My daughter came for a visit this weekend. She lives five hours away. I actually made the bold proclamation I was going to visit her. My anxiety told me, not just yet. She kind of knew she would be the one visiting me. She told my son as much. I’ve barely gotten out of my house since Peter died. I’ve gone to work, shopped for furniture, went to the grocery stores, met friends for lunch and once, gasp, I even went on the expressway. But I haven’t really ventured out. Not like I used to. Not like I did BPD (Before Peter’s Death.) So, my daughter came to me…with LL Cool Dog.
LL Cool Dog is my daughter’s dog. I affectionally call her my grandbitch. LL Cool Dog is not her real name. It’s one I gave in jest on a Facebook post and now continue to call her that, in speech and written word. If I call her LL Cool Dog to her face/snout, she wouldn’t respond. Her “real” name is Lily. Lily is pretty, just not hip or clever and the pup is both. So, anyway, LL Cool Dog came and like any grandma, she brightened my weekend, as did my daughter, of course. Only, our times together lately have been different. I suppose they go the way of everything different since Peter died.
My daughter and I spent a lot of time talking about the thing hanging over us, in us, and between us like humidity on an August day in Chicago – Peter. He was in almost every conversation we had together. We talked about how Peter’s death affected our anxiety. our fears and our happiness or lack thereof. We talked about our moments of “oh, right, he’s not here anymore”, or telling stories with a “he would have liked…” in them. We got angry on the suddenness of his death that didn’t allow for a final good-bye. We discussed our self-care methods and our struggles to move at times because grief paralyzed us for a moment, an hour, a day. We compared our suffering – not in a competitive sort of way, but with a real effort to understand the other. And then we mourned, hard, long and in agony, we mourned.
Peter also crept into our visit this time in nonverbal ways. This weekend, he was part of the decisions we made – the shows we watched, books we read, future plans we daydreamed about, and even in our frustration in the incomplete home projects. Peter’s death was evident in the overgrown garden my daughter has not seen for some time, the new furniture she saw for the first time and the little changes I made in the house. Since she is five hours away, anything different or new to her was a hard change, because the different and new since Peter’s death serve as reminders her dad will never be with her again.
My daughter and I have always been close. We text or talk every day. We know the other so well. There is comfort in our silence and in our tirades. I love her as much as her brother, yet the bond between us is different. Not stronger, not weaker, just different. And she reminds me of Peter. Despite having my extravert qualities, and okay, the love for gab, she is a calm, quiet reflector, a hold-it-together for everyone else person like her father. And maybe therein lies the reason for our different bond. My daughter actually summed up our relationship well this visit – she’s not my soul sister, rather, she’s from my soul.
When Peter died, I encouraged my daughter to go back to her life five hours away and to her dream job. She just moved there in February. Peter’s death should not drag her back here. She’s too young to stop her climb in life. Besides, Peter was so proud of her, of her move, of the pursuit of her dream. He definitely would not want her back here. Like me, he would have wanted her to continue her stride, in a town five miles away. Plus, she has LL Cool Dog.
LL Cool Dog has been my daughter’s saving grace through all of this. She is the purpose for my daughter to move when grief wants to stop her. LL gives her comfort and peace. She instinctively knows when my daughter needs loving, or protection, or encouragement, or all of the above. LL Cool Dog was with us at Peter’s Memorial Service. The funeral director was more than okay with it. Peter, with his dog-whispering ways, would have approved. And LL Cool Dog had to be there because she is part of my daughter.
I worry about my children. I worry about their healing process, their sorrow, their paths without their father and, mostly, about their pain. My mother told me once after my daughter was born, I would feel as happy or as sad as my child. She told me there was no greater pain than seeing your child in pain. (My mother had seven of us so I’m thinking she knew what she was talking about.) Since Peter’s death, my children are in the midst of their worse pain to date and my pain is deeper. Not because of being Peter’s spouse or because I loved him more. No, my pain is deeper because my children are hurting.
Eventually, because she is part of a strong family unit with strong resolve, my daughter will learn to move with the pain, and then without as much pain. I know the pain will always be there, but perhaps it will not take up so much of our discussions, our decisions, our lives. Her’s will still be a life without a father, without Peter, someone she loved, admired and cherished. Her rhythms will be offbeat at times. Yet, she will learn to move with them, perhaps even dance to them, in awkwardness. I know this because she is tough and determined and aware, and trying to feel her feels in order to move. And, of course, she does have LL Cool Dog to help her on life’s dance floor.