One of my recurring dreams features a couple of pet birds I once owned. Often I dream that I’ve forgotten to feed them for weeks, and I find them barely hanging on to life. Last night I dreamt that one had died in its cage, and I didn’t even notice until well after the fact. But the other was still alive–one of its claws was tangled in the bars of the cage, and I gently lifted and freed it. Now this is a pretty transparent metaphor, but thank God for that. I’m glad my subconscious has trimmed the emotional thicket into a simple shape. Maybe something positive is going on.
Today one of my dogs was behaving oddly–panting and pacing. Last year my other dog had a life-threatening experience with bloat, and these had been two of the symptoms. I now imagined that it was all happening again, that if I didn’t get her to the emergency clinic she’d die. When I get this anxious my hands and feet go cold. Coming face to face with the possibility of something dire happening to one of them wrenches my stomach. As it turns out, she’s okay. It was a warm day and possibly the heat got to her. She settled down, ate her supper and is now sleeping peacefully. When I was finally calming down I told my mother how worried I’d been. Where? she said distractedly. I repeated what I’d said. Oh…, she said, not quite getting what I was telling her. I started to go over it again–in a louder voice, as if that would reach her–but stopped. She had walked away.
So this is one of the intangibles: I can’t tell her something like this and get a response. She’s here but I can’t share what troubles me–or what makes me happy–with her. It doesn’t seem to work anymore, no matter how loudly I speak. How do you measure that kind of loss? I have always turned to my mother when my heart has been broken or my spirit weak, but now that I think of it, it wasn’t so much her words as her presence that consoled me. She would take care of me, even when I was an adult. She’d help me get strong again. And so now I’m realizing that the old formula is out of date. There may well be a new formula, but facing this loss is part of the ongoing grieving.