Another beautiful piece from Jules. She doesn’t know this but she is the person who first sparked my interest in writing. When my dad was involved in a near fatal car accident in 2003 she wrote about the experience of watching him wheeled into surgery with the Ambu-bag breathing for him and when I read her words I was relieved and comforted. I was suddenly so aware that although I was terrified we would lose him and I felt tremendous pain, I was not alone and someone understood. -missy
406 days. 406 days since she exited this plane of existence for one free from pain and suffering and the chains of an earthbound world. Seems like 406 years and then again it seems like yesterday. I can still see her in my mind; see her laughing and saying “Jules!” about something outrageous I proposed. For a long time after she died I couldn’t remember what her laugh sounded like. I could see her in my mind, but the movie had no sound or plot or middle or beginning or end.
Slowly, when the grief would subside and fade away to hide and wait and catch me unaware another day, the sound came back. I remember the day so well I could first hear her laughter again, way back from wherever it had gone to hide and lick the wounds. It came trickling out like a tiny stream of water making its way down a hillside, and I was afraid to pay too much attention to it, afraid it would disappear again into that darkness where it had hidden for so long. Afraid to face it head-on in case I frightened it off like a skittish horse no one can catch. Instead I sat quietly and very still and hoped the trickle would turn into a steady stream and I would have that wonderful sound of her laughter again.
The more I tried to listen, the further away it seemed, until it gradually faded into nothing and I was left listening to nothing but the sound of my own heart beating and the ticking of the clocks on my wall. I felt such disappointment and sorrow that it was gone again; I had so hoped it was back in my memories for good, for forever. The tears came as they inevitably do, and I let them run down my face without bothering to check them or wipe them away, until it became too much and they turned into sobs. Great loud ugly sobs that sounded harsh and signaled the huge empty place inside me was going to be heard no matter how much I tried to hide it. No matter how many times I told people that I was “fine, I’m good” and commented politely on their well-meaning words that just rankled and burned like embers popping out of a fire. Usually I avoided those people who, though they meant well, offered empty clichés and did nothing but make me want to scream and shake them. I stayed mostly to myself, with the exception of a very few select people I could tolerate being around for more than a few minutes at a time.
I could not tolerate idle chit-chat and would remove myself from it as soon as I could without drawing attention to myself. All the conversations seemed so silly and unimportant and were like fingernails on a blackboard to my ears. Nothing mattered, nothing seemed worthy of attention and everything seemed to be so loud and intrusive and I just wanted everything to be quiet and without noise. I would sit for hours alone while Bert was at work without the TV on, just the silence and the ticking of the clocks, doing nothing, just staring into space and letting my mind float from one thing to another.
The only thing that brought me out of the ugly sobbing was my sweet Boo Romine-Sterling. She would come to my knee with her little brow furrowed up and a worried look on her little face, and push her nose under my hand and press her side against my leg while her eyes stared into mine. In those eyes I saw all the pain and suffering of all time, and understanding. It was as if she were saying “It’s OK JuJu, I’m here, I’m here”. I would reach down and hug her, pull her head close to my chest and rub her under the chin, and she would sit quietly, with her side still pressed against my leg as if she had all the time in the world to just sit beside me. I hated the look in her eyes, hated the way her brow would be wrinkled up and the sadness in her face. So I would straighten up, wipe my face, blow my nose and say to her “Come on my BooBooDog, you want a treat?” Because I couldn’t bear how sad she looked when I cried. This was before I knew how short my time left with Boo really was. I couldn’t have stood to know how little time she had left; I would not have been able to stand that.
And now she’s gone too, and I miss her with the same intensity and longing and sorrow as I do Jennifer.
So I sit some days, unable to summon up the strength or resolve to do much more than brush my teeth and I think about Boo and I think about Jennifer, and I wait for the laughter to show itself again. I wait for the laughter and the wonderful sweet sound of it to trickle back into my mind.
I have Bo now, and he’s a good dog, and he loves me unconditionally and without exception, and he follows every step I make. So on those dark days, I sit and stroke his soft head and together we sit. And we wait for the laughter.