we had been a family of four, on and off, for years: mom, dad, myself, and Gus/Muffy/Maggie and currently, Roxy. we’re a dog family. after Maggie died, while i was in treatment in 2005, we were dog-less for a long time. she had been my dad’s dog through and through, and he was devastated when we lost her. he said he would never get another dog again, that losing them was just too hard.
the week before thanksgiving during my junior year of undergrad, i called home for one reason or another and my mom said, ‘hold on, i have to put somebody on the phone for you!’ and there was a rustle and a snuffle and i said confusedly, ‘…hello?’ and my salutation was returned by none other than a puppy yip.
in probably one of the five spontaneous acts of their lives, my parents had bought a puppy. Roxy the border collie, complete with doggie breath, puppy fluff, and a very skunk-esque look.
when i went home a few days later, it was love at first sight. this was, without a doubt, the sweetest and most lovable dog i had ever encountered. we loved her. everybody loves her. she loves everybody, and demands belly rubs from all. i spent most of thanksgiving break laying on the floor cuddling her.
i called my dad today to say hi and he said, ‘i have to tell you something. i don’t want you to be mad at me.’ immediately i’m thinking, ‘what could be possibly have to say that will make me mad at him?’
‘since mom died…i don’t like being home any more. i want to be out, doing things. i can’t keep the dog. it’s not fair to me and it’s not fair to her. i found a farm upstate that takes in rescue border collies and then gets them adopted.’
now i wouldn’t say that i was mad. i just started sobbing like a goddamn idiot.
we had been a family of four. and then mom died, and we were three. i considered Roxy dad’s trusty sidekick – he brought her everywhere those weeks after the funeral. i thought they were going to keep each other company forever.
but everything is different. what used to be comfortable, like the home he has lived in since 1976, is now a farmhouse full of lonely corners and silent rooms. everything i always thought to be constant is only constantly shifting, tectonic plates sliding and colliding and wreaking havoc on the life above.
in january, my family of four became a family of three. i thought we would adjust, a dynamic duo with the adorable puppy that everybody loved. but here we are, not quite four months since my mom died, and we’re shifting again.
my heart has been broken so many times in such a short time span that i can’t imagine there is very much left but dust.