I’m not going to pretend.
The last two weeks since Bailey left us have been brutal.
For the first time in my married life I really experienced “empty nest” syndrome. When Charlotte went off to school I missed both kids terribly but both were returned to me each day at a regular hour, and as a consolation I had Bailey constantly by my side.
Every day, 24/7, he was with me, keeping me company, raising my spirits, allowing me to constantly love and tend to him, my doting canine child.
And then suddenly I found myself in a house preternaturally quiet. No click clicks of nails on wooden floors, no warm nose bumping up to me, a major source of affection and tactile warmth — gone.
We all mourned Bailey in slightly different ways, but I’m so glad that there was the constant distraction of friends and neighbors who showered us with so much love these past two weeks.
A number of plants and flowers arrived, seemingly one different one every other day, all from different people.
It was if my friends had all gotten together and planned it so that there would be an unending parade of fresh flowers at my door.
There were so many cards and books dropped off on my porch.
There were more flowers and cookies
and more treats and handwritten notes.
And this past week held more surprises for us all.
This was dropped off by my friend Beth.
I guess she found that picture on my blog and turns out it was one of my favorite pictures of him. It was taken last year just after I’d given him a vanilla yogurt container to finish off and he looked up at me, not aware that he was still wearing part of it.
Along with this framed photo she also dropped off a whole Blueberry Buckle — something we feasted on happily for days.
And then another pal Karmen had this made up for us.
And then my pal Amy brought this by, painted by her prodigiously talented husband, Jason.
It’s just the loveliest watercolor from a photo of our last time at the beach, and it’s such a happy memory for me.
The arrival of this watercolor was the perfect send off for this past weekend’s beach getaway.
It was so poignant that we thought we’d be bringing Bailey one last time to our favorite rental, and in a way, we did.
We picked up his ashes on the way to the coast and he remained with us at the coast the entire weekend.
His remains sat on a child’s chair alongside his favorite stuffed animal with Jason’s unspeakably lovely painting keeping him company.
With this as his view, morning and night.
This house is one we’ve rented for years bi-annually for Bailey’s birthday, and it’s so familiar to us now.
It was both so happy and bittersweet to step foot in it once again.
The house sits right next to a bluff with large stones leading down to a mostly-uninhabited beach,
and because I know the house so well, I have a list of everything that I want to have with me to make the house feel truly our own.
I have a pre-printed list of supplies and I add new items each time we go depending on what we plan on eating there (Steak with red wine butter sauce and garlic bread? Check.)
Within an hour of arriving here, the contents of our car had been taken out and placed in the right spot and delicious ingredients for feasts awaited in the cupboard, fridge and freezer.
No detail is too small, and yes, in addition to bags and bags of edible treats, I also bring all our own dinnerware, linens, tablecloths,
blankets, candles, games — and even my favorite mini-sign and preferred way to dole out vitamins for the kids and me.
Once settled in this cozy spot we spent the next three days doing what we love doing.
We watched big football games (I still can’t believe the end of that Saints game!) and revisited favorite movies
played games on the oversized kitchen table
and goofed around in the sand
dodging waves and climbing on driftwood
and just plunking down in the sand to play yet another game.
And always, lots of special meals were enjoyed morning through night.
There were so many treats.
I surprised the kids with a mini-waffle maker so we used that.
Lunches were soups and simple sandwiches and salads —
usually lighter fare
because our dinners at the beach are never short of blow-outs: steaks, burgers, or seafood extravaganzas.
I’d bought lobster and jumbo prawns so one night David and I feasted on make-your-own lobster rolls
and another time we had Scampi-palooza.
The kids loved our steak and Caesar salad night but they also loved feasting on Angus burgers and fries.
I’d also made a huge round of salted caramel bars for friends just before I’d left
and luckily I remembered to bring some of those, too.
And what’s a special mid-game snack without cups of cocoa and a sweet?
Perhaps our favorite thing this past weekend was our last night.
Regular readers will recall we decided to cancel our New Year’s Eve plans two weeks ago when it was apparent Bailey was failing.
Our NYE was bleak, and I didn’t want them to remember this night like this.
So on our final night I kicked everyone out of the house while I prepared something more festive.
A New Year’s Eve Re-do.
I found all these festive items –head bands, party poppers, hats, tinsel and bunting– at the Goodwill Bins (who cares they were a year off?!) and I brought Bailey’s pic over and we made it an impromptu celebration of him.
I’d also bought little presents for everyone (and me!) and it was so fun for everyone to open up their treats.
We hugged and laughed and told all our favorite stories of Bailey, some going back many years.
Afterwards, we took his picture outside and we all caught a sunset as beautiful as the first sunrise after he left us.
That last morning before we left we went out to the end of the bluff, the place where I always left Bailey his last special meal,
and shot off those poppers in a tribute to him.
(Oops–they made a bigger mess than we thought so we cleaned it up before leaving.)
And then it was time to lock the house back up and go.
Was the weekend long enough?
Hell, no — not when living on the sand is so pleasurable.
And I love being around these people so much.
But as I left our rental house and we got ready to hit the road out of town, I looked up.
It looked like the trees, shaped by the wind, had entwined in such a way that the entrance to the main street looked like a heart.
As we drove back home, I took away the feeling that we are surrounded by love always, even when it’s not always readily apparent. Or can’t be touched.
And as we brought our dog home for the final time
I’ve been left with tears and laughter, in equal measure.
Thanks to the dozens of you who wrote me privately, in the comments section, sent something in the mail or just stopped by my house with a hug, a plant, a brownie, or who whipped up a special cocktail for me during those rough (ruff!) first couple weeks.
My heart overflows with gratitude. XO