The day I left for college was the same day that you turned 6 months old. As I bent down to bid you farewell, your gaze locked with mine. Your tail was still sweeping the ground gently, but your head was cocked, and a sheen of confusion tinted your innocent brown eyes. It was as if you were asking me, “Mommy? Why do you look so sad?”
The image of your naivety cut me like a knife, searing my most tender memories. I could already anticipate the scar that would throb in the dead of long nights, provoked by a conscience made all too uneasy.
You were always my baby. From the moment I cradled you out of your birth home in the countryside, I saw you every day—in person and without exception. There was no precedent to my coming absence, and only I could foresee it. You would learn of it from wistful nights and disappointed dawns, but you would never truly know why.
I imagine that your burning anticipations died down to a simmer, only to be reawakened by my occasional visit—and then left to dim again. With this assumption in mind, I can only hope that you have not interpreted my chronic absence as a punishment. In reality, I left to become a better person—one who would be worthy of your wholehearted admiration.
Still, my purpose does not ease the facts. When you were greeting trick-or-treaters, romping through heavy snow, and eating your birthday ice cream—all firsts for you—I was absent. Certainly, I followed these adventures through the screen of my phone, but you are not aware of that. You only know that I was not there to see you grow up—and for that, I am so sorry.
It is unfair that you gain so little out of knowing me, when I glean the world from knowing you. You are joy incarnate. When I face my looking-glass self, fissured by craters of self-doubt and loathing, I can just close my eyes and recall your image. Your ignorant bliss makes me whole again, and I feel welcomed within my flesh once more. You are my inspiration.
As such, I think of you every day. Whenever I call my mother, I invariably ask about you within the first half a minute, and request pictures of you before the conversation’s end. When she tells me that you recognize my voice over the crackle of the phone, my heart becomes a phoenix rising (even though I know that she is likely just assuaging my ego).
Most dogs have a gleeful soul, but it is your history that sets you apart. I could never replace the 3-month-old pup that would wake me up and then fall asleep beside me, the 4-month-old pup that would try to eat wild mushrooms and tar shavings, the 5-month-old pup that would play with me in a toddler’s pool, the 6-month-old pup that I left behind—no one could ever replace you.
Thus, I will always come home. A week or a month may pass, but, at some point, I will come home. You will place your front paws on top of the iron-wrought fence, and I will place my forehead against yours, and your tail will wag with a quiet violence, and I will remind you once more: you are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy, when skies are grey…
I tell you each time I see you, but it is a shame that you will never be able to grasp how much I love you. Your existence itself validates me, and I thank you for that. The idea that someone’s love for anyone—let alone me—could be so full of passion, and yet so free of judgement, is beyond my comprehension. I do not understand you, but I trust you—and you alone.
Mom (Michelle Siegel)