This past weekend we spent a couple of nights in Sun Valley, a quick getaway to make it feel like we had a spring break. Normally we go to the red rocks of Utah, where my underbelly fur turns orange, we have long hikes in canyons splashing in the warm creeks and it’s when my friends are finally able to shed their layers of clothes worn for months over the long winter and actually show their skin. But, there is apparently something happening with my lady friend, as vacation time is being hoarded, there are a lot of boxes piling up in the office, she’s getting rounder in her midsection and Utah was off the table this year. Thus, the quick trip instead.
So, the weekend was sunny, cheery and filled with nice walks in the places we always visit when in the area. Covered with massive amounts of snow, the landscape was different than we normally see in the fall or summer. But, as always, given its name, the valley did not disappoint. Though an abbreviated visit, the timing was sort of interesting because, despite their smiles, obvious closeness and really no indication of anything wrong, I felt a bit of a heaviness hanging over both of my friends.
The last time we were in Sun Valley was during Walter’s last hurrah just three or so weeks before he died last fall. That trip was a pain in the ass, frankly. We seemed to let old man Walter out of the car every five minutes during the four hour trip there and back. We spent the weekend carting him around, laying him on blankets next to creeks in the woods, carrying him down to the beach on a beautiful lake, feeding him whatever he wished, hugging him as he panted. She was crying during most of it. We stayed at the same hotel we stayed at this past weekend, and each time we passed through to our larger upstairs room we saw last year’s courtyard room that allowed for easy in and out access. There was a woman vaping outside of what we called “Walter’s room” and we could not help but feel that she made it look sort of trashy and pathetic.
During one morning, I went on a run with my man friend while my lady friend walked far behind. At one point, I found her next to the stream where we had lunch with Walter last fall. It was as if she was torturing herself, tears flowing as she stood there reminiscing, looking at the halfway buried picnic bench where we ate crackers and cheese and Walter panted and begged. She greeted me, completely surprised I showed up at that very moment, and then touched her belly and smiled.
Dogs are loved, but their time on the earth is pretty limited and our friends know it. So, even more heavy, that weekend was the one year anniversary of the death of my man friend’s dad Jack. He always liked me. I visited him in hospice care a few weeks before he died. I think I was only invited because my man friend needed me there. Comic relief? Something to focus on, to pet and hold when they don’t know what the hell to do with their hands, their eyes, their feelings. I was also there for another trip after Jack died, visiting family. Again, I was there so my man friend could laugh at my ignorance about elevators at the hotel, get outside for a minute, talk about my odd actions in a city dog park, feel my nose nudge his hand telling him I needed his petting and, just simply provide distraction.
This weekend, the anniversary wasn’t talked about much besides one moment of my man friend lifting his beer to the sky and saying hello and thanks, all while watching a game on television in the hotel room. This was just after my lady friend spilled popcorn all over the floor, attempting to pour the bag into a wine glass for her version of a “cocktail” and the chaos of my eating every last piece as fast as possible. After the cheers, my lady friend said, “well, beer, popcorn, pregnant wife, dog, the game…I can’t imagine your dad thinking of anything more perfect right now.”
That’s the thing about this past year of loss, coupled with what’s happening now. That’s why they’re smiling, I now realize, despite the sadness that they have endured. It’s not just because they have something to look forward to, that tides have turned. It’s because all of this, all of the life that is coming, the pain of waiting for it to finally happen being washed away, is not in spite of losing them. It’s because of them. How could it not be? We know they have been working behind the scenes in all of this.
Walter left a void of maternal love, constant worry and strong adoration that can more than easily be filled with a bouncing baby. He also provided a complete mental and physical distraction that coincidentally allowed for things to finally happen that very month after his passing. He was also too stubborn not to be number one in her eyes, so really there was no other way. They had to wait until he was gone.
Faced with the concept of becoming a parent, you look back at what you know, what you’ve been taught, and it makes you question how the hell you’re going to do it. Knowing what a good dad Jack was, having gone through a complete and thorough review and reflection of their relationship upon his loss, there is no question my man friend will be a good dad. And, more so, all of it will be in his dad’s honor. This is a continuation of their loving, kind, close and deep relationship, a new dad taking the reigns.
So, as my man friend said after he raised his glass this weekend, “thank you.” We are not sad that they cannot be part of this next phase of our lives, simply because we already know they will be. They have been and will be with us through all of this. We feel it all the time and cannot wait for her to be here.