Mike walked from room to room, first looking for the cats who treated him with such disdain that he always felt the need to forgive them for their misguided slander of his character. He thought he could sense them today by their scent, so many, so much, but no one came out to confront him this time. This confused him, but he kept the confidence that he would soon enough see a pair of eyes shining from beneath the big chair by the fireplace.
But look – the chair is gone. Or at least not where he expected it to be. Everything was different now. The smells, the voices and people, even the very air of this home, had been a comfort in their continuity. He could always count on things being unchanged and he wasn’t sure what this newness meant.
And with this clutter of different sounds and displaced furniture, Mike struggled now to catch her scent. He knew where she should be, but even so, if she were in a different room, he would find her easy enough. But the familiar essence of her was so faint now, just the undertones reaching his nose, that he had to accept she was no longer here and hadn’t been for a long time. His confusion shifted to an uneasiness that he didn’t totally understand.
He was her favorite, he knew that. That’s why he loved her so much. That, and a hundred other reasons he kept in his heart. She would laugh and say his name was stupid, his real name was Micron, but she didn’t mean it a mocking way. Not really. And he never understood why he couldn’t lie next to her on the bed like she asked. He could fit if she’d just scootch over some. Sitting next to her while she stroked that smooth valley between his eyes was almost just as good, though, and he could be just fine with that.
He remembered there was a time when he saw her in a different room, another place. He knew she was weak because she reached out her hand, there was no energy coming from her touch. He tried sharing his own energy with her and to lick her hand, thinking that was he had to offer. She said his name out loud, his real name this time, and it was the only word she spoke.
Is that where she is today, that other place? He wondered this as he and his partner entered the Room so well known to him, then he picked up the bad energy. His partner was sad, he could always read her so well, and so he also felt her anger at the edge of it. The bad energy wasn’t about him, he was being such a good dog, she said so. He thought it might be about the Room and the furniture and the missing smells. He tried to absorb the anxiety as his partner rested her hand on his head, the two of them standing in the center of this space with nothing where it should be.
He didn’t know this would be the last time he would visit this house and that he would not again feel the touch that gave him joy. Even if he did understand, he wouldn’t do anything different. Because that’s the thing about him. He can’t be anything other than who he is. He would still hope to catch her scent, to lick her hand. And as he did with every visit, he would try to change the cats’ minds about him.
His partner holds his leash as they leave the house. She has something and he wants to carry it for her, but she told him no and he knows by her mood not to ask again. Whatever it is, it smells like the house and the scent stays strong in his memory. He’ll not forget it.
The passing of a beloved family member is heartbreak that never heals back quite right. It’s something new we carry as we continue our lives with this forever change. And in defiance of the careful planning of trusts and wills – events can take a turn that rock even the strongest of us. My husband and I found ourselves in the unenviable position of having to purchase family mementos from the estate. Family photos, many from the 19th century, were set out for sale to anyone and everyone. So, when I went to the estate sale to buy back the heritage that already belongs to us – photo albums, letters, and the WWII Blue Star Mother scrapbook – I brought Micron with me for this one last walk through of Jay and Jean’s home.
I wondered what Mike’s thoughts were with this new experience. I think I may have this pretty close.