This weekend we were in Philadelphia for a wedding. We used it as an excuse to have our first weekend away together since Alston came into existence, so we dropped the toddler off with my folks and headed to the city. On Saturday night, we had dinner reservations at one of those places where you have to call a month in advanced. We justified it as an early Valentine’s, late Christmas, now we live on a farm and don’t do this kind of stuff gift to ourselves. A chance to act like the people we were before kids and a mortgage – financially reckless foodies.
The meal was amazing. The textures, the flavors, I could go on and on, only I don’t remember most of it. About two-thirds through the meal Will received a call from our farm sitter. We never pick up our cell phones, but as it was about the time for putting ducks to bed, it seemed prudent. When Will returned to the table he looked absolutely devastated. Our dear beagle, Watson, was hit by a car. Watson was dead. Watson is dead. The last thing I remember is muttering”No, not Watty” and then crying in a cab and crying back at our hotel. I had to ask Will the next morning if we’d even paid for our meal. I don’t remember having phoned my mother to check in on Alston.
What I do remember is that I bawled like child, with absolute abandon. I cried until my head ached. He was only a dog, but… He was our first pet, our practice baby, my endless protector while I was pregnant with Alston (even if it made walking him impossible as his 32 pounds of might tried to battle every pit bull we passed along the way), he endured the endless, tail pulling, climb on his back to ride him like a pony, tackle him with hugs affection of our son, who first called him Kit (before we ever had cats) and then called him Dog followed by Good Dog and finally Wah Wah. As embarrassed as we were to admit it at the time, he used to sleep in our bed, pre-baby (practically on our faces if there was a thunderstorm). He had even evolved into quite the little farm hound as of late, defending the poultry, chasing off stray dogs intent on said poultry, patrolling the property, or even just perched on the front porch surveying his new domain. He had a job, and you could see the change that made in him.
When we picked up Alston on Monday morning, after being able to indulge ourselves in our grief in a way that probably wouldn’t have been possible had we the child or the farm to tend, we had to coax the boy to leave the endless land of attention that is Grandma and Grandpa’s house. It took complete concentration to avoid saying “We have to go home and see Watson,” our usual bribe.
When we got back to the farm this afternoon, Alston’s first question once we were in the house was “Where Wah Wah go?” I expected this, was even prepared for this (the plus side of having a school social worker for a mother is that she is awash in knowledge for just such an occasion). I know he didn’t understand me when I told him he was gone, when I started quietly crying when I said that it was okay to miss him. And I know he’ll ask me again tomorrow and the next day and at some point either I’ll get used to the question or he’ll stop asking it or maybe both. But right now it sucks really bad.