In November 2015, I was facing down my first set of holidays as a middle aged divorced mom. It was lonely and I had no idea what was going to happen but I kept telling myself – I was fucking strong. I was working late nights, working weekends. I had additional gigs to pay for birthdays and holidays. I never said “no” when someone asked me for a favor. I was goddamn Superwoman.
There was an unending punch list of things that were wrong with my house that had to be repaired that I could not do and that I could not afford to pay anyone else to do. I considered selling the house. I learned that I couldn’t buy anything else because I was a divorced middle aged mom and that meant no bank would give me a loan to buy another piece of real estate. I felt like I was stuck.
But my big, clumsy, sweet Kimba never judged me. Well, none of my dogs, as far as I know, judged me. Kimba was so excited to see me walk in the door, all 130 pounds of her. She would follow me from the time I woke up in the morning, when I walked out the door to go to work, to when I arrived home at night, to when I went to bed. I would lie down next to her, hug her neck, put my head on her furry belly, listen to her “hmmmmph.” I should have written her more love letters, like this one.
A love letter to my Kimba:
“Thank you for letting me rest on your soft belly fur
when I am tired or discouraged,
You are the best cure for self-pity and for being dog-tired.
And you are the cure for any bullshit thought I have of regret for years lost because as you have helped me realize, what I have gained in those years is immeasurable. Even in dog years.
Thanks for setting me straight about that.
Thank you for reminding me the important things in life are to eat and sleep and let the people you love know it.
Every. Damn. Day.
I love you, dog. You make me a better human.”
She died in July 2017 and not a day goes by that I do not miss the sweet therapy of a soft dog belly that did not judge me. We all should have that, unconditional love, sweet places to lie down, and love letters from the bottom of our loved one’s heart.
On May 13, 2018, I spent Mother’s Day puttering around my house, working on the overgrown backyard. Earlier in the week, I found a mourning dove had taken up residence in the side yard, on the ground by the gate. I could not understand why she would pick that spot to nest, when I have dogs and a cat. But my dogs were leaving her alone, or perhaps, guarding her spot. The cat was oblivious.
Initially, she had been there for a few hours, then she had left, so I thought she had picked another spot to build a nest. Perhaps a neighborhood cat had scared her off. But she kept coming back. Her partner would perch on the fence, cooing to her.
She had been safe there for over a week. When my sons came to take me out for Mother’s Day dinner, she was perched in her spot, chortling, and cooing to her mate. I showed her to my sons.
When we came back from dinner, I did not see her on her perch when I walked out into the back yard. I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking she had flown away. Then my dog ran to a spot in the deep grass a few yards away, came back to me, whimpering, and I saw the soft gray wings.
She was lying there, wings outspread, barely breathing. I picked her up and there was bright scarlet on her breast, like she had been shot through with an arrow. She lifted her head and one wing up, then her head dropped and she was gone. I held her for a long time.
She had a sweet, soft gray belly, like my Kimba did. She was still warm. I could not stop crying as I held her, and I wished I had the ability to make her whole again. Fucking law degree. It does me no good when it comes to breathing life back into really good, sweet, loving innocent souls. I made her a little grave next to the spot where she was nesting. And I have heard the call of her mate for the last few hours, “Coo – cooo, Coo – cooo.”
We all need a safe place to nest and love and be loved. Tonight I am putting flowers on a tiny grave in my backyard and I am so sorry, little mama bird. I promise to pay it forward for you, in dog years, and in mama tears.
This is what it sounds like when doves cry.