This story was supposed to be two things...
Written about a sexy French DJ who stole my heart, lived off me for two years and who introduced me to Paris in a night that is still etched into my memory forever...
Sure I was young and romantic but hey... Paris by night and, ultimately, by sunrise.
And it would make a fine tale that might remind us, silver haired folk, of what it was to be young and irresponsibly in
Needless to say I Botted out again and got the submission date wrong.
Regardless, I'm sending this into the Hive-Verse because the scent I'm writing about ended up not being some swish French boy's cologne after all.
What this non-entry-because-I missed-it and not-the-sublime-cologne-of-the-cheeky-French-DJ has ended up being about...
is a boy who stole my heart around nine years ago. A boy who I had to give up, breaking the final piece of an already too worn out heart...
but who made his way home to me again last week.
Between April 2019 and October 2021 I lost:
My partnership with a man I loved deeply, eight days after we officially decided to move in and make a permanent life together. Not our choice or doing.
My ten year online web development company that I built myself with hard sweat and too many lost hours away from my children.
My cat who passed on peacefully at the ripe old age of 18 while I held her.
My entire social circle of friends, bar a literal handful who had my back and a few surprises who stepped up out of the shadows to hold me through a situation that literally almost killed me.
My car. The only possession besides my lap top, my beat up old guitar that I've never learned to play properly but do anyway with gusto 'cause it's fun dammit and my hoola hoop (yeah you read that right. I'm 51 and I still hoola hoop) that I cared anything much about because.... freedom is literally my most valuable possession.
Enough of my health for me to write a proper Last Will and Testament, upload family photos and farewell letters to my children, back up necessary email accounts and set up logistics for whatever might be left.
My reputation and social standing. Probably irretrievable in a small town like mine. Not my doing. But a job supremely well done by the couple of people who made this happen.
Both of my bank accounts, all of my savings and the rest of my accounts. Gone after thirty plus years of never missing one payment on anything.
A entire household of stuff, built over a responsible lifetime, of material possessions except one back pack of clothing, a tv (the child would freak out if we lost this). the dodgy lap top, guitar, hoola hoop, Xbox (same re the young person), some kitchen utensils and a fridge.
To be honest, my books were the hardest part of my material stuff to let go. And I kept the Roald Dahl, the Harry Potters and some of my art book collection (3 out of... well... I had a LOT of books).
10) My dog. Toby.
Yeah. I was given two weeks to move out of my own modest home, built with my own all I had in the world savings plus some additional debt because sketchy builders and dishonesty.
It's a long, strange and somewhat disturbing story so we'll just leave things there for now...
But it's a story I will tell one day because... as it turns out... it's not only my story and far from uncommon.
And the biggest losses I endured were entirely due to the general ignorance about how things like this "work".
My own included.
I managed to find a place to land despite it all.
A small miracle really, as I had nothing left by this stage for any kind of a deposit. A kind landlady who heard some of my story and who'd been through something similar.
An angel really...
These angels appear when you least expect it and have almost given up on there being good people in the world apparently... so never give up!
But there were dogs on her property. And Toby is an old guy. I was worried the two youngish Huskies may go for him.
So it was decided Toby would go to a farm with my mother and her two animals instead.
I was out of time and options.
I can't quite describe what it was like sitting on the pavement, weeping as they packed the last bits of what were really the last bits of my furniture into the small van I'd hired to move us that day...
as I said goodby to Toby.
It's been almost a year since I saw him last. But I've thought about him almost every day. Almost a year on without transport or funds to visit him even once.
But my mother's move to the farm didn't work out in the end. And there was no place for Toby to go, but to come home.
He arrived at my in-between landing place last Wednesday.
I can't say I wasn't a bit shocked when he got out of the car. He's aged so much. He's not the same dog I knew. And he wasn't well either.
Since last Friday, he's been bed ridden.
To the point I began to reach out to find out about vets who do home exits for him on Saturday last. Despite my best efforts, he only seemed to be getting weaker.
I thought the move had been too much for his, also possibly, worn out old heart.
Trying to explain these last days with Toby, my son and I is difficult.
All I can say is that being with him again, made the memories of our walks and random wades in streams in our favourite place... lying with him on the bed and gazing into his eyes, his unconditional love and acceptance that literally, at times, kept me alive in 2019 when nobody else was there for me, playing hide and seek in the house with him and my son (my gods the noise though!)... and more...
came flooding back these last few days....
Then the guilt of abandoning him.
The regret of missing this last good year of his life.
[edited: paragraph about my anger at the majority of my family's total lack of response or care removed because I should not post when I'm sad-mad]
The helplessness as I watched my son try to get Toby up to play with him in desperation while I sat and watched... knowing Toby couldn't move right then or he so would have just to make my son happy for a moment.
Knowing I should just shut up and let the boy work through his own process of accepting the loss. Being there to hold him when he realised it wouldn't work and this was happening despite him.
These last days reminded me of the birth of my children.
How strange... that death and birth are so very, very similar after all.
I had two home births.
The world outside seems to slow, dim and fade into insignificance during events like these. There is a bubble of experience that seems to separate intense events from the "normal" outside. A cocoon around the happenings inside private rooms and spaces that's rarely even shared after things have unfolded.
Everything becomes contained and relevant only in this one space, as you go through the motions of trying to support but being unable to prevent what is happening in either circumstance for the person or animal experiencing it.
Or for yourself.
These are two of the most grounding if surreal experiences of being alive, I think.
You're powerless and you know it in full.
You have to relinquish all control or the fear will overwhelm you.
And when you do that, when you trust the process, when you choose to be the best you that you can be in those moments, by understanding that it isn't even about you at all experientially ...
when you're fully immersed "in it" ... it is the most intimate and authentic place you can be in this life with the people, or creatures, who are in it with you.
No more facades. No more pretenses. No more defenses. No more bullshit. Just us. As we are. Powerless, vulnerable and completely exposed in our mortality.
In a way, I think this is the kind of Being we are all so desperately seeking in fact.
But it's only these two experiences that really make a person fully comprehend that, at the end of the day, we truly don't have any control over the outcome of things in this world at all.
Or how terrifying until we understand this enough to let go.
Three intense days of letting go, small moments of hope that he was coming back and then despair as he failed again. Wet sheets. Mess. Shit. All the stuff that makes us want to turn away because it is so un-ethereal and all too fuckin' real...
all the embarrassing mess and stench of flesh that really means absolutely nothing when it's birth...
So silly that we forget and make this so important our whole lives through...
Toby's still here with me. Albeit hardly moving. I still get a tail wag every now and then. This is an improvement though and I'm hopeful again.
When he perked up briefly on Sunday, I called things off and got him into a vet today (Monday). No. I can't afford it. But I've got a new client and had a bit saved to try and fix myself up a bit. God knows I need it.
But kids and dogs come first, of course.
They got the financial situation and told me they would work around it. Anti-biotics. Some anti-inflammatories. I can't do x-rays and blood tests and start that process right now.
This level of care starts at R2500 in South Africa.
A few years ago I could have afforded it.
And no. I wasn't responsible for the fallout of my life. I didn't start the fight. I was gentle as a lamb before all of this happened. I was soft. I was peaceful. I let things slide. I covered people's responsibilities and made excuses for their mistakes. I didn't rock the boat. I wanted everyone to just be happy.
I rescued puppies, kittens and people. I drove around with tins of food in my car to hand out to those struggling at traffic lights with hands out.
I didn't choose this. Although I did choose to not remain silent any longer.
But few people believe me or have even taken the time to ask me directly themselves.
I've been nuzzling his head.
Not the French boy.
He left me for a skinny French girl when he went home thirty years ago. We're still friends on Fakebook. Or were before I locked my account down and walked away from the life I once considered pretty successful some time ago.
But it's not the French boy's head I've been nuzzling.
I've been nuzzling Toby's head.
Only Toby smells like Toby.
And this really is one of the greatest loves of my life.
Simple. Accepting. Non judgemental. Unconditional. Forever. For free.
“Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won't adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words "make" and "stay" become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.”
― Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker
One of my favourite quotes of all time, from one of my favourite books of all time...
and I've yet to find a human being who is truly capable of this.
Myself included of course. We try... but we mostly fail miserably because of our own unconscious fears more often than not.
Dogs, however... they just do it.
Toby is the first dog I've had the privilege of looking after, in a dog's life on this great earth. And I "get it" now. I get why those doggie people always asked if they could bring their dogs to events.
Before I would kinda roll my eyes a bit.
No. I get it now.
The first time I knew I'd become a dog person was at a trance party. Yeah. I used to frequent them. Then I sobered up.
I still went though.
I love music and I love to dance.
I was at the event sober, a year or more after I'd been gifted with the presence of Toby.
It was a winter party.
Toby and I spent a good deal of that winter snuggled on the couch together, binge watching Netflix. Snuggled like... he lay on top of me so I couldn't move at all. My dog blanked I called him.
As it so happened, I was wearing my super favourite super comfy jersey at the winter trance party.
After a few hours into the evening, as everyone degenerated into less sober, less interesting and less funny versions of themselves (despite their own perceptions), I took a break and went and sat in my car.
And a really awful stench came to my attention.
Thinking there may be an old sandwich or something from a discarded school lunch laying around on the floor, I began to dig and feel around me in the dark car.
In the cubby hole. In the side areas of the doors...
Until I looked down towards my lap and the floor below me...
and it hit me.
I grabbed my jersey and lifted it up to my nose.
It was me.
Full of dog hair. Out at a trendy party. Smelling like my boy.
And I laughed and went back in to dance anyway.
That's when I became a dog owner proper, I think.
He doesn't smell awful by the way.
I think that's when you've been slept on and sweated on by a Toby. And knits aren't good for that kind of thing anyway I reckon.
Toby has this sweet, musky, puppy kinda smell... still. Even though he's mighty grey and somewhat distinguished now.
It's a Toby smell.
There's no other way to really describe it.
Except that, probably, this is the smell of unconditional love. ❤️
Thanks for your reading time if you made it this far!