Last Sunday

I woke up from a dream in which I got to spend time with my paternal grandparents. Oh, how good it was to see them again–to hear my grandfather’s laugh and see his smile. My grandmother told me things she never told me when alive, about herself as a young woman. The grandfather in my dream died in 2004, and it had been so long since I’ve seen him in my sleep. I can’t remember the last time my other grandfather, who died in 1981, visited my dreams. In just a few years, I will be as old as he was the last time I saw him alive.

People who tell us that our dead will always be with us are wrong, I thought, as I opened my eyes in a house none of my grandparents got to see.

My grandparents are receding from me; they don’t occupy the space in my thoughts and feelings they did even just a year or two ago. Perhaps that’s because I’m no longer the woman I was when we last saw each other in this world, and because the world we lived in together no longer exists.

Later that morning, my daughter baked a cake with her husband, who lives on another continent, in a time zone 9 hours apart from ours. He made one there, and she made one here. They worked through a recipe together on a video call. (She lives neither here nor there, but some place in transit between two worlds that are now, I suppose, both home and not-home simultaneously.)

I sat nearby, working a crossword puzzle, while Cane relaxed on the living room sofa, reading whatever it is he reads on his phone. Our house is so small that we were all together. I answered questions about where the sugar was and if the butter and sugar mixture was “light and fluffy.” Cane sipped coffee. Later, I washed up while she dried, and in the bathroom we could hear the buzz of Cane’s clippers as he cut his hair before leaving for the gym.

I’m writing about this so I will not forget that morning, with its remarkable ordinariness, the grass so green through the window I sat in front of while my daughter measured flour and creamed butter.

While the water ran over my hands, I thought about how there will come a time when she is no longer here, when she will be back in her new country, and perhaps it will be the two of us who are baking together through a screen. As I handed her the beater to dry, I thought of all the ordinary kitchen times I shared with my grandmothers, almost none of which I remember now with any specificity.

I know that even if she weren’t going to make her life in her husband’s country, death or time would part us in other ways. Living is a series of so many little deaths, as one version of us gives way to another. I didn’t know this when I was a young woman in other kitchens with my grandmothers, my mother. I didn’t know to cement the moments in memory. I do now, though.

I took the recycling outside, and I was struck by the flowers blooming in the backyard, which I could see through a gate left open by one of us. They are so briefly beautiful, like the green of spring grass. The gate felt like an invitation.

Why write? There are so many reasons, but this is always what it comes down to for me: To keep alive the things I love: slow Sunday mornings in late spring, my daughter as a lovely young woman, Cane and I in the early twilight of our lives.

After this week’s Supreme Court ruling, I thought that perhaps this post I’d written was irrelevant. I decided it’s not. Feel free to see it as an extended metaphor, to make what connections you will.

Daisy May Ramstad, 2007-6/6/2022

I want to tell you that she was a good dog, as obituaries generally require us to speak well of the dead, but she was not, by most objective measures, a good dog. She paid attention to our words and wishes only when she wanted to, she was never reliably housebroken (not because she didn’t understand or couldn’t comply with the expectations, but because she really preferred, like the humans in her pack, to go inside), and she was notorious for getting her longtime companion, Rocky, all worked up over nothing. She was a fan of the grudge poop (middle of the hallway, where it couldn’t be missed), and she had no fucks to give about things we might have felt important that she did not.

Which just goes to show that you don’t have to be good to be loved–because love her we did, unconditionally and deeply. Sometimes we loved her more because she wasn’t “good,” and she had us laughing even as we scolded her (such as the time we caught her on the kitchen table, licking butter from the butter dish). She was funny, and strong-willed, and sassy. She did what she wanted. Lucky for us, one of the things she wanted all the time was to be as close to one of her humans as physically possible.

Aside from being with us, her favorite things were eating and taking a nap in a patch of sun. We could all learn a thing or two about living a happy life from her. (Take the nap. Eat with gusto. Love what you love without reservation.)

(I knew the end was approaching when she stopped leaping with excitement over her bowl being filled.)

As a young dog, she loved playing at the river and doing whatever her three kids wanted her to do, even if it involved wearing dress-up clothes. In recent years, she was happiest having a good nap with or on one of her humans.

These last few years, when I looked at her and remembered how she once was–back when she had teeth, and fur on her ears, and a plump belly–I thought often of a passage from The Velveteen Rabbit:

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

If Daisy was nothing else, she was Real: a small bundle of a being full of desire and need, which gave her a full range of qualities: loving, needy, generous, petty, delightful, naughty, interesting, infuriating, fun. One of the great gifts of Daisy was the way she showed us that being real is more important than being good. That we can be loved not in spite of our foibles and flaws, but because of them. I like to think that in loving Daisy, we we all became a little better at loving each other and ourselves.

She is, and will long be, missed.