We had to have it, one of those difficult conversations in life. I had to tell Barkley he wasn’t the center of my world. I’m still not sure how he took it, but here’s how it went down.
We were out on my screened in porch, the place I sit with my morning tea, and afternoon wine or water depending on my mood. Barkley sits on his spot, the yellow poof and I on mine, the rocking, rod iron chair that faces the street giving me my best Mrs. Kravitz view of the neighborhood. It was before dinner on a day of Barkley following me everywhere from my writing room – aka study – the living room, the garage, even the bathroom. I took a deep breath and began.
Me: Barkley, I love you, but you have to be a bit more independent of me. You can’t be so clingy. I know. I know. I get it. When I first got you, a recent widow with an empty house and the restrictions of COVID, I relished you velcroing yourself to my side. It helped my loneliness, and yes, fed my ego. I faced an empty house, suddenly emptied out by the death of my partner of thirty plus years, the man I told everything to, especially at the end of the day. He and I were supposed to live our emptied nest life together.
Barkley a dance on the poof to find a cozy spot.
Me: And yeah, when he died, I didn’t like the echoes of silence I heard. The noise of your nails against the wood or on the tiles drowned out the deafening hush. When we moved to the new home, the one without the memories of him, I liked the familiarity from the sounds of you as they blended with the newness of the creaks of the house mixed with the outside noise. So, I suppose I enabled you. But now, my love, I am asking for some space.
Barkley looks at me and then away from me, outside to the passing car.
Me: Don’t be like that. It’s not like I’m asking you to never be with me. Of course, I need you. I needed you from the moment I met you. Remember how I told you I didn’t rescue you, rather you rescued me? I was told you were a stray. You had to have lived somewhere once though because you had a house dog manner. Yet, for a while you lived on the streets. In a way, you and I both had similar experiences. We were both shoved out into a world we knew nothing about. Maybe that’s why we clicked. And don’t get me wrong. You filled in a small part of the emptiness I felt when Peter died. Of course not all of it. That would be impossible. You also took up some spaces the kids left when they went out on their own. My house, my life really, had so much less until you go here.
Barkley stares at me and lifts his lip the way he does sometimes, like a bad Elvis impersonator.
Me: It makes me smile too. Thank you. I mean that. Thank you. Thank you for everything. I am growing stronger now. I am moving past more of my loneliness and my missing him. Oh sure, those moments will still creep up, especially on weekends, holidays, couple outings, proud moments about the kids. They’ll always sneak up on me and hit me so hard I am left breathless. They wouldn’t if I didn’t love him so hard. But I did and so pain is sometimes the payment for that kind of love. It’s okay though because I did love him that way and how lucky was I? Am I?
Barkley curls up on the poof.
Me: Yeah, there was comfort in loving him. But he’s gone now and I have to change. And I am changing. Widowhood has given me lessons in change and independence. I am learning I can be the person I might miss. I can love all I give myself and have my own certain comfort. It’s funny because I think Peter always had that in himself. He was a quiet man, a content man, a man who loved his solitude. Ironic I am the survivor and have to figure it out for myself now. But I am, figuring it out
Barkley jumps off the poof and runs to the screen to bark at a passing dog. He felt the dog before I saw him.
Me: Barkley, enough barking. I’m almost done. So, what I am trying to say is I think it would be healthy if, I don’t know, you respect my time in the bathroom. You don’t jump up on the chair as I write. Maybe give me a day per week where I sleep alone. Maybe? It might help you too. We both have been settled now, no longer strays. We’re both more confident, I think, and I feel though we can come up with a balance, for both of us. What do you say?
Barkley puts his front paws on my knees and stretches from the ground.
Me: Good. I’m glad we had this talk. Now, who wants to go with me to fill up the car? Then maybe take a nap together?
Barkley tilts his head to the left.
Me: I know. I know. Let’s do baby steps to get there.
Barkley runs to the garage and sits and waits.