Such a simple request… But those are often the most difficult.
“I just want four photos of our doggies to hang in my office,” Beloved Wifey said to me a few months ago. Her slight Germanic accent makes every word sound just a bit more matter-of-fact than normal. But I immediately knew this was going to hurt…
I work as a photographer. Our dogs are my test subjects quite often… I’ve got, literally, tens of thousands of photos of our critter-kids, none of them labeled or tagged in any way. This was going to mean some serious digging for me… And I know my Wifey – she doesn’t want the best photography I have, she just wants fun pictures of the dogs. Snapshots. Photos that are attached to memories. This is gonna hurt…
Sure enough, I started to dig through the photos I have on file. Finding photos of Little Buttercup, our now-two-year-old happy-go-lucky Golden Retriever, only took a few minutes. But to find photos of our older Zoey-doggie took the rest of the afternoon…
I worked my way backwards in time. Tons of photos of Zoey and Buttercup playing around on our acreage, but Zoey’s almost always looking down, her sniffer to the ground, following a neat smell around… “Chipmunk? No, this is eau de squirrel…” I smile my way back through Buttercup’s puppy days – she was SO damned cute! I start to get a bit of a catch in my throat when I see a photo of our kitty, Fruitloop, looking frail and thin… He only lived here at the acreage for a little less than a year before he passed. Diabetes.
The photos of the days and months right after we moved to our dream home out here on our acreage, what full memories! A picture of Beloved Wifey poking about hopefully at a garden we’d planted… That stabbed, somehow. It took me a minute to realize why. She’s not been healthy enough to go outside for a few years now other than to get back and forth to the car. I’d sort of forgotten that at one point she went outside a bit… It looked wrong, in the photo, to see her outside, so far from the house.
Backwards to our old house in Sioux City… I’m skimming through the photos, looking for photos of Zoey-Dog, but I couldn’t help but notice patterns. Right there. In this period right here, between 2009 and 2010. A transition. Before about 2009 all the photos of Zoey Dog included a smiling Beloved Wifey, and were entitled “A Day in the Park,” or “A Walk By the River.” A happy woman with a happy doggie in a happy park.
After that date, the photo albums were titled things like, “House,” or “Acreage,” and didn’t have Beloved Wifey in them. Just a dog.
I kept going back… Almost every day a happy Beloved Wifey took a happy Zoey Dog out for a walk, and almost every day I took pictures. I hated my life back then – I was working a dead-end job, playing in a band with tensions, living in a cozy little house in the bad part of town, watching the homeless and unfortunate folks walking by day after day, hoping I wouldn’t ever be one of them.
I took my photo tour all the way back to the first day we got Zoey. We have about twenty photos of that day of smiling people petting a trepidatious but hopeful doggie taken with a cheap camera… Tears rolling down my face I looked back at photos of Beloved Wifey proudly and nervously walking the dog for the first time. Outdoors.
She used to dance barefoot in the snow every New Years’ Eve, talking on the phone to her Mama and her relatives back in Austria. We used to go watch bands play and dance until two in the morning. She used to walk the dog every single day while I sat at my computer working. (Boy, could I kick myself in the ass now for missing those mundane moments.) They’d come home, stomping snow off their feet as I’d drop towels and offer warm drinks. When I was in a band, Beloved Wifey would come and watch me until closing time, sometimes sitting by herself for hours in dive bars, but always there…
I’d forgotten all that.
Life for Beloved Wifey now is to wake up around 5:30 each morning, do her medical treatments and routines until 7:15, then out the door to work. At 4:30 she leaves work, by 5:15 she’s home and in the shower. By six she’s in bed, doing more medical treatments, asleep by seven. I see her about twenty minutes a day – and I’m always engrossed in some work problem and can’t seem to find the time to really talk. Work. Dishes. Laundry. Work. Mowing. Something always must be done. I’ll see her face peering out her bedroom window sometimes, “I vas vatching you, it’s fun how you play with the doggies. The frisbee is behind the shed… The vind blew it back there while you weren’t looking.” Tubes trailing from her midsection to a plasma pump… “Be sure to give Miss Mittens some tuna. Nitty-kitty will steal it all if you don’t vatch her close.”
I see a picture of her dancing back in 2007. I’d forgotten about those days when we’d go places, see people, there were no face masks, no tubes.
I sort of hope she has, too.