We watched the movie “Blended” with the kids last weekend. It was cute, silly, and funny, as are most romantic comedies starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, but one scene brought me to tears.
In the movie, Drew Barrymore’s character, Lauren, is a divorced mother of two sons and Adam Sandler’s character, Jim, is a widowed father of three daughters. Throughout the movie, Jim’s middle daughter, Espn, talks to her mom, who died of cancer, like she’s an imaginary friend. She reserves a seat for her at the dinner table and leaves a spot for her in her bed. Everywhere she goes, she brings her mom with her.
SPOILER ALERT: At the end of the movie, when Jim and his daughters realize how much they love Lauren and want her to be a part of their lives, Espn finally decides to let go of her mom. In a touching scene, she tells her dad that she’s afraid she’ll forget her. Jim assures Epsn that it will never happen. She’ll never forget her mom because her mom will always be in her heart.
A few days later, on a walk with Gertie, the boys and I bumped into our neighbor, Bud, who was standing at his front door with a new puppy. I’d never seen the puppy before, and it struck me as odd, because Bud had a much older and bigger dog named Bunker.
My heart sank.
“Hey, Bud,” I said waving across the street. As he walked toward us, I asked the question to which I had a feeling I already knew the answer. “Everything okay with Bunker?”
Bud proceeded to tell me that he had to put Bunker down because he had bone cancer. A friend bought him the new puppy (the same breed as Bunker) because he couldn’t stand to see him so sad.
“This is Bogie,” he said.
Dylan was walking a few steps behind me when Bud told me the news. “Where’s Bunker?” Dylan asked when he caught up to us.
“Bunker got sick, Sweetheart.” Uncomfortable pause. “Like Harry,” I said stepping into a can of worms things I didn’t want to talk about. “He died,” I said matter-of-factly, “and now he’s in dog heaven with Harry.”
I told Bud how much Gertie helped us heal after Harry’s death and that I hoped Bogie would do the same for him. After Bud left, I turned to Dylan and said very carefully, “Bunker’s in Bud’s heart now, just like Harry’s in ours.”
Harry is in my heart. He’s in every rainbow, every sunset that turns the sky deep shades of pink, peach, and purple, every cloud framed just right with sunlight peaking from behind, and every sad song on the radio. But, when I close my eyes to see him, I see Gertie instead. His image has somehow blended with hers. I cried during the Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore movie because even though I tell my boys the same thing more or less that Jim told Espn – that we’ll never forget our loved ones because we hold them in our hearts – I feel like I’m forgetting bits and pieces of Harry every single day.
Today is Gertie’s first birthday. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since this Light was born.
It’s fitting that her birthday falls around Thanksgiving, because of all the things I’m grateful for this year, this little nut ball is definitely at the top of the list.
When we first brought Gertie home, everything she did reminded me of Harry. Every inch of her – from her facial expressions to her trot to her snore – was the embodiment of Harry. In fact, I called her Harry all the time! I sometimes still do, and Dylan and Riley love to point it out, but her distinct personality and unique quirks have made it increasingly difficult to see Harry in her and, frankly, to see Harry at all. More and more, I just see her.
A few days ago, I asked Riley, my odd but often wise five-year-old son, “Is Harry still in your heart?” We were in Petco picking out birthday toys for Gertie and waiting for Dylan who had to go to the bathroom really badly, so we had some time to chat.
“Yes,” he said.
“If you close your eyes, can you see Harry?” I asked.
“I think so,” he said.
“Riley, I need your advice,’ I said. “When I close my eyes, I can’t see Harry. What should I do?”
“If you want to see Harry, you have to go up into the clouds.”
“That’s very good advice, Riley,” I said. “Thank you.”
I think what he meant was that I don’t need to see Harry to remember him. I don’t need to see him to hold on to him. I just needed to trust that he’s there, because whether or not I see him when I close my eyes, he’s permanently blended in my heart.
Just like Gertie.
Happy 1st Birthday, Gertrude Glenn!