When The Dust Settles

I washed Har’s favorite blanket for the first time last week.

He had great taste so it’s actually my favorite blanket, as well. It’s the faux fur one that I drape across our couch. It’s also the one that I’d lift up for him so he could crawl underneath, usually with his Sloth toy dangling from his mouth, and then he’d rest his head on my legs and look up at me with his soft brown eyes to say, ‘so what are we gonna do today?’

For a while, the blanket still had his smell on it. Vizslas are known for being OCD self groomers so he was never stinky,(then again I might be a little biased) but it was more like a combination of the warm fur that folded over around his neck, the space between his ears where I’d plant my forehead on his, and his wet little nose that he used to nudge me with if I forgot to pet him for a second. It was all of that plus the smell of our home on that blanket.

That’s what it was, Har smelled like home to me. Until one day when that scent just seemed to go away.

I played Har’s song as Birdie and I drove to the grocery store and for the first time I realized I wasn’t playing it because I wanted to feel sad, I played it because I wanted to feel with him. I didn’t even realize I was doing that until it started to play and I felt myself relax a little and want to say “hi, Har.” Grief continues to surprise me like this. How did the song I used to have to avoid suddenly become the song I sought out because it brought me back to him? I’m doing good, I thought as I started to cry.

There I go again. I still cry a lot for him.

I tell myself it’s okay, there’s a lot going on. I sometimes still think we’re just visiting Denver and we’ll move back to Chicago when ‘things go back to normal.’ I don’t even know what that means because I like Denver and we have no plans to move back. My mind just likes to pretend we do sometimes. I think it’s my little layer of comfort (or delusion) I give myself because when I stop and think about the last two years it’s all just been… a lot. The way we left Chicago so fast, our home there, our people there, then the move to a new city, a new home, new jobs, new people we haven’t even met, new baby, new motherhood, and a new life without Har always by my side. All in the midst of a world in a pandemic and a country constantly yelling at each other to see who can scream the loudest. It takes a toll.

I feel like I’ve dealt with it pretty okay but then I find myself crying in a grocery store parking lot and I wonder, have I dealt with it? And I know it’s not just me, we’ve all had our losses and moves and moments of ‘when things go back to normal…’ only to wonder if. If they will ever go back to normal. I saw the woman parked next to me wiping her eyes before she put her mask on so maybe we’re all just crying in grocery parking lots right now?

So anyway, perhaps that’s why I cry about Har seven months later.

That and because I miss him. I miss him so much.

The other day I walked out of getting my hair done and I started to hustle home because I thought, “I gotta get back and let Har out.” I really thought that Har was at home waiting for me like he always was, at least for half a second I did. Those mind lapses are weird and I can’t decide if I like them or not. On the one hand, they’re rather deceiving, but on the other, it’s so comforting to get that little feeling of the old normal, if only for a breath or two.

Back in the grocery store parking lot, I also wipe my eyes and put on my mask. Then I say “I’m gonna come get you,” to Birdie and she giggles and I giggle as I run around the car because even though I may be a sad dog-mom I’m a happy mom-mom. Grief gives us some gifts I’ve learned, (as cheesy as that fucking sounds) but one of the greatest is that it allows joy to come along with it.

As we’re checking out, the cashier notes that she likes Birdie’s pajamas. “I like the little sloths on there,” she says. They’re actually koalas, but I don’t correct her.


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