A cry in the dark

It happened again. For the second time in a few short months, I found myself crying in a yoga studio. Unlike that other time, though, I didn’t see the tears coming and I can’t pinpoint exactly what it was that caused me to cry. If I were forced to point the finger of blame, I’d say it was a combination of circumstances and memories colliding. You know, a perfect storm right there on my Jade mat.

Earlier this week I learned that a guy from my hometown, C, died. As a kid, our families spent quite a bit of time together, our parents playing pinochle while we romped around town. His oldest sister babysat for my brother and me, while his older brother, a track and field athlete, taught me how to triple jump and, eventually, what it meant to be dishonorably discharged from the military after a marijuana offense.

As I read the condolences on social media, with many of the commenters using the nickname, Boyer, that had been bestowed upon the departed by his older brother, I wondered how many of those sharing kind words knew the origin of that nickname.

I did.

A wave of memories from childhood washed over me. C’s family had moved north from Virginia and their homelife was very different from my own. They ate delicious foods, like fried chicken, buttery toast and produce they had grown themselves in their backyard garden. Also collected from their yard, at times when discipline was demanded, were branches from the lilac tree known as “switches.” In cases when they had misbehaved, the children in C’s family were directed to “go get a switch” which would then be used to punish them, something I fortunately never witnessed being exacted.

I wouldn’t want you to get the impression that C’s family was abusive, in fact, they were very kind in many ways. The first road trip I took in my life was with them, in a school bus which had been converted into a camper. Need I mention it was the 70s? We drove to the mountains of Virginia and visited their extended family, a trip I remember as being a lot of driving and not much visiting. There was another vacation, to New Hampshire this time, where I saw my first giant moth and learned how to toss a frisbee, all to a soundtrack of the Allman Brothers and the Starland Vocal Band. They’re good memories.

I hadn’t thought about C or his family in decades. As I reflected back on these memories from childhood, I realized that the last time I had seen C was shortly before I turned 19. It was a few weeks after my house burned down, causing my brother and I to scramble to find housing for ourselves, and our pets. We had two family dogs at that time, but it was generally agreed that Cleo was mine, while Wolfie was my brother’s.

Wolfie was the first pet we had ever had, other than that kitten I hid in my closet for a few hours when I was in first grade. He was a great dog – loyal, independent and very attached to my brother. After the fire, I recall feeling overwhelmed. Trying to find a place to live with a dog, much less two dogs, was a challenge. We were all living in my beloved Jewish mother’s basement and when I finally found a rental property that was affordable, I was only allowed to have one dog.

I took Cleo.

Wolfie ended up in the backyard of C’s family’s home, living in town for the first time in his adult life. Instead of roaming the woods behind our house to his heart’s content, he was chained for most of every day. When I went to visit Wolfie, he was subdued, his tail still. The neighbors said he cried, especially at night. I was crushed – and powerless. I couldn’t take him. And I couldn’t go back again. It hurt too much.

The morning of my yoga class, I learned that a friend had lost their beloved dog to an illness that had been diagnosed a few months ago. While my friend expected the eventual outcome, it was painful and sad nonetheless and I mourned for my friend. His dog and my dog, Jeter, were playmates when we lived closer to one another and I knew how much my friend loved his good boy. The loss would be felt deeply.

In the dark, on my mat, in my own way, I prayed for C and his remaining loved ones. I thought about my much more recently made friend and the void he’ll feel in the absence of his dog and, of course, of Wolfie and how I had failed him so many years before. I remembered S, recently lost to this world, and the way she provided a home to my brother and me when we needed it most. Lastly, I thought about my 18 year old self all those years ago and the weight I tried to carry on shoulders that I always perceived as being broad and strong. Looking in the mirror, in the half light, I saw how narrow they in fact were.

Then I cried.

2 thoughts on “A cry in the dark

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