Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Nineteenth

Today would've been my grandmother's seventy-ninth birthday, which has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with Duncan. But as we walked tonight, thoughts of her heavy in my heart, the stars started creeping out and I remembered that when I was very little and sad over the death of my great grandmother, Grandma took me outside under an evening summer sky where we stood holding hands watching the night slowly come on. "Curty," she said. That's what she–and only she–called me. "When we die God gives us our very own star in the night sky so that we can look down on the world and all the people we love in it, even the people we don't know yet, and offer them light and direction. And in this way they're never really gone from our lives. Do you understand?" I nodded, understanding as much as a four year old could, and asked which star belonged to great grandma, her mother. "Which one do you think?" she asked. I squinted and strained my eyes and picked a very small and not very bright one, thinking that because great grandma had just died her star must be very new and hadn't quite got the hang of being a star yet.

Duncan came into my life the very same year Grandma died, a mere four months after. When he was a puppy and Ken was in Fort Collins I'd watch him play with the cats and explore our home or cuddle up on my lap asleep and wish he'd had the chance to meet her because she was one of the most amazing people in my life. I know we all say that about our loved ones, that they're special, different, but I really believe I had a powerful connection with my grandma. My mother tells me that when I was born, the second grandchild, my grandmother picked me up and we stared intently into each others eyes for a very long time. "Yep," she said. "That's the one," not meaning that I was her favorite (she was the fairest person I've ever known and would never stoop to picking favorites) but that we shared a bond that not even the two of us would be able to explain.

Her death was hard on me. It was very hard on all of my family and even after nearly four years we haven't recovered, which would sorely disappoint her. And there are still times I miss her so ferociously I could drive myself mad if I think about it. But then there's Duncan. Duncan who seems to understand me like no one else. Duncan, who two years ago at Christmas visited Grandma's grave–a place he'd never been–with my sister and me and jumped out of the car, ran straight to her snow-covered headstone and began clearing it off, laying down on it and licking it once he'd finished. Duncan, who when once asked if he knew her sat up, smiled in that way of his and smacked his tail loudly up and down. Duncan, who has comforted me in moments of sadness that still feel fresh. There's Duncan, with whom I have a very powerful, inexplicable connection.

Maybe our loved ones are more than just stars in the night. Maybe they can pick new friends for us, friends who will help fill the void they've left behind and offer some unconditional love in the face of the grief we carry. Or maybe they can do even more than that. Be more.

I once said that it takes a very special person to come back in their next life as a dog. I'm not saying my grandmother has become one, only that she was a very special person. Special indeed. And she's sorely missed.

7 comments:

liz said...

Your post moved me..
I know of the bonds you speak ...both human, and canine.
Nicely done.

Ruth said...

Your love for your grandma makes me very happy.

Kevi said...

Tonight, you'll be able to see her star more clearly. There will be an eclipse.

I wonder if it will gaze intently or wink at you.

muse said...

Curt,
I saw your comment on Bennu's blog about the music.

I love this blog: http://katry.blogspot.com/
It's a music lesson and musical reflection of life's little lessons.

PawHealer said...

I just wrote about a conversation I had with my very loyal ten year old dobie.

I asked him, because he is getting old, to make sure that when he leaves us, he lets me know he's okay.

That night I had a dream, and I think Orbit gave it to me as a gift.

Our dog's are more then special, and you capture the bond with your dog so well...I loved this post.

Lori said...

Don't discount anything. I believe my Ripley will come back to me someday. He'll come as a dog, not a person, especially a baby (as I don't have any interest in those). Have you seen the animation on deankoontz.com about his golden, Trixie, who died of hemangiosarcoma last June??? Go to:
http://www.deankoontz.com/trixie/archive/trixies-shadow.php
or if that link doesn't work choose Trixie, Monthly Columns, and "Trixie's Shadow." I'm referring to the part toward the end about the golden butterfly. Beautiful, and to me a sign of something profound.

Peacock And Paisley said...

I believe in synchronicity. Not just coincidence. The same night that I came across your post about the look in Duncan's eyes reminding you of your grandfather, I also read and commented on a fellow BlogCatalog-er's post:
http://shirleytwofeathers.blogspot.com/2008/08/someone-i-love.html

She's struggling with her beloved dog's recent diagnosis.

I'll send her the link to this post of yours.

When my grandfather passed, my sister and I picked out a star, too. A few days ago, right around the same time I read your post and shirleytwofeather's, my cats woke me up at an unusual-for-us 3am. When I looked out the window, the stars were beaming, streaming, bright and gorgeous, and there was the constellation with my grandfather's star, right in perfect view, center stage. The constellation is one you can't see during the summer here, so it was an intense gift to get my first glimpse of it through their determined efforts. It was great to know that Grandpa knows and that the cats are helping me.

Next time you pet Duncan, say hi to your grandfather for me. :)