Did you know the gestation period for elephants is almost two years? When I was about 23 months pregnant with Riley – okay, eight months, but it felt like 23 and I felt like an elephant – I drove down to Miami Beach for one of my fancy Saturday morning haircuts and said to my stylist, “Cut it off. All of it! Give me a pixie cut. Unleash me from this hell!” I had a short cut in college, and I felt fucking free as a bird with that kick-ass haircut.
“Are you kidding me!?” she said. “You are not cutting your hair. I won’t let you. Not like this.”
Not. Like. This.
What she meant was: Not when you feel, and, let’s face it, look like a beached whale (or an elephant) and you pee a little bit in your pants every time you finish peeing in the toilet and your ankles are really swollen and Are those your feet? and the skin under your eyes is a permanent shade of dark and the sciatica that sends pain screaming down your left leg has given you a permanent limp and you have to wear pants with ginormous panels of stretchy material sewn into them and, oh yeah, you’re about to have a freaking baby in addition to the one you already have reaping havoc at home!
She was right. It wasn’t a good time for a new haircut. I stuck with my layered bob that day, and it was a good decision. Life was about to get Crazy, and the last thing I needed was to cry every time I passed a mirror because I looked like a boy who couldn’t lose the damn baby weight.
When Mike and I got engaged, I grew my hair as long as possible so I could have the updo of my dreams on my wedding day. Let me tell you, I did. It was epic. I spent more time and money on my hair the week of my wedding – the highlights, the cut, the products, the styling – than I spent on college. My Dad will attest to this, because he paid the bill. (Thanks, Dad.) And the day after we returned from our Hawaiian honeymoon, I cut it all off. (Sorry, Dad.) All that hair drove me nuts! I craved a fresh start, and the chin length, razor cut bob was a good call, but I got lucky that time, because few months later, I cut bangs and cried for weeks. You win some, you lose some.
It’s been exactly one week since we lost Harry, and mourning his death has been a whirlwind. One minute I’m fine, and the next minute I’m crying at the fish counter at Whole Foods while I wait for cilantro lime shrimp burgers. (Sorry, fish dude.) I experience all five stages of grief approximately every ten minutes, and I never know if or when one or all of them are coming.
I kept myself busy over the weekend, but lost it completely when I read “Dog Heaven” to the boys on Saturday morning. It was the page that said:
“Dogs in Dog Heaven have almost always belonged to somebody on Earth and, of course, the dogs remember this. Heaven is full of memories.”
– Cynthia Rylant
Frustrated with my emotional outburst, Dylan said, “Enough with the crying, Mommy,” but then in the same breath he said, “Give me the book. I’ll read it.” And he did, so I could finish my cry.
My remarkable child.
Monday night, one of the internists who treated Harry called to give his condolences and I was cool as a cucumber, but on my Wednesday morning run, I passed a woman walking a Boston Terrier and ugly cried my entire third mile. That night, I tossed and turned ALL NIGHT LONG dreaming about prepping for a colonoscopy – a freaking colonoscopy – and woke up exhausted with a gigantic sob stuck in the back of my throat that didn’t go away all day.
When Riley and I read “Pete the Cat: Pete’s Big Lunch” at bedtime last night and got to the part where Pete invites all of his friends to come over to help him eat the big sandwich and all of the friends are cats except for one dog, Riley turned to me and said, “Mommy, are you going to cry because one of Pete’s friends is a dog?”
I swallowed a sob. “No, sweetie. I’m not going to cry, but I am sad. Are you sad? Do you miss Harry like I do?”
“Of course,” he said. “But Harry is okay. He’s happy in dog heaven.”
My children astound me with their grace.
Over the weekend, when denial was my thing and found myself cleaning out cabinets, organizing dog supplies for charity, and plowing through my to do list, I made an appointment for a haircut. It was long overdue. I’ve been growing my hair out for over a year, and now it’s half way down my back, which is both a huge accomplishment and a gigantic pain in the ass.
My hair is EVERYWHERE. On floors. On clothes. In the drain. In my car. I think I lose a million hairs a day, not one hundred like everyone says. Every time I finish drying my hair, I have to sweep clumps of it off the bathroom floor. It’s exhausting, and, quite frankly, gross. My cleaning lady thinks it’s stress. It might be, since I’m pretty sure my hair in the drain has caused at least one major plumbing emergency.
My beloved dog is dead and I’m getting a haircut and I want to cut. It. all. off. I also want to paint the walls and get new floors. And I want new bed linens and throw pillows. And I want to trade in my car for a different model. And I want to switch perfumes and move furniture around and eat red meat. I want to change everything I can see, touch, hear, taste, and smell because the one thing I can’t change is that Harry is gone.
After my molar pregnancy, I insisted that we move. We were renting this adorable bungalow in Coconut Grove that was charming and rustic (i.e. small and old) but it had this gorgeous newly renovated kitchen. When we weren’t drooling over or cooking in our crazy amazing rental kitchen, we were just a short walk away from bars, restaurants, shops, and the marina where we could smell the ocean air and feel the tropical breeze coming off the water anytime we wanted. It was perfect. And then It happened and I couldn’t live there anymore. I couldn’t spend another minute in that house where something so horrible happened.
So, we moved. In the next house, we had this gorgeous front porch, and it was on that crazy amazing front porch where we would sit and watch (and laugh at) our new puppy chasing his tail, circling snails, and barking at lizards. It was a great house where we created wonderful memories, but I wish we’d never moved there. We only did it because I was desperate to erase what happened to me, but changing houses didn’t make it go away. No matter where we lived, I had to suffer through the long, heartbreaking stages of denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and, eventually, acceptance.
I’d like to move right now. But I can’t, because:
“So sometimes an angel will walk a dog back to Earth for a little visit and quietly, invisibly, the dog will sniff about his old backyard, will investigate the cat next door, will follow the child to school, will sit on the front porch and wait for the mail.”
– Cynthia Rylant, “Dog Heaven”
Earlier this week, I helped the boys make memory boxes where they can put things – pictures, drawings, and dog toys – that remind them of Harry. I offered to cut off a few squares of fabric from one of Harry’s blankets to put inside their boxes, but Dylan stopped me in my tracks. “You can’t do that, Mommy. Harry needs his blankets when he visits from Dog Heaven.”
Again with the grace.
I’d like to cut off all of my hair, but I can’t, because even though I want to get rid of It – the sadness, the grief, the guilt, the pain, the what ifs, and the what the fuck went wrongs – lopping off my hair won’t make any of It disappear.
So, I got a trim and some fresh highlights, and, at least for today, someone else swept my hair off the floor.