The Empty Chair
It’s about that time when I’m supposed to review the year. You know, go over all that has happened with me and our business in 2014. But if you’ve been reading my posts (scarce as they may be), you’d realize that 2014 has been one helluva rough year.
I was reminded of this again last night by an empty chair.
For the holidays we’ve done what we always do. We’ve travelled to my Uncle Paul’s house to celebrate Christmas (and a couple of birthdays too). I love going to Uncle Paul’s. We go on long walks in the woodlands, we play in his HUGE yard, we snuggle by the fireplace, and we eat way too much food (well, the humans do…my food is closely monitored). I not only love my Uncle Paul, but equally I love my Aunt Patti and my cousins (human and canine) — Lindsey, Nathan, Ringo, Hope, and the newest addition, Kili (who I like, and on this trip, I’ve learned to love…oy!…that’s another story for another day).
Part of the journey to Uncle Paul’s is a long drive in two different cars. Momma Ann drives ours with me in it and Gretchen drives Grandma and Grandpa’s car with Grandma and Grandpa in it. They switch drivers halfway just so I don’t think we’ve left anyone behind and off we head barreling down the highway for our vacation.
Only this year, all of that has changed.
First, there’s Dezi, my newly adopted much older brother. He came to us in April, if you recall, after the tragic loss of his own Dad. It’s taken a bit for Dezi to adjust and after some serious stress-related illnesses, he’s definitely a member of the pack and we are definitely glad he is (though sometimes I miss being the complete center of attention).
Now that Dezi’s with us, I share everything with him — my moms, my place on the couch, my place on the bed, everyone’s affections and my prized spot in the car. I minded at first, but now Dezi and I share everything pretty well though Gretchen says sometimes we are like two kids battling it out in passive ways in the back of the car with Dezi leaning into me to take up more room and me grumbling about how Dezi is pushing me.
But I digress.
Another change is that our dear friend, Ann, passed away and we’ve spent a lot of time with her widow, Jan, and their silly dog, Albert.
Jan and Albert lived with us for a long time while Ann was in the hospital and so Albert is, for all purposes, another brother to Dezi and me. We visit Jan and Albert a lot and it’s always a wonderful time, but when I think about why we are so close sometimes, I get sad and wish Ann could see how happy we are together.
The next thing that’s changed is that Grandpa is no longer in the car. His passing in June has had a huge impact on this family and though everyone is doing well, I felt his absence more on this trip than I have in the past few months and all because of an empty chair.
There are certain traditions in our family. Grandma makes this killer Chex-mix every holiday and the humans stand around munching away– non-stop — and I often swoop in to clean up their crumbs off the floor. There’s the tradition of a turkey made in the smoker that sends my taste buds into a tizzy every time I smell it. There’s the tradition of gloriously prepared meals spread out on a beautiful table under, which, I spend most of my meal time.
Everyone has their place at this table and since I’m under it, I know everyone by their feet. Uncle Paul is at one head and Auntie Patti at the other. My moms usually sit together and across from them sit my Grandma and Grandpa. My cousins, when they make it for a meal, squeeze in between us and I can sleep peacefully because I know everyone is where they should be and I am where I should be as well.
But this year, for our first meal at the table, not only did I have to share my place under the table with Dezi, I noticed the one empty chair.
This is when I was overwhelmed with sadness. Sure, I knew Grandpa wasn’t with us the whole trip down, but all of the sudden, with one less person at the table, the weight of his absence was manifest and its significance this holiday season brought tears to my eyes.
I realize I’m not the only dog in the world celebrating the holidays with joy and grief, but this is the first time I’ve had such an experience and let me tell you, it’s a challenging feeling. I love being at my Uncle’s and Aunt’s house. I love sharing it with my new brother, Dezi. I love journey and the destination; and the meals and the laughter and the desserts and the moments with my family laughing and catching up on stories of the year gone by.
And I really love the long walks around the “loop” chasing squirrels, chasing my cousins, having my cousins chase me, and sharing the beauty of the season with my entire family — two and four footers.
But now the love I have for this vacation has an empty spot in it…marked by that empty chair…and my love of this trip is tempered slightly by a hole in my heart.
Here’s hoping 2015 is more gain than loss; more friends than foes; more love than sadness.