Still Riot

dakotasleepingIt’s been almost five years since I lost a dog I loved. It was the summer of 2011 and Santo and Eddie went within a month of each other. Though it didn’t make it any easier, we knew it was time for Santo. But with Eddie, we were both shocked. It hadn’t even been a full year since Chase and I had broken up when they both passed. We buried their bodies next to each other at the edge of the woods where we all had lived together for eleven years. It felt like everything I loved died that year and the grief was relentless.

When I woke up in the middle of the night last night, I was startled into consciousness by some combination of the lingering hyper-vigilance that set in when Dakota got so sick, and then, the realization that he is gone. The hole that he left in the fabric of space is much larger than what his 75-pound body occupied, and for a moment, in my panic last night, I felt crushed by the weight of it.

When I woke again this morning, still heavy with sadness, I texted Chase, “How did we get through it when we lost the dogs?” I couldn’t remember, even though she and I had loved and lost so many in our fifteen years together. But then I remembered. We just let ourselves be crushed. And we were. I was crushed by our divorce, even though I had chosen it. I was crushed by all the things I wished I had done differently, all the ways I felt I failed her and failed myself. All the ways I felt I failed the dogs. I walked like a ghost through my life for more than a year. But, somehow, she and I saw each other every Sunday. We gardened together when it was warm. She adopted two dogs and we all took long walks together, even on the cold, snowy Sundays of winter. We played Scrabble and drank wine. We cried. We hashed through blame, guilt, anger and shame. We forgave each other. We forgave ourselves. We told lots of stories about the dogs. And they lived in our hearts. When Dakota died yesterday, she was the first person I called because I knew, more than anyone else, she would understand.

Today, I forced myself out of the house and drove to my favorite beach, but all I could feel was the gaping hole and not even the ocean could fill it. So it is that each loss touches every loss that ever was. For someone who considers herself a person who knows how to “do grief,” I found myself scrolling further back through the years, again trying to remember how to lose what you know and who you love. I landed in August 1996. Maeve and I had ended our seven-year relationship, sold our house, and stopped speaking. I had just left a career as a social worker and enrolled full-time in the MBA program at the university. It was the first day of classes and I was horrified–not by going back to school, but by being inculcated in a culture that held monetary profit above all. Horrified I would sell out, too, I scurried to the quad after class to hang out with the socialists who always gathered there. I made a donation to the cause and picked up a copy of the latest Socialist Worker news. Then I walked to the record store and bought a copy of Ferron’s latest CD. You probably don’t know who Ferron is unless you considered yourself a lesbian in the 80s or were way into folk music, but Rolling Stone magazine compared her favorably to both Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. And so it was that Still Riot saw me through a year of loss.

I drove home to Goose and Max and Dakota’s absence and cried. We sat in the afternoon sun, everything and nothing the same. We keep loving, that’s how we lose. We just keep loving.

You gotta go for fire
You gotta go for what you know so well
You gotta go for why you came this way
and live your story cell to cell to cell

If we’re in everything we think, and everything we do
Then I’m in you and you’re in me,
and only Nothing is as true

There is a way through constant sorrow
There is a way through constant sorrow
There is a way through constant sorrow

~Ferron, from “Still Riot”


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