Grief, my old friend


It all started with trying to tidy the house. I was collecting the clutter, sweeping the kitchen, recycling magazines and junk mail. My camera was still sitting out from a photo outing weeks ago. I carried it upstairs and recognized that I shouldn’t put it in the same closet. I would put it in the closet of the master bedroom instead. I stepped inside and surveyed the scene. I haven’t worn a lot of these clothes in awhile. There’s a clothing exchange coming up. I pull a few things down and fold them up.

The spare comforter takes up a lot of space. I decide to take that downstairs. I go to the other closet and grab the bath towels. Back to the big closet. I rearranged them in a tote. I have too many towels for a single person. I should bring one to work, just in case, you know.

I work through both closets going back and forth. There isn’t much time left before I have to go to work. I make a pile to donate, a box for the clothing exchange, things that can go down to the basement and even a very small pile to throw away. Then I reach up and pull down a basket, still full of Dieter’s toys just the way he left them. Unchanged with the move from the apartment to the house. Stowed safely as if he’ll come back for them…one day. I don’t know what to do with them. I can’t throw them away. Very slowly I put them back up on the shelf.

I abandon the room for the other closet. I’m faced with a kennel. I haven’t really looked at it in months. In the back of my mind, I had planned to use it for Bukowski when we go to the V-E-T. It’ll be the Escalade of cat carriers, I figured. But now I’m looking at it. The kennel. It needs to be cleaned, but it’s a time capsule of more toys, bowls, winter coats and shirts.

When I was expecting Bukowski, I took two of the dog beds and was going to wash them for reuse. I got to the basement with them and stood there in front of the washing machine, a vice-like grip on fleece fabric and poly fluff. At one point, I put them in the machine and arranged them. Then I took them out again. A silent inner battle within myself. I ended up stashing them on a shelf and they’ve sat there for another year and a half. I feel the same torn indecision as I peer into the depths of the kennel. Things that need to be washed and ripped up, well-loved toys. I know I should sort them and toss the whole lot into the washer before I can think to deeply on it. I should be done with it. It’s been two and half years at least. It should have been done by now.

I don’t know when or if I’ll have a dog again. These jackets and shirts could be put to good use by somebody, but I can’t part with them. I can’t even wash them! Under my bathroom sink, I still have dog grooming sprays. In the medicine cabinet there’s still canine toothpaste. These are all things I moved from another home and put back where they were stored before, mirroring the apartment. I should donate these things or toss them, but the big, gaping hole in my chest clenches into a knot at the thought.

I gently set the kennel aside for later and silently tell myself that I’ve accomplished quite a bit in the last hour before I head out to work. I try to give myself a little pat on the back, but there’s still a whiff of failure in the air. The hovering grief that never seems to linger too far away.


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