmed in chrome and folds of cloth
    whose scent can still drown me
    in green oblivion. Floating too
    an azure button, despair complete
    in its perfect disc, terra cotta saucer
    lifted by her hand
    with a border of fine red leaves
    each holding its breath for all of us,
    holding our grief.

    I would say to you:
    that impossible weight
    will drop you every day
    and arrows of color pierce
    your body clear through, the river
    for which you might stay.

    – Jessica Jopp

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      September 17, 2013 11:00 am

      Oh, god, this is just beautiful. Thank you so much.

  8. September 12, 2013 2:31 pm

    after almost 10 months of separation, endless hours of therapy (joint and separate, for each of us), 100,000 angsty, hopeful, heartbroken words in my computer journal, and 15 pounds (lost, praise god), last night i finally heard the words i never thought i’d hear: my husband wants a divorce. i guess i should’ve thrown 14 years of marriage and 3 kids onto that pile, too, huh? the bottom line of it all seems to be, “I was never who you thought i was. I was never honest with you in all that time.”

    the man i thought i was married to is, apparently, dead. or he never really existed. and my grief for that man is as sharp and as excruciating as if someone had walked up to him on the street and shot him in my sight.

    and now i’m stuck with his dog, who i hate.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      September 17, 2013 11:01 am

      Vikki, I’m so sorry. You will make it, but this is a horrible stage to pass through. But you will. I promise.

    • November 20, 2013 5:52 pm

      Aw Vikki – it’s not the poor dog’s fault ;-) !!!
      (My ex & I mock-argued all the time that we could never divorce bcz the custody battle over our critters would be too intense… Guess what, it wasn’t!)

  9. September 14, 2013 6:47 pm

    Oh, dogs. Both of mine are eleven and large and aging rapidly. One keeps losing control of his hind legs, the other has trouble with his front leg, both are thin. One sleeps on the bed, after years of being relegated to the hard, cold floor. I know someday I will miss his weight on my feet, and so he stays.

    My grandparents’ dog – for days I realized she was going to die soon and made a point of stopping to pet her head whenever I passed her spot on the grass (I was twelve. We all lived in one house.). Then she went missing, for an afternoon and a night. In the morning we found her in the river nearby, standing but stuck. She didn’t last long after. My grandparents had her cremated and when my grandfather died a year or so later, we slipped the box of ashes into his coffin. They had always been close.

    I have cried more over dead dogs than dead people, but only because it’s more common. It’s all the same, really. Sorrow and grief and missing missing missing.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      September 17, 2013 11:04 am

      The dog thing is really, really awful. The marital dog–a yellow lab–was fourteen and a half when she died. Blind, and addled, and still incredibly sweet. She’d wag her tail in her sleep right up to the end. She was a wedding present, and was a year old when my first son was born. I have pictures of her all over the house.

  10. September 15, 2013 10:02 pm

    We do the same thing in my family whenever we talk about death — we list off people that are dead and still dead for comparison. For some reason the usual list that we use does not include Franco but does includes Bill Bixby (from The Incredible Hulk TV show) and the Menzer Brothers — a pair of bodybuilders who mysteriously died within days of each other. It’s strange the rituals a family builds up around difficult topics.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      September 17, 2013 11:04 am

      Bill Bixby’s dead???

      • September 17, 2013 8:24 pm

        Bill Bixby died Nov. 21, 1993. I have to remind myself that people in tv shows don’t live forever. Thank you for this post. My cats from the past periodically appear in my dreams. Significant losses of people who matter will always be with me ~ certain times/events still bring tears at the loss of dear friends 28 years/8 years ago.

        • irretrievablybroken permalink*
          September 18, 2013 10:45 am

          The thing about how the dead appear in dreams is completely unsettling.

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