There were quite a few pictures of our dog Buster in the box. This is a photo I already had, btw, but here is Buster with my older/younger sister, Mom, and Grandma Val. My mom had made us dresses and bonnets like the three "Little House on the Prairie" girls:
We lived in the country with Buster, and there he could dig himself a big hole to lie down in and cool off, or he'd run down to the pond and come back all wet. Sometimes he'd drag home something dead to chew on till my dad took it away. He was a big muscular dog, hard as a rock, and his eyes were nothing but earnest. It was his biggest pleasure to sit near one of us and hand over his heavy paw for a shake. We never had to ask for the paw, he just offered it repeatedly.
Hi! Here's my paw!
Hi! Here's my paw!
Eventually my parents got divorced, and my mom moved us a little more than an hour away. Buster remained behind with Grandma. My sisters and I came back several times a year to see our dad, Grandma and Buster. Buster was always so excited, wriggling around and jumping at the gate when we arrived. Here he is giving my sister the early morning paw:
It's a shame Buster didn't come on to live with us, but Grandma would have otherwise been alone a lot, and she enjoyed treating him like a king. She specially prepared a lot of his meals and talked to him throughout the day. Here he is on her sofa:
Eventually we got the call that Buster had passed away. He was an old dog, and he just went under her porch to nap one day and that was that. The news was just extra bad, though, because we weren't with him when it happened. Or with Grandma. And because we never saw him enough. He was the friend we left behind.
Seems like my childhood is forever split into those times before and after the divorce, each really different types of memories. Buster had been a last bit from that sometimes more sparkling and elusive first half of childhood.
I was looking at these pictures again when I got them back to my house and lingered over the ones of Buster. I was trying not to think that Buster might have ever really been lonely or waiting for my sisters and me at the gate now and then. There were pictures of Buster playing with some of my Grandma's neighbors, and she'd obviously always been with him. It was hard not to feel sad, though, because he just had that kind of face. He has that sad face in this picture of him where he's sprawled across her porch, probably just sunning himself like my dogs do now.
But I noticed when I was putting this picture away that Grandma had written something on the back of it:
Which is the last thing I wanted to know.
I have a bunch of rattling and voices and pictures racing through my head at all times, and it's eased for a couple hours sometimes if I purge (sometimes even about unrelated topics) onto paper or into this journal. Sometimes I write down a bunch of garbage and then just delete it or throw it away, but it still works. The day I discovered the back-side of Buster's picture I started to post all this about him. Then I put everything away and drew for a while to distract myself, 'cause I didn't want to write down such a bummer. But ya know, the week is already ruined by the passing of Brown Bunny. I'm already in the big slump.
Someday it'll stop raining and things will seem swell again. Or maybe Texas will just crumble into the sea. Who cares.