Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost: Gracie

“¦her heart was learning to lie down forever”¦

from Dog’s Death by John Updike, 1958

“¦She made her stiff legs trot and let her bent tail wag”¦

from Another Dog’s Death by John Updike, 1985

When your last dog dies, you sleep for twelve hours straight, but keep finding your husband’s body in the middle of the night for comfort. And he will take you over and over until you fall back into welcome unconsciousness.

You will need to get rid of thirteen cans of Homestyle with Lamb and Rice because you insisted to your husband that she really didn’t like the Homestyle Stew with Beef and Vegetables, and that’s why she had stopped eating.

You will have to stop feeling your way with your foot on the hardwood floor in the middle of the night when you go to the bathroom because she, the twelve-year-old golden retriever, ran up the stairs to find you in the middle of the storm two nights ago.

You will have to email your friends to remind them to forgo bringing dog treats to nonfiction book club.

You will never worry again about the dog tripping people in the buffet line because her spot was under the counter, yet over the forks, and she was not going to move her ninety-pound girth for no man or dinner party, unless you coaxed her with a piece of bread to move, and then she would return to the same spot until after dessert. Then she would join you and the others in the living room for coffee and dessert.

You will be surprised when your husband tells you he, who had been coming home for lunch for the last twelve years, sometimes in the rain on his bike to let the dogs out, prepared himself for three of those years to find a dead dog.

You will long for the other golden retriever, the one that knew your soul, who died last summer at the age of fourteen.

You will have to email and text children about the cremation and to insist that they not bring a new puppy to your house to make up for the empty and quiet house.

You will vacuum up dog hair for the last time.

You will have to wash the vomit off the patio and urine out of your husband’s shirt.

You will need to get rid of her leashes and her dog bowls upstairs and downstairs.

You will go get the newspaper in the front yard by yourself.

You will need to turn on the space heater in April instead of sitting next to her.

You will not be able to see the computer screen.

By talie ho

Natalie Parker-Lawrence’s essays have been published in Slice of Life Magazine, The Palimpsest Journal, The Barefoot Review, Stone Highway Review, The Literary Bohemian, Alimentum, Knee-Jerk Magazine, Unlikely Stories, Southern Indiana Review, Tata Nacho, Orion Magazine, Wildflower Magazine, Prime Number Magazine, Edible Memphis, The Commercial Appeal, World History Bulletin, and The Pinch, with a forthcoming essay in Uneasy Bones. Parker-Lawrence wrote the weekly spirituality column for Wildflower Magazine from December 2011 to February 2013. Natalie earned an MFA (2010) in Creative Writing (creative nonfiction and playwriting) at the University of New Orleans. She earned a B.A. (Comparative Literature), a B.S. (Secondary Education, English/French), an M.A. (Linguistics: Dialect and Literacy), and +45 (Theatre) from the University of Memphis. Producer of the HHS Annual Shakespeare Festival and chair of the English department at Houston High School, she teaches AP English Literature and AP World History. She is an adjunct instructor in the Communication department at the University of Memphis. Natalie lives with her husband in midtown Memphis in a one-hundred-year-old house where her daughter, five stepsons, two daughters-in-law, and one grandchild come and go.

7 replies on “Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost: Gracie”

My condolences. It’s weird the things you miss. I got weepy a few years back when I brought home a box of doughnuts and realized my recently deceased cat wouldn’t try and steal them. You’ve lost a family member, it’s normal to need a while to grieve.

It does whack you in the face and heart. Uma (a beautiful cat) died 3 years ago. Just last night, another of the cats was in the semi dark and I had that flash of Uma. Over time, it becomes a bitter sweet pain and then eventually sweet. I am so sorry for your loss of two loved ones. Eventually, the pain goes away and (if like me) you are happy that they left their footprints in your life.

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