The Dog Days of Pain

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These past 48 hours have been horrible. After climbing a peak of nearly okay on Thursday, I fell into the valley of agony, and to climb back up again seems impossible.

Thursday night my daughter came home for the weekend. My son dropped by, and the three of us were together. In a tiny glimpse of what once was, we told stories and laughed. They drank some beer and I had a glass of wine. Okay, maybe two. We were silly. No tears came. No reminiscing of the past until it hurt. Not even a discussion of Peter’s absence in our lives. It was a night of straight goofiness which has always been a trait in our family with or without beer or wine.  We pushed back any discussion on Peter’s ashes ready at the funeral home for pick up.

Friday started out well enough. After wanting one for years (friends and family can attest) I rescued a dog only to return it the next morning because of my extremely uncomfortable allergic reaction. A dog bath and human shower did not change anything. I was allergic to this dog – only the second dog ever, after years of growing up with dogs, and having dogs in my life with Peter.

Returning the dog – and I did rename it, but I can’t write it as it would make it all the worse – was devastating and devastation has ruled my life since my husband died. I wanted, for once, a little sliver, cell-size, bit of happiness. Even a tiny resemblance of normalcy would have fed my soul. I wanted easy after all the hard. I wanted my second decision made without Peter to work, but I failed. Sure, I didn’t know my body would react with hives and welts, but still, well, a failure. I know failing is part of succeeding. I know this because I’m a writer. Yet, the lessons of failing without Peter carry much more unhappiness.

Returning the dog was difficult. In my once normal-life circumstances, it would have still been difficult. Yet in that past-life, I would have had Peter for comfort, or a told-you-so rant (Peter didn’t want another dog), or comfort while he told-me-so.  But I would have had him, and we would have moved on, together.

So,  I didn’t get any size happiness or normalcy or easy or success.  And it crushed me, sent me tumbling backward. I slipped off the foothold of a peak I thought I was climbing, and back down into the valley of melancholy and deep grief.

The elephant I tried to keep out of any room in my brain, picking up Peter’s ashes, ran free. It was Saturday, and I needed to get them.  My stomach knotted so tightly that morning, it squeezed the sobs out of me. Peter’s ashes “coming home” – as someone called it – meant one more reckoning in the finality of his life.  To say it was hard would be too soft.

Maybe, I tried to fast-forward through the inevitability agony of collecting his ashes by getting a dog.  Maybe I thought the dog could be a distraction or ease some of my pain. And maybe the welts and hives were signs from, I don’t know, the Universe, God if He’s still there, telling me there is no way to fast-forward through any of this. The pain has to be felt, not band-aided.

My daughter told me on Friday night when it was obvious I’d have to return the pup, that all we can do, all we are capable of doing right now, is getting through the day. And when we wake up in the morning, we can look back and say, ‘well, at least we made it through yesterday”.  And let me tell you, getting through life torturous day after another, is the hardest journey I have ever been on, reluctant or otherwise.