The End of An Era
The grief hits me in both expected and unexpected ways.
On the first day, it was the hour he died, then the first visit to my parents without him. We have dinner with my parents every Saturday, and Rubin would always race through the door before us, to find the treats my mum would have placed in the kitchen and living room for him to find. (When he stopped doing that, a few weeks ago, we knew things weren’t looking good…) My parents loved Rubin as much as we did: he had his own bed there, and a set of toys, which would be ready and waiting for him every Saturday. Even the empty spot in front of the fire felt like a punch to the gut that day. Then came Monday – the start of the first new week without him. The first time we saw Terry’s mum. The first snowfall that he wasn’t there to jump around in. So many “firsts”.
And now here we are, on the first Friday since he left us: one full week without him.
Every day has been hard. On that first morning, I woke up and lay in bed for a while, constantly thinking, “I really should get up to let the dog out…” and then remembering all over again that, no, actually I didn’t any more. Walking downstairs was the saddest thing in the world: the empty room he used to sleep in, the morning ritual of letting him out, feeding him treats, watching him wag his tail in excitement, because it had been a full eight hours since he’d seen us last… and now knowing that the room will be empty, and that little fluffy tail will never wag again.
Then there are the unexpected things: the ones that really don’t make sense, or have any connection to him. That new skirt I ordered when he was still with us, and which I felt almost guilty for admiring when it arrived, because how could I even think about a new skirt, when my beloved dog is dead? The search for the kitchen floor that he will never pad around on. Hell, even my clothes remind me of him, which puzzled me at first, until I realised that it wasn’t the specific items of clothing that were triggering the memories, but the fact that Rubin’s death feels so much like the end of an era to me: to us both, really. He has been there through almost everything, and as I tidied up my dressing room on Monday morning, so I could take some photos of it, I realised that those clothes are all seeped in memory, too, and they all interlink with my memories of Rubin, of Terry and I, and of all of the things we’ve ever done. They’re all part of that era that ended last Friday, and now every. single. thing. hurts.
How do you deal with the end of an era: and not just any era, but such an important, formative one, into the bargain? I remember feeling like this in the run-up to my birthday last year: it also felt like an end, rather than a beginning, and I think a lot of the anxiety I felt about it (Because, yes, I get incredibly anxious about my birthdays: they always feel like some strange kind of line in the sand to me, and I’ve never wanted to step over it…) was due to the fact that I also knew we were coming to the end of our lives with Rubin. It felt like everything was about to change: that the best days of my life were about to be behind me, and now that it’s happened, I’m left with the feeling that, not just a chapter, but an entire book has closed.
How did 14 years slip by so fast? In dog years, I know Rubin had a very long life, but to me it felt like no time at all, and I’m haunted by the knowledge that I took so much of that time for granted, and that, if I blink again, another 14 years could pass, at the same lightning speed.
At one point last week, Terry told me that, although it doesn’t seem like it right now, one day we’ll start to feel better – to only remember the happy things, and to move on. I know that’s true – that it HAS to be true – but the fact is, I don’t want Rubin to be something we “move on” from, like a bad relationship, or a conversation you’d rather forget. I don’t want him to just be part of our past – to exist only in photographs and memories – but with every day that passes, the part of our lives that he belonged to moves further away from us, and one day it will be something that happened a long time ago. Which seems all kinds of wrong to me right now.
I have a feeling that I probably shouldn’t be writing about this on the internet: that people are probably going to tell me to, “Just be positive!” because that seems to be this generation’s answer to everything now: that if you can just be positive, and pretend everything is A-OK, then it really will be. But right now I don’t feel remotely positive, and I’m not going to pretend I do, just because people these days expect positivity no matter what. Needless to say, I haven’t written a single word in my, “Positivity,” journal since a couple of days before he died, and if I’m honest, it had been a struggle for a long time before that, too, hence this week’s replacement of ‘Three Things Friday,’ with, ‘One Very Depressing Thing, All The Time.’
I know that some would argue (probably correctly) that now, more than ever, is a time to be focusing on the positives, however small, but while I don’t disagree with that, I just can’t bring myself to do it. Writing those posts has felt, for a long time now, like an attempt to whitewash the reality of my life – to essentially lie by omission, as a way of trying to trick myself into thinking everything was fine, when it really wasn’t. Crucially, it didn’t actually help me, either – like, not even in the slightest – so either my brain is broken (likely), or I need to find some other way to pick myself back up when things go wrong.
While I work that out, I’m going to drop the ‘Three Things’ posts – for now, at least – and just go back to writing regular diary entries, which give me the freedom to talk about both the good AND the bad, both of which are part of life. Don’t get me wrong: although I’m still deeply upset about Rubin, I’m basically OK. I will be OK. And I do realise – obviously I do, but I now feel the need to caveat this post, so that people don’t worry about me – that things could be a whole lot worse: I have a very good life, all things considered, and while this last 6 – 7 months has been a struggle in a ton of different ways, I know that things will get better, slowly but surely.