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December 5, 2000
a year ago
three years ago

Absent Centers

I didn't sleep well.

Not from regret or anything that was bad. Just too much thinking in loops that were established for the last few weeks. Not really a surprise, in some ways, as we'd made Fezzik the center of our lives for that time and now that center had dropped out.

The temperatures outside were in the low teens tonight and with a high wind the wind chill had taken it to the negative Fahrenheit range. Terribly cold and my thoughts were, "I'm so glad Fezzik isn't out in that." Along with the odd relief was all the sorrow and loss of simply not having Fezzik anymore. It's all so mixed up. Feelings of relief along with grief along with just missing a presence that had been constant in our lives for twelve years and all the thoughts that go along with that.

Realized, as I tried to get to sleep, that one of the images I often use to relax is the image of Fezzik when he sleeps, 'cause he used to just go boneless, sprawled any which way. At the Redmond house, sometimes he'd end up on his back, snoring and when someone would approach him he'd open just one eye, then pretend to be asleep still, hoping the person would ignore his undignified position or something. Then, of course, there would come the image of him at the vet's lying just as bonelessly and completely empty.

My head's been filled with Fezzik for the last few weeks. Worrying about if he was cold, if he had enough unfrozen water, if he had food, if he was out of the wind, if he was on his bed, if he was where he wanted to be, if he needed help up the stairs. There was a few weeks in there where I deliberately slept light so that hearing the 'thump thump' of his feet at the foot of the stairs would have me waking John up to check if he needed help. The 'thump thump's stopped a while ago, so at least I wasn't in that habit anymore, but I thought of it. Circles and circles of all the things I'd been thinking about Fezzik for the last few weeks just kept going around my head.

So, of course, I didn't sleep at all well. John did sleep when I wasn't elbowing him for snoring.

But it was a short night 'til morning, 'cause we had to get up at 6. John had been wise and volunteered to bring in food for the Toys for Tots drive's continental breakfasts. Folks bring in food, people donate to eat something. It works okay. We had to drop by the King Supers in Boulder to get a lot of the stuff and the Moe's Bagels right next door to get all the bagels. So we showered and scurried.

My eyes were a complete mess. All day people would meet my eyes for just a moment before looking away. Until we got to work and were unloading when Bob came in and he asked how I was. And I pretty much started crying while telling him, and he was pretty sad too. He gave me a hug that felt really good as he said that he was sorry that Fezzik was gone, too, but glad that he had peace. I remembered, though, that last weekend, before we'd gone to the Chinese restaurant, Bob had taken the time before we left to really pet Fezzik. I reminded him of that, said I was glad that he'd been able to do that and he brightened some, too. That was good.

We had a two hour meeting of the cross-functional project group. Usually it's only one, but for some reason folks were just intent on going off on tangents rather than just sticking to quantifying the bugs. It didn't matter too much, and I just sat and made commentary where appropriate. One really good thing out of it was that someone was complaining about the stuff I've been working on for a while again and Boss Bill said, no nonsense, "Look. It's working the way it was designed. If you have different requirements than the stuff that it was first designed to do, we're going to have to redesign it or take the time and effort to patch another kludge on. Kludges take more time and Phyllis is doing the best she can with what she's got. If you really want it to work completely different than the way it was designed to work, we're going to have to set aside the time to completely redesign it." He actually understood. He even said something specific that was positive about the fact that it really does work the way it was designed to work. After my frustration of last week, it was a very obvious and notable contradiction to my sadness. So it helped a lot.

I also had a good, long talk with Bob and he echoed my frustration and acknowledged that it was a really hard place to be. Simply knowing someone understood makes a difference. It helped a lot.

Since the meeting didn't really finish until 11, I was only able to get a letter written about Fezzik's death to all my mailing lists and get them off before Chad and Bob picked me up to go to lunch with me. I'd told Chad, too, and it was better to not eat alone. John had a lunch meeting, as usual, a three hour hell meeting that he says is always hard, but they just plot through what they have to get through. So we went to lunch at KT's and sat down in the basement with some of Chad's old group. It was good to talk with Bob and Chad and hear Bob's stories about Fezzik and remember, more and more that most of Fezzik's life was a really good one.

That most of it had Fezzik at full steam, with all his curiosity, will and desire. That not that long ago he was chasing a coyote to save a chicken, that he could steal a hamburger bun without anyone noticing, that he could eat an entire chocolate cake off a 4th of July block party table without getting people mad at him, and that he used to get himself over six foot high fences to get to a girl collie in heat. That most of his life he was really powerful in his own way.

The afternoon was mostly responses from my email. A number of people had also read the journal entries when they went up, and there were letters of condolence from them, a good number of them with really good understanding and a reflection of what I really needed. That folks heard and understood. Gryn sent a really nice egreeting card. Many sent heart felt condolences that were gratefully received. Kathryn was marvelous and sent stories of the dog she'd loved and lost and how worth it it had been. She also gave me the important advice that while we could really do nothing for Fezzik before he died, now that he has, we can remember him fiercely and that was a good and useful thing. She's also read his stories and she wrote a sentence that just really struck me. She wrote, "He was a hundred and ten pounds of Buddha nature."

It really encapsulated a lot of what he was to us.

I got to talk with Cera for a bit and most of the tooMUSH crew later in the afternoon, though it made my hands swell up again. Not good. But it was good to get the interaction that I haven't had for a while. Without all the lifting we had to do for Fezzik maybe my hands might go back to at least not so trashed. We'll see. They had lots of good stories too that helped me remember when Fezzik was tricky, strong and fast. Like the time he knocked John over so hard he hit head first on the ground, or when he pulled a bleacher full of people a few feet when he wanted to go meet another dog. So much of my life, recently, was focused on how disabled Fezzik was getting. It was very good to remember when he was very strong.

Work stuff happened. John came by after his 5:00 meeting and asked what I wanted to do. I wanted to go. Possibly to even go out for dinner or something. We walked down the stairs and opened the door and the air was filled with big, fat white flakes of snow. Beautiful snow.

The first thing that popped into my head was, "I'm so glad I don't have to worry about Fezzik freezing out in this stuff." along with the attendant sorrow of loss. And for the next long while, all through dinner and after even I was hit every once in a while by this strange mixture of sorrow and awe and wonder and relief. I don't have to worry about him any more. I don't have to worry if Fezzik's hurt, if he's lying somewhere waiting for me, if he's soiled and sad, if his water's frozen, if he's cold, if he's bored or unhappy, or if he's feeling sick and awful anymore. I won't have to reassure him while I'm cleaning him up. I won't have to grab his rear end and heave him somewhere in completely undignified manner because that's the only way he'll get somewhere. I don't have to leave him outside on the lawn alone when he decides he doesn't want to be inside because he doesn't want to have an embarrassing accident. One of the things we would have hated would have been to have been at work and have him get even worse and be in terrible pain without us around to help or do something. All that is stuff I don't have to worry about anymore.

The sheer weight of all we'd been carrying just got really obvious, I guess. The very close focus of the last few weeks isn't necessary anymore. I now have the room to breath, to step back. We had a creature for twelve years. Someone that was always in the house, never gone for more than a night when we were there in all those twelve years. Someone that we took care of, who cared for us, and watched us and was our good companion for that whole, long stretch of time. That's something real, too. Something that took a breath and a step back to see.

The snow was really thick. Big, white flakes that got stuck in my hair and all over our coats as we walked the block to the restaurant from where John found parking. John took me to the Cheesecake Factory because I'd been curious, for some time, about what it was like. We'd just never gone for one reason or another, and now that we could, again, we did. After we were seated we watched the snow outside and John said, "Fezzik's making it snow 'cause he knew how much I loved it with him." Made me laugh and cry, along with the beauty of the big flakes against the black sky.

The restaurant was pretty okay. Not bad food at not too bad prices with expensive but pretty good cheesecake with lots of variety to choose from so far as flavors. Really extensive menu that probably had something for everyone, and the quality was good enough to enjoy, but not the best of anything I've ever had. It was definitely American-sized portions, I could barely eat half of my less than ten dollar Mile High Meatloaf Sandwich. John wasn't able to finish his Cobb Salad, either. But we did share a piece of the plain cheesecake as I was curious as to what they'd name the restaurant after. It was good. Not terribly dense, but good and rich in flavor, and the sour cream topping was creamy and nice over the rich filling. The graham cracker crust had a kiss of cinnamon which complimented things nicely. It was good with a decaf coffee.

The snow stopped just before we headed out. I guess Fezzik also knew that Mom was happier not getting snow blown in her face.

Joan had called when we were gone, said she was sorry to hear about Fezzik and that she'd tried to explain it to Alex. Alex had gotten upset and said that he'd get a rope and catch Fezzik out of the sky and use drugs to make him well again and give him back to us to live and play with us again... that got both John and I crying a little. She said that Alex still didn't really get it so that the next time he saw us he'd likely be asking a lot of questions. Good to be forewarned. She also wanted to bring us stuff that Haley was growing out of again. So that should be fun.

John sent out a mildly edited version of my mass mailing to his own mailing list of people.

Every once in a while I'd find myself taking a very deep breath. Just slow and long and deep. Breathing again.

I watched SciFi channel's Dune until I found myself falling asleep. Rather than rely on willing myself to sleep, I actually drew a long, hot bath with a little almond oil and a lot of Epsom salts and a few citrus salts to make it easier to go to sleep. I soaked in it until I felt myself falling asleep and then went directly to bed. No stopping at Go. No collecting $200. John tucked me in and I fell deep, deep asleep in the warmth. There was an image, in my head, of Fezzik lying at my back, a younger, whole, alert, Fezzik just quietly watching over me, as I went to sleep with just a few tears on my pillow.

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