I know grief, its pit in the stomach, its hollow insides, its anxiety, its tears, its unexpectedness, and that’s how I know that this feeling is grief. I know it’s inability to eat cause of the sick feeling in your stomach, the drifting mindless from room to room, documentary to movie to Hallmark crap Movie on YouTube, lost in a fog. I know it’s out-of-place smiles at strange moments as memory surfaces. I know it’s sense of loss and longing for just one more moment, one hug, one more night round his handmade wooden table, just a bit more. I know it as well as I know the smell of his dirty shirt he left that I found this morning.
Repackaging it in some other way has not helped, there it sits, lingering still just around the corner on Duchess, all alone in an empty apartment.
I will miss him terribly and my heart feels sore from aching, that sense of foreboding swept in the last few days, building stronger as the days grew closer to the day his sister and brother-in-law arrived to pack all his stuff, gather up him and Sofie, and start back North, back home.
His sister has always called him Googy, and so every once in a while, when she could see him begin to falter, begin to unfocus, begin to spin up a notch, she would say his childhood name…”hey Googy, why don’t we…”…and back he’d come to this reality, this place, this difficult day.
He’s going up to help them renovate their old farmhouse that sits on a 20-acre hobby farm until he can get back on his feet, and he’s not coming back.
Saturday I walked over and found him in his garage, staring blankly at the place between his feet where this box contained some stuff, packed, everything else exactly as it had been the day before, and the day before that, and so forth back the 12 years he had lived here.
This was the biggest task, the one dreaded the most, the one that meant it really was the end of 22 years in London. So it was left to the end, of course, and nothing got organized as he had wanted, but was stuffed into milk crates as it sat on the shelf is how it went in and he’s going to have a bit of untangling of his workshop on the other end.
This grief feels deep and heavy, and raw.
The day arrived, and Sofie, old soul that she is, lounged in the sun on some plywood, away from the hubbub of people and boxes and emotions, eyes closed, basking. Waiting. She’d come out from the back and wander through the chaos once in a while, seeing what progress we’d made, but not in the least bit concerned, just curious.
She knew he wouldn’t leave her behind, but I don’t know how she knew, but I could see she was the calmest of us. So I used her to comfort me, squatting down to give her a few deep pets, once in a while picking her up for what I lovingly call a “good mauling”, which she put up with briefly, and back she’d saunter back to her spot in the sun, out-of-the-way of our chaos.
She was the last to go in, after everything had been packed, he put her in the cab, and turned back to us.
I have to be quick, she is kinda going crazy in there tears in his eyes, and I said “I love you” as we gave each other one last hug, I love you too, his voice caught a little.
And then he turned to Sue, but I couldn’t watch, my heart was already in two.
I’d thought we had said our goodbyes that morning, but I was wrong, I had realized after I got to work, after finding out they would not be leaving until noon Sunday rather than in the early morning as they’d planned, and I had to work till 1, standing in the change room with my uniform on staring in the mirror in the bathroom sobbing uncontrollably, and I knew it wasn’t my last goodbye. I was a friggin’ mess.
And you know, if he’d only packed his workshop he’d have been well on his way, and I’d have needed the escape of a few hours work.
Life never works out as one plans. Ok, who am I kidding, it NEVER works out as I plan.
So I walked into the admin room and spoke to my manager, sobbing, and she told me to go home and take care of yourself, don’t worry, I understand. Start being dependable again Tuesday. K?
God alone knows when I’ll see him again, and I told her so. I told her how special he is, how weird he is, and how much I love him, he’s my best friend.
A half hour earlier, just as they were ready to go, there’s Sue and him in the garage, decided they just HAD to fold up these tarps – stalling.
D3 just fresh from a shower, clean clothes on, and they loft the tarps, dust and wood chips and so forth flying all over them both, folding them like bedsheets, and I could tell they’d done this together before. And his brother-in-law calls to him, with a grin on his face leaning against the porch, “try not to get dirty, could you?“, and I turn to him and say; good luck with that.
So Sue (which, btw, is not her real name, just so you know), calls him ‘Dicky’ and has known him years and years longer than me, 30 I believe, and at one time they’d shared space, or at least a bed, until it kinda went sideways. One could say their history is long and deep and complex, filled with ups and downs, and so I know that if my heart is broken, her’s is shattered, as we stood there together, tears running down our faces, waving goodbye to our best friend, our confidant, our sometimes knight, sometimes not, but all that and everything, and all the memories, all the laughs, and fights, and nights listening to CBC radio, or some gem from his weird and wonderful collection of music, as he drives away for good, back home, 555.55KM’s North.
And it might as well be the moon.