The Losses I Keep

August 23, 2010

Rough day for me today.

I stayed at work a little later than I had planned, so I had to hustle to get to the hospital before visiting hours were over. My friend’s father had to have surgery to remove infections from both of his artificial knees. His son (my friend) lives in Georgia, so I went to visit Papa today as his “other” son, whom I’ve been for most of my life, anyway.

Like any normal person, I really dislike hospitals (does anybody “like” them?), so I was already pretty blue just walking out of my office towards the uptown train.

In case you aren’t from the northeast, it was a miserable rainy day in New York City today. My ten-minute walk to Grand Central took me right by an office I used to work at a few years back. Even in urban settings, geography can evoke some pretty heavy emotional weight. And this particular rainy neighborhood reminded me of a girl I used to work with. A girl who was very special to me. A girl whose heart I may or may not have broken somewhere along the way.

I’m sure I was a pathetic sight. But, my unhappy destination, my melancholy memories, and my lack of an umbrella made me feel even worse than I looked. I got on and off the train with equal apathy, and I only brightened myself up for the 25-minute hospital visit. My train and bus rides home did nothing to shake the gloom of greyness that was pretty much my whole day today.

This is slightly embarrassing, but I always know August 23rd will be a rough day for me, because that’s the day my dog died three years ago. I knew it when I went to bed last night, when I woke up this morning, and it stayed with me all day long.

For the last two years, I’ve made it a point to re-read two blog posts my brother and I had written the day Indy died. They were totally unsolicited and totally coincidental: I typed mine at my former desk in my former office (the one I walked past this evening), and my brother wrote his while on vacation in Hawaii, totally unaware that our dog had died that morning.

Each year, I read both his and mine, knowing that I’ll hate it, knowing that I’ll bawl my eyes out, knowing that it’ll hurt just as bad as it did three years ago. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment, but that’s kinda the point.

It’s one thing to say that you miss somebody, or to say that you miss something. It’s another thing entirely to reopen the wound and let the pain feel as fresh and new as it did way back when. I’m glad that I still feel the pain of losing my dog. I read what my brother wrote, and I just lost it. It took me ten minutes to read through my own because I couldn’t read through the tears. I’m glad that I can’t walk by my old office where she and I once worked together without it breaking my own heart (she took me to lunch the day Indy died, and again the following year, because she remembered the date).

As long as I can still feel the pain of losing my dog, or the pain of losing my friend, then they are still with me in a way.

If I forget the mistakes I’ve made that cost me my friend, I’ll only lose more friends in the future. By keeping that pain close to the surface, by acknowledging the losses I keep, I’m sure not to repeat those mistakes.

As for the dog? I hope to be crying over that goofy mutt for the rest of my life.

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  • Thanks for this piece, Danny. Hopefully now, all the skeptical women who read your last article will realize that, hey, you do have feelings! 😉

  • OMG Danny! Your article almost made me start bawling my eyes out again! (and truth be told, it probably will later on tonight before I go to bed and my brain isn’t so cluttered with statistics).

    I actually have to drive back home this weekend to put my dog down. :'( She’s 15 (would’ve been 16 in November) but has just gotten to the point that her quality of life isn’t worth it unless we pump her full of steroids which will only damage her already fragile liver and kidneys.

    I know some people may find it odd that losing her gets me so upset (see, I’ve already started crying just typing this out), but I’ve had her since I was 8. She’s seen me through all of my past relationships, puberty, the hell of jr high and high school. She kept me company when I was living with a total jerk and needed to be comforted while he was out in Vegas whoring it up behind my back. But, I like to think that it just shows how much I care about things and I know that like you, I will probably keep the anniversary of her death close to me and spend a moment or 12 every year on that day to remember her. 🙁

  • Monsieur Dong is right… I felt a pang of sympathy for a man I thought had a hear made of stone… it was nice.

    And you are quite correct sir. There are some hurts that should never leave, and some that won’t no matter how hard you try. And there’s a difference in the two.

    My best friend died when I was 16, and it almost killed me. I remember him every year, and every time I turn around. I have a tattoo with his birthdate and date of death on my back. He reminds me that there are no guarantees in this life, and that life’s too short to not try for everything you want.

    However, following the year he died… 6 other of my peers followed suit. While none of them meant as much to me as he did, his memories always bring up theirs as well.

    I would also like to request that in the future, you refrain from the dead-dog posts for at least six months after I adopt a freaking puppy!!!!! I almost cried when he just looked at me with his little pitiful puppy face.

  • Thank you for this. I have experienced eerily simliar losses.

    I bought this little Maltese puppy for my girlfriend a couple years ago. We named him Sam. I did not imagine I would become attached to the little guy. I always kind of thought that toy breeds were annoying, but I could not have been more wrong. He exhibited all the traits that make dogs great: He was loyal, protective, and a good companion.

    When Sam was barely two years old he became very ill. He was diagnosed with some kind of neourological disorder. My girlfriend and I broke the bank trying to save him, but ultimately we had to put him down. We cried. A lot. He was only in our lives a short while, but we miss him very much.

    Losing Sam was gut-wrenching.

    I’m also compelled to tell you of another loss: her name was Heather. Heather was my college sweetheart. She was not the prettiest girl, but she was the most beautiful person I have ever known. She was intelligent, selfless, and best of all, she loved me with all her heart. Her love was unlike any I have ever known before or since. She understood me in a way nobody else did, and she loved me for it. I could go on, but suffice it to say she was the best friend I have ever had.

    The tragic thing about losing Heather is that it was my fault. Maybe I could blame God, or some other power beyond my control for losing Sam, but for losing Heather I had only myself to blame. I broke her heart, and the tragic irony is, that I would come to realize later that I had broken my own heart too. To this day I live with guilt and regret over what I did to her, as well as a profound sense of loss. I secretly think about her often, and I wish her all the best.

    I cannot get Sam back. I have thought of trying to get Heather back, but it has been years now, and I have a new girlfriend who is wonderful, and she is quite frankly better off without me.

    The thing is your beautifully written words really struck a chord with me. It has given me some clarity. These are the losses I will keep.

    Thank you again.

    • Hey B,

      Thank you for sharing something so personal. Yeah, dogs can be so insidious, can’t they? You think they’re just little yippers, and then before you know it, you’re totally attached to them…. 🙂

      As for losing someone… I think we all have someone in our past with whom we made regretful decisions. I know I certainly do. And, yes, I often look back and wonder what might have been. At the same time, I also know that it can’t be healthy to dwell on the past. Bygones are bygones. We can’t change what we’ve already done. We can only learn from them and promise ourselves that we won’t make the same mistakes.

      To that end, I don’t think you should wonder about reconnecting with Heather (I know, I know, easier said than done). Still, as long as you don’t make the same mistakes with your current girlfriend as you did with Heather, then what did happen (and what you can’t change) with Heather served a purpose, right?

      For what it’s worth….

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