My pen ran out of ink as I was writing in my journal this morning. It was a pen I had picked up at a bar more than three years ago. My friend Jim and I had been walking around the city one day and talking about adopting a dog, when we decided to stop for a drink.
His mother’s dog had died the year before, and Jim missed having a dog in his life. The wrinkle was that he could not keep a dog where he lived, so the dog would live at my house.
We sat at the bar and weighed the pros and cons of having a dog. I had concerns about the responsibilities a dog would place on me—having to be home at certain times to feed and walk the dog, taking care of it when it got sick, that kind of thing.
Jim promised to be my backup for the dog—walking her if I needed to be away for too long, taking her to the vet and watching her when I traveled.
He extolled the virtues of pet ownership—good companionship, fun and a new focus for me. He thought this was a logical, rational thing to do; Jim really wanted a dog.
We looked at rescue dogs online for a couple of months, and then one day, Jim spotted one he liked. She was a six-month-old terrier mix, and he said she had a “sparkle” in her eyes. “You can tell that from the picture?” I asked incredulously. Yes, he could.
We did get the dog, and she definitely added sparkle to our lives. Jim named her Detroit. He fell madly in love with her, and she made him very happy.
After Detroit had lived with me for almost two years, Jim got brain cancer and I became his primary care giver. Detroit was his constant companion and source of great comfort during his illness. Nine months after his diagnosis, Jim died.
For several weeks after Jim died, Detroit would go sit in his room, look at his empty bed and then look at me, as if to ask, “Where is he?” She finally adjusted to the fact that he was gone, although she still goes into his room at least once every day.
Looking at that pen this morning, remembering that day in the bar, and all the joys that have come from having Detroit, all made me smile. And then I started to cry.
“This I is how grief looks,” I thought—one moment a happy memory and the next sadness.