A Letter From the Past

I was organizing some paperwork for a friend when I came across a letter. He has a business and also a recovery house for homeless, drug and alcohol addicted men. The letter was from a mom, thanking him for everything he was doing for her son. “My son was lost, spiraling downward. I would lay awake nights scared I would get a phone call – the police, the hospital – and scared I wouldn’t.” They had tried everything they could think of.

Then, he came to the recovery house. He wanted this program. He wanted the craziness of his life to end. “I’m getting my son back. A miracle is happening.” Then, I saw the signature. I know her son – or knew him. He overdosed last week.

Serially Lost

“I’m home! Can you come out and help me with something?”

I can, but I don’t want to. I’m finally sitting down, letting every muscle let go of on-mode and melt into the couch.

“This will just take a minute.” Ok, I drag myself off the couch and as I open the back door a little lab puppy jumps on me, wagging his tail and wiggling everywhere.

“What the…” I don’t want a puppy. I have a full-time plus job and my husband travels for work so training will be all mine. If only our other dog would take some responsibility here.  But, this is our dance. He brings dogs home and I fall in love with them.

I try to resist, but fat chance. So, I sit on the ground and let him love me.

We name him Buster and I start the training. He is smart – and wily. He knows how to work me and he’s only 12 weeks old. He’s housebroken quickly but ‘come’ and ‘sit’ seem only to be suggestions. Every day I have a new story about something he’s gotten into.

Years later, he is much better behaved but still has a puppy heart. Nothing is boring. If it exists, it must be for his benefit – to smell, eat, hide. He has attached himself to me and follows me everywhere. When I’m cooking, he lays in the middle of the kitchen just in case I drop something. I step over him to get to the refrigerator. He sleeps with us and has to lay across the bed between us. My husband says we look like an ‘H’.

He lives at full speed. There’s always something new to sniff, a squirrel to chase. Then, one day, he just stops. His feet slide out from under him on the tile floor. He walks slowly with his head down. No smiles or tail wagging today. His eyes look sad, or maybe that’s just the reflection of mine. The vet says tumors, nothing can be done.

I cry. And cry. When I see his collar on the table, I cry some more. I hear his nails clicking on the kitchen floor – but he’s not there. The grief subsides. Then, one day, I’m resting on the couch and hear, “I’m home! Can you come out and help me with something?”

A Room With a View

Lately, I’ve been looking at real estate listings, specifically in my old neighborhood. It’s really a small town, a suburb to the city I live in now. I spend many years there, being less than grateful for my surroundings.

We lived in a large house “in town”. Four bedrooms, half an acre with 30 trees. We hired the rowing club from a nearby university to rake the leaves each fall. They would be knee deep by the end of October. There was one tree outside the back door that turned a brilliant gold, so bright that it lit the yard at night. That was convenient since one of our dogs was black and I could never find him in the dark. The location was perfect. I could walk uptown to the coffee shop or to visit friends. The bank was around the corner and the grocery store was a five minute drive. A traffic jam meant I was second in line to pull out onto the main road. It was so quiet I could almost hear the grass growing. Our favorite restaurant was a local place where we knew we would run into friends and neighbors. No one eats alone at that place.

Then, after a series of unfortunate incidences, we sold the house and decided to rent for a year. The rental (in the same town) was a small, three bedroom house on a former estate property. It sat near the river and across the street from a nature preserve. The house didn’t have a lick of insulation, but they let us have our dogs. Deer grazed in the nearby woods, there was a secluded fire pit, and a privacy fence to keep things cozy. We had everything we needed except our sanity and that slowly returned. How could it not in such a peaceful setting.

And then another death in the family. This time, my mother-in-law. I loved her house; it was the perfect size and layout. We were still in our recovery phase financially so buying out my husband’s sisters was a wise move, or so it seemed. But, the house was back in that city I said I would never return to. In fact, it was in my childhood neighborhood. We updated some things indoors and I started gardening. Mom didn’t like the outdoors much so the yard needed some work. I put up my bird feeder and set a chair under the huge oak tree. When it rained, I sat in the sunroom. Then, the sirens started – the house is near a hospital. And the traffic is constant with horns and loud motorcycles. I sit at the end of my street waiting to get out into traffic. A trip to the grocery store is an endurance contest with long lights and backups. “Hey, want to meet for coffee?” now must be scheduled and lunch at the local spot has no familiar faces. One night, on my way home, I stop at the grocery store and the security guard is chasing two young men out the door. I’ve never shopped where a security guard was necessary. What have we gotten ourselves into??

So, I download the real estate app and look longingly at our old stomping grounds. We aren’t in a position to sell and we could be in a much worse place. I build a fire in the fire pit and the crackling almost drowns out the traffic. This house has enabled me to retire and become a freelance writer and editor. My office is in the sunroom, weather permitting. I still love the layout and I’ve found some new friends close by. We have coffee on short notice. Life is good, but if the opportunity to move back arises, I’ll be packing in an instant.