I awoke at 1am on New Year’s Day and was watching flurries – a rarity an hour into January. Looking down from the second floor bedroom, I noticed the snow beginning to collect where I had worked hard to grow raspberries. This year there were so few that none made it into the house. The two of us gathered in silence, our fingers and lips kissing sweetness of September good-bye. Now the brown earth of the garden was leveled, and the canes were bare of fruit and forgetting. My husband slept in our bed, his fingers – a memory of red, his words I recalled were: Here, for you, the last one. And I had taken it, placing the bauble on his tongue…. “What are you doing by the window at this hour?” “Saying hello to the New Year and harvesting the last of the raspberries.”
Because the fields held me, because the scent of long cool grasses never left my clothes, because I knew of a tree that would lean against my back when I was at my weakest, I went that day. There were two shades of blue in the late afternoon – the blue of sky and the blue of knowing. One nurtured until the other could find its way. When you told me you had seen too much, when you said you had lived too long, when your god agreed with you, I couldn’t find rest. But beneath the tree amid weaving buttercups, the wind cried your name for hours, and loss eased. As I stood to walk home, my path was lit by stars floating within night fields. And my sleep that evening became a child’s whose only blue was sky.
Charity took what my brother and I had assembled. And there were the moving boxes for our mother in assisted living that still needed attention. It was curious how my family – the four of us: my father, my mother, my brother and I – weren’t in the family scrapbooks that the two of us packed that day. Instead, smiling back at us were dogs, every dog our family owned from puppyhood to old age since 1972. Scrapbooks of dogs. And it seemed natural that our parents had tenderly compiled these albums. If there was any error, it would have been that there were not enough photos though no more could have filled the pages. With only two days to pack everything, my brother and I stood in the basement recalling anecdotes. On that cold spring day in March after devotion had patiently waited decades to be called by name, the past came running – bounding into the little basement, leaping through the condo, jumping upon bed pillows, prancing just out of reach. With dog hair flying and plush balls squeaking through the years, we finished our task of moving our mother. And not one dog was left behind.
It’s shredded in places, but still a rug, mostly. My love wanted to buy me a new oriental rug. Only, this is where Digby, my rescued sheepdog, used to nap. Digby passed on a year ago, leaving me to the care of humans. Sometimes I crush a worn edge of the rug to my nose so Digby will waken and stiff-legged walk over to me even though he’s gone. He used to help me bake the Cheesy Broccoli Casserole at Thanksgiving. He’d catch the broccoli florets in mid-air. “And you want to take that away from me like it’s so many dusty newspapers?” My lover looks sad for me, making me sad and frightened to hear myself. For the first time, he picks up an edge of the rug and covers his nose with it, inhaling. He replaces the rug gently where Digby liked it and says, “Digby can stay as long as he’ll save some broccoli for us at Thanksgiving.” And for the first time, Aiden, my lover, is a member of my pack, and I’m no longer afraid to hear myself.
How sure of itself – fate, to take you from me. I waited for you as the world forgot what it knew of love. And in all the crowded rooms chilled by the lack of you, my heart still called your name. So many years without you – disguised as a life. Through fallen decades, I hear the timbre of your last good-bye. Still, I listen. Even the jonquils are waiting in darkness for dawn. And morning will come. Tell me morning will come.