Kimberly J. Brown
things to do
1. You've been so distracted with the new puppy. Refocus.
2. Get good smells with your thirteen-year-old cattle dog, Lucy.
3. Hug her when she gets good smells, kneel down to the porch windows. Wrap your left arm around her rib cage. Make short petting motions. Listen to the papery sound her nostrils make as she sniffs. Rest your head on her luxurious neck. Feel her ribcage flutter as she sniffs the damp morning. Look at the houses across the street then notice the bugle shape of the hostas as their growth reaches skyward.
4. Look at Lucy. She's standing still, middle of the room, staring at you. "What is it, girl?" She won't tell you. Instead, Lucy leans off her back left paw. "What's the matter?" you ask. She still won't say. Several options flash in your mind: old age, arthritis, sprained ankle…could it be a fracture? She leans and stares, almost imperceptibly wobbly. You've seen this look before: on her, and on your Dad, your dad who has dementia. Vacant. Confused. Leaving.
5. Feel the breath rise inside your ribs. Feel the breath change to fear. Feel the fear change to longing. Feel the longing turn to sorrow. Feel your eyes fill like a lock and dam, then flood, then surrender. Weep a little. Lucy’s still here (so, feel a little silly). She's still here, beloved companion, Lucy-loo, the most biggest and finest, but you're mourning now, for this is what you've been taught to do ever since you were wee. Nothing lasts. Everything ends. You started life expecting this. It's taken work, time, and falling in love, to foster an Optimistic side to your tragic self.
6. Let go a little. Look for that Optimistic side.
7. Take the leashes down from the nails on the wall. Lucy barks her excited announcement bark, which has always had volume and power, enough that her front feet lift from the ground with each call she sounds. You're trying to get the small one harnessed, but Lucy's voice booms in your ear. "Yes yes," you tell her. Lucy tells you again how thrilled she is to be on a leash. She says it loudly enough that the six-month-old gets wedged under Lucy like a canine bridge.
8. Walk the dogs down your street. It’s a cool 7:30 a.m., maybe fifty degrees. You had grabbed a blue hooded sweatshirt off the kitchen chairs, which you wear as a jacket over your work clothes. See Lucy cantering down the boulevard, gimp limp gone, for now. (Feel the Optimist returning.) Their noses have dew droplets on them. The sidewalks are still gritty from last night’s rain. The leaves are fluorescent green. It is late May and the summer heat will be here soon.
Kimberly J. Brown is a survivor of the 2007 I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis and the childhood legacy of (attempted) suicide. Her work gravitates toward the reality of life after trauma, in the wake of consequences exacted in the push-and-pull between extremes of recovery and resilience. She has been a Loft Mentor Series winner in creative nonfiction (2011). Her work has been published in Recovering The Self: A Journal of Hope and Healing, A View From The Loft, The Loft Writers Block, What Have You Lost? (Nye 2001) and Seeds from a Silent Tree: An Anthology By Korean Adoptees (Rankin 1997). She has written bridge collapse advocacy pieces published in The Star Tribune, Twin Cities Daily Planet, and Minnesota 20/20. Brown is pursuing her M.F.A. from Hamline University and she writes and speaks on topics of collapse and repair. More about Kimberly at www.kjbrown.com.