A week ago yesterday I made the hard choice to euthanize two of my fur-babies. A few years ago, the oldest dog started showing signs of a spinal injury or neurological damage. We did anti-inflammatories and acupuncture and Reiki and massage, but it only ever helped a little. Last summer the second doggie–the best, prettiest, most loyal dog ever–had an acute onset of something strangely similar. We don’t know if they had the same thing or what. It doesn’t matter. There came a point when we had to realize that we were holding on out of our own desires and that the most humane thing to do was dig a hole and call the vet. So, Sunday night I pulled out an unused cloth painter’s tarp and Sharpies and set up a table in the living room. I told the kids to write their messages and leave farewell items on the table. We would wrap our boys in the shroud and bury them together. I cooked up some hamburger and bought an extra loaf of bread and some bacon-strips and made a dog feast. We sat in the floor and watched Sunday-night TV for the last time together. I wouldn’t trade that.
Monday went as Monday went. It was over before 3:00. The hubby came home from work early to meet the vet in the driveway, the kids were with them until it was over, I assisted the vet as best I could. You see, I’m the one you want in a crisis. In the moment? Yup. That’s me. A few days later, however, I am apt to fall apart over an unmowed lawn or broken tea-kettle. If you’re not paying attention, you might think I was really upset about recycling. But in the thick of it, I’m rock-solid.
Then my momma called. I had expected to mourn my dogs in my idiomatic slow-burn, but the news that we also lost a human family member doused my smoldering sorrow with kerosene.
Having spent the weekend at a family funeral, you’d think I’d be exhausted from grief and travel. But I feel pretty renewed. I don’t mean to make light of the tragedy of having lost a relative (unexpectedly and way too soon), but I know a few things about him that make me think he’d be OK with my saying so. You see, family and laughter were his favorites. Maudlin mulling about? Not so much. And he loved the water.
I’d been hankering for water lately. I kept saying that I needed to get myself near some water. It was a craving I had never experienced so intensely before. I was planning a trip to Daphne to see the pseudo-grand-behbeh but was having a hard time arranging it all. I also wanted to make the semi-regular pilgrimage to the ancestral grounds, cemetery, and cave. I feel best in a cave. But I really don’t like to go to North Alabama. It’s-just-weird. (It might seem contradictory to those of you not from The South. The northern part of the state is a totally different place than the south of the state. Proximity to the mountains is everything.) I wanted to go to the ocean or the Gulf. I wanted to sleep with that particular rush of white noise only an outgoing tide can make. And if I have to go to North Alabama, I’m more inclined to go to Colbert and Franklin Counties in the west, where my parents live.
So, when we found we had to go to the foot of Appalachia, I thought I’d be “making the best of it.” The hubby booked a room at the bend of Lake Guntersville (I still say “Gunnersville“) and soothed the hurt as best he could. Tightly knit-up in the old family range of Marshall and Madison (and almost-Jackson) counties, I felt a levee that had dammed up a year’s worth of stagnant residue give way. Not like a rush of putrid contamination into a pond, but like a scanty blight that is slowly but steadily washed away with the tide.
Last summer I told you that I found my fire on the open sea. This summer I just may have found my earthly footing on a lake just off Sand Mountain. I stood grounded at Pisgah Cemetary and hiked and healed in the belly of the earth. Now, you might read this and think, “That’s an oddly profound reaction to losing a relative you haven’t seen in eight years.” But that’s not it at all. This was just the proverbial straw that made the camel say, “Enough, I cain’t carry n’more.” And for once I see a broken back as liberating. The gravity which pulled all the “trappings” I was carrying around on others’ behalf left me free to raise my arms unburdened.
Among the things I let fall away were concerns about my immediate family’s reaction to my religion. Mom is cool with it, Dad doesn’t ask questions. But I still have siblings. And regarding my closest relatives? I garnered some very empowering insights. You see, it’s like this. My extended family? I get them. I fit in with them. My immediate family? I have always felt alien. And there was always guilt about the incongruity of honoring my ancestors but not really speaking to my siblings. This time around? It felt good to be “unlike.” This time around I understand that it’s they that built the walls between us, I simply respect those boundaries. I realize that, in trying to bridge the differences between us instead of simply recognizing the integral incompatibilities between us, I was creating unnecessary friction. I’m starting to realize it’s OK not to talk to my family of origin if the talking leads only to hurt. As long as I remain accessible for reunion, all I can do is wait for them to be ready. And in the meantime—love them just the same.
And guilt is a useless emotion.
I also let some rigidity about my belief-system fall away. I felt a certain obligation to the path I had chosen. But I forgot that the path I had chosen was one of continuing revelation. Duh. Learn some and evolve, learn some and evolve. This is my mantra.
I let my resistance to North Alabama fall away too. As much as I chanted, “I do not want to live in North Alabama, please gods don’t send me to North Alabama,” I forgot that the universe does not like a vacuum and that it fills those negatives with affirmatives. I might as well have been begging to be drop-shipped to North Alabama. I still prefer to stay put or go south to the water, but I’ve stopped beating that drum.
And in letting these things go, I’ve made room for new things. Who knows, maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and maybe I’ll fill that newly vacated space with something equally problematic as what I’ve learned to let go. But maybe not. Maybe with help of the spirits of the lake and the cave, I’ll gather some better apples.
As ever, I’ll let you know.
G’night Robert. I’ll see you later.
I’ll get back to talking about witchy-er things soon. But now, these are the seemingly mundane places where I am finding the most magic.
Waes thu hael,
 If it ever comes down to it, I recommend you act in that order.I promise. You do not want to dig a three foot hole while grieving at that level.
 I told Momma that I wasn’t sure if I was crying for my dogs or my cousin. Likely both.
 And will still go.
 We could have driven up and back without staying over, but there was more to do than just attend a funeral.
 And learned about “Primitive Baptists.”
 And one of you in particular might say that’s “insane” or “egotistical.” But that’s OK. Your words tend to have more to do with you than with me.
 Speaking of drums, I found a bodhrán that went missing about a year ago.