Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The saddest lines

Sweet Ender Dog - a little collage of the last year or so


There's a huge gap at home.
This time last week, we had to rush our older dog, Ender, into the vet for an early morning appointment. He'd been panting and drooling in the small hours, and unable to rest at all. It's a long story cut short, but despite having several other "old man" issues (he was 14, so he had problems with arthritis, his heart, and he was also getting senile, but his demeanour and quality of life were so good, especially for his age and in spite of these conditions), it was a totally new condition that our vet diagnosed: gastric torsion. This would not necessarily have been such bad news had he been younger and healthier in order to benefit from - and indeed survive - surgery, but because of his age and other afflictions, we came to the horrible, sad, and somehow shocking conclusion that we had to let him go.

Thank you, everyone at CCVH. 
I don't want to go into it any more than that, but we're still somewhat in shock a week later, so I don't quite know what else to say about anything else, either. I miss him very much, and my heart aches in his absence. I was only part of Ender's life for a year of his fourteen, whereas Ben has had him since he was a puppy. The gap for him is that much bigger, and connected to so much more. It also hits you at the strangest times, so we seem okay for portions of the day, and then we'll realise that we were looking for him, or expecting him to howl when we go to take out the rubbish, or think we hear him moving around upstairs.

Our vet and everyone there were just amazing. They have been so supportive and understanding, and today we received Ender's paw print cast and such a lovely card from them. We can't begin to thank them enough for how much we appreciate them.

"Love is so short, forgetting is so long." Not that we want to forget. We want to remember his good days; his silly way of walking around with a toy (not running off, just walking around happily with it in his mouth, whining); his habit of head-butting the leash in excitement when it was time for a walk; his expression after a full shave-down groom; how totally unbothered he was by most things; how much he liked cheese; his sweet way with people, and gentle manner around pretty much all creatures. I just mean that I think you do manage to convince yourself to forget how hard, how heavy, grief is. And how very long.

Sleep tight, Ender dog. We miss you, and we love you.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

If needed, I'll be there

The start of this post is infused by wine and thus is only going to be brief. I shall write the rest under conditions of strictest sobriety, in order that it is not overly sentimental, or more rambling than usual. But on the last night of my parents' visit, and with them asleep and my husband just gone to bed, I am sat listening to music and can't help but reflect on their stay and my feelings about them leaving.

Sorrow and pain are the two emotions I immediately associate with them returning to England. I can't help it, and I've tried so very hard to pretend it's not happening. In fact, it's actually been easier than I imagined, because we have now finalised our booking for coming to the UK for the Christmas break, so I know that I won't be apart from them for more than two months or so. Ten months, and an unspecified ten months, was pretty awful. I don't want to do that again. All the same, not having them within the immediate vicinity (be it neighbourhood or state) is going to take some adjustment. We've lapsed into our usual family routine with blessed ease and delight, so to have it removed is going to hurt. It's like they should always be here; they are such travellers and world citizens indeed that it feels like they already belong - part-time at least - in the Queen City.

Seeing them has both invigorated and confirmed my choice and belief in my choice of moving here. I am happy, and the people who love me most outside of my marriage, my parents, know it. They can see it when they come to our house; they get it when they see Ben and I living, loving, being together; they enjoy our little furry family being part of our lives; and they've experienced our home and life here too. Reservations of course include the obvious limitations in health care, ridiculous political and religious extremism, terrible driving etiquette, and the massive bloody ocean between us all. But other than that, I get the impression that my parents see what a lovely life we're lucky enough to lead.

So, what is the point of this post? I guess that it's my apprehension that my stay in America isn't just an extended holiday. We knew this anyway; the intention was always to really live here, and to build a life here. We're not country-hoppers, and our relationship is the most permanent, beautiful thing in the world. But currently (and possibly election result/child bearing-willing), I guess we are contemplating a long-term lifetime here. We want to come back to England, for holidays, long stays, and also - in theory - to live, whether it be for a short period before returning to the US, or to make a commitment to living in the UK properly. It's my true home, and I know Ben is so very keen to make that move, too. But from where we currently stand, and without visiting England for a good 18 months, it's seeming like we might stay where we are.

It's not like this is news to me. I just haven't really contemplated it openly before now. I am very happy here. I like life in America - with Ben and in our house, our neighbourhood, our town, our state. There are definite drawbacks (expensive healthcare, excessive religious involvement, bipartisan politics, the war on women - see above), and cultural adaptations I have made without being aware of them, but I know I have definitely altered my expectations and behaviour to fit in a little more here. It's also not written in stone that we would stay forever and ever, either. It just feels more possible.

*end late night wine rambles*

0955 10/19/12: See what I mean?! I've even written the date in the American format. Bah. But today is the day my parents go home, so I'm going to have to continue this later today or over the weekend.

1042 10/20/12: I wrote the first part of this post thinking that I would be more likely to backtrack on what I said about staying here once my parents had returned home. I think that's why I persuaded myself to write it when I did, in order that I said it honestly, before I was influenced by the massive gap in my heart that my Mum and Dad not being here has left.

But I still feel the same way.

Walking around our house this morning was a quite sad, as it was so quiet after being filled with the bustle, laughter, and general lives of four people, three dogs, and a cat. With Mum and Dad back in England, Ben at work, the cat AWOL, and at least one dog asleep, it was a little too peaceful as I pottered around tidying and staring absent-mindedly at things earlier today. But in a way, I was still happy. Really quite happy.

This house, this place, feels like home. Walking through our neighbourhood at 8:45AM in my polka-dot pyjamas and hooded dressing gown (yes, I'm that classy chick you see from time to time) with the two puppies trotting merrily along with me, waving to the ladies who live across the street and getting nods from passers-by in cars, while the whole time enjoying the fresh air and autumn sunshine, reminded me what a home we've built here already. It's a wonderful place to live, both socially and meteorologically, and is filled with people I'm lucky enough to say I love and places that feel almost as familiar to me as those I've visited for 10+ years back in England.

So, what am I trying to say? I guess just that I'm at a point I didn't think I'd arrive at so soon: that I feel at home here, at least in our little microcosm of America. I can reel off a list of why the UK is a better place to live overall (from a dispassionate point of view), and I will always be hugely torn by being so far away from those who, apart from Ben, I love most in the world. The distance from my beloved parents, brother, sister-in-law, and several friends who I count amongst family in every way that matters is something that could be the deal-breaker. Coming to England for Christmas may turn this post around almost entirely too - I'm aware I'm speaking from a rather literally and metaphorically distanced perspective right now, so I could be totally missing half of the story, but nevertheless wanted to get it "on paper" for posterity.

We may still come back to England to live, and it's certainly not off the table in any significant way. It's a decision Ben and I will take together, and not for a few years yet I should think (which we have said from the beginning). But when and if we do, leaving Charlotte to move back to the UK won't be just coming home any more. It will be leaving another home behind too.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

R-E-V-I-V-A-L

I'm trying to stay so very calm about Mum and Dad arriving, but I just looked at the countdown on here, saw that it was 3 days and 18 hours, and promptly burst into happy tears. Oh dear! I do not know how I am going to hold it together at the airport. I'm already a (joyful) mess.

I've already written about how much I bloody love my parents. I'm in that lucky, socially awkward number that count their parents as people they adore hanging out with, who consider them to be a mandatory, doctor's orders, once-a-week-minimum social engagement. They're just brilliant people who I miss more than I can possibly write or verbalise (see the most recent QE v-log for evidence of this). AND THEY ARE HERE IN LESS THAN FOUR DAYS!

Ahem.

Today was spent doing a giant shop to get in loads of lovely things for them while they're here. I've also been preparing the spare room, making sure it's spick and span, cat-free (Dad is allergic), and full of useful things. Tomorrow I'll be at work at the vet and preparing for a shoot; Saturday will be at said shoot; Sunday will be spent editing photos from the shoot, and cleaning the house at the speed of light. Then it will be Monday, which is a half day at work for me and Ben, and then they will be here. Here. As in where I am.

I wish I could write something half decent to try to express how I feel. I haven't seen them for ten whole months, which is a big thing for any expat (if you ask me). Your family provides such a fundamental framework for who you are that, when displaced physically and emotionally, the idea of such an integral part of your existence coming into your new space makes you feel simultaneously relieved, excited, and unbearably elated.

It's not like they're going to fix anything (there's nothing to fix); it's not like they're staying for a prolonged period, so I can't get used to them being in Charlotte; and it's not like we've not been in touch (we have Skype, What'sApp, email, post etc.). But I haven't seen them. I haven't really heard them. I've not hugged them. I've not had a snorting girl giggle with Mum, haven't heard my Dad's booming laugh from three storeys above where he actually is seated, and not felt that literally innate sense of belonging.


I cannot wait for them to be here.