Today I took the boys for their first walk in the woods. I’ve been avoiding the meandering paths behind our house because of all of the lingering ice and snow. As we traipsed along I couldn’t help but think of the many walks Dave and I took and all of the talks that we had along the way. This was probably our biggest time to connect in the day to day. We discussed things big and small and, towards the end, things scary and heartbreaking.
It was so strange to be walking by myself with two different dogs tagging along. But it was also peaceful. Amazingly, somehow life really does go on.
I did have one funny memory pop into my head. Dave read somewhere that bassets smell like corn chips. So one day, while I was at the grocery, I grabbed and bag and texted him “Let’s test out that theory!”
Basset hounds do not smell like corn chips.
We picked up Gunner and Rufus Saturday night in Morgantown, WV. It was a somewhat stressful drive through the mountains with the frigid temps, gusting winds, and blowing snow. I kept thinking that it would not be a good place to have car trouble! The boys’ personalities definitely came out during the three hour drive home. Gunner slept happily in the back seat leaning against Parker. Rufus alternated between sitting on Grant’s lap in the front seat and trying to help me drive. At one point I was wearing him like a seatbelt with his head on my shoulder and his body draped across mine. Somehow he managed to honk the horn and turn on the hazard lights.
They have settled in really nicely, and I feel very lucky to have found them. I think we needed them almost as much as they needed us. I haven’t had to leave them to go to work yet, but they have been behaving themselves so far. We’ve had a trip to PetSmart where they were more than happy to stop for pats and admiration from adoring fans. Sunday night, Mom and Dad came over for dinner and Rufus made himself comfortable in Dad’s lap and promptly fell asleep. We’ve had many walks around the neighborhood where they have met some of the local residents. Rufus likes to say hello and voices his displeasure if someone ignores him and walks ahead without a greeting.
So far so good. The only big quirk so far is that Gunner is afraid of the steps. He is okay going up them, but he refuses to come back down. So my upper body workout is to carry him! Needless to say I’ve ordered a gate for the stairs. As you will see in these pictures they have made themselves comfortable on the couches and beds although they spend an equal amount of time in their doggy beds too. I made the “no dogs on the furniture rule” when we got Winnie but unfortunately my children couldn’t seem to abide by it. This time I didn’t bother to try. (Note to visitors – maybe don’t wear dark/black pants.)
We are having a great time. They have already brought so much love and joy into our home. I am so thankful to BROOD and the volunteers who helped bring us together – especially to Candace their foster. She also drove over three hours to meet up with us and obviously loves them and took such great care of them. Another volunteer, Cimba, sent along framed pictures and a photo album to celebrate our adoption day. Amazing. Right dogs, right situation.
Dave, I feel you smiling at me.
Our family has always been a little nutty over dogs. We’ve been known to slow down as we drive by someone out walking their pup so we can get a better look. There must be a genetic component because Dave and I shared a passion for animals and so do all three kids. Within months of Dave dying, we had to say goodbye to our Winnie who died from mast cell disease at just over two years old. Less than a year later we said goodbye to “the old guy” Cupcake. This was pretty much soul crushing and had me wondering and questioning how much more the kids and I could bear. Insult to injury times two, you know?
In my heart, I knew that we would get another dog. I told the kids we would aim for the spring when Sam was home from school and that would give us all summer to train and bond with a new dog. But a week or so ago, just for the heck of it, I checked in on the BROOD (Basset Rescue of the Old Dominion) website. There were Gunner and Rufus, a bonded pair of bassets, needing a home. Tomorrow they will become part of our family. And I have a feeling these rescued dogs will rescue us right back.
I had an epiphany the other morning. It happened, as these things tend to do, while I was doing something unrelated. Over the last 18+ months, I have shared anything and everything the kids have been up to with Dave’s family. I thought that I was doing it as a way to keep the kids connected to their “Tremaine” side. I realized in that moment that what I was really doing was expecting his family to fill the giant void that he left behind. I wanted them to react and respond like he would have. Not only is that unrealistic, it is incredibly unfair. How could they?
I think there are different stages to loss. Not the whole anger, denial, acceptance thing. This is different. At the beginning, I think that I was more focused on the physical loss. Dave’s presence. His touch, his 6’5” frame on his side of the bed, at the dinner table. I would be out and catch a glimpse of someone and do a double take convinced in that moment that it was him. Over time, logic and reason took over and I have learned that I won’t see him or touch him again.
The next stage, for me, has been missing the emotional support. What he would say. What he might think. And perhaps, as a sign of my own growth, I have come to realize that I can’t expect those things to come from others. I can take the many things that I learned from him and use them in any way I can. Not because it is what Dave would want or say, although I do want to honor him, but because I believe it is necessary. Over 20 years of marriage, we learned a lot from each other. I can take those lessons and be a better person. For myself and for the kids.
Growing up is no easy task, my friends.
At least once a week one of us says, “Can you imagine how much Dad would have loved…” We will be mid-experience and have the bittersweet moment of realizing what he is missing and how much he would have enjoyed it. How excited he would have been about-
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens
- Grant keeping it old school and blasting his new Van Halen record on his new record player
- Parker and Grant dominating all the roller coasters and thrill rides at Disney and Universal – actually the whole Christmas trip
- Hayfield swimming against South Lakes for the first time. He would have been wearing orange from head to toe but cheering loudest for Grant.
- The 28″ of snow that landed on our house and kept us out of school for 11 days.
- Grant’s Christopher Lloyd sighting at the Reston Town Center Back to the Future Film Festival
- Most recently Sam landing a paid internship with an evolutionary biologist for the summer.
Nothing made him happier than seeing his family happy and successful especially when those experiences also intersected with his passions and interests. He would have been over the moon to live these moments with us. I think we all enjoy them a little extra knowing how he would have been grinning from ear to ear and fist pumping and thumbs upping. There is no one like him.