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  • Writer's pictureJaci Mun-Gavin

Mama's Grief and Relief

I’m not sure I know how to do this and I’m sure I’m not doing it right.

“It doesn’t look like Bear wants to live here anymore,” she says, her words ringing simply, without undertone or hidden daggers. But they strike me in a place of defenceless insecurity and I respond like I’ve been stung, because I have.

It’s silly. The dog is a full-blooded young adult Labrador, living just close enough to the beach to think he owns it. He takes every chance he gets and every chance he doesn’t get to hot foot it out the gate to reclaim his kingdom of boundary-less space. So after a full night roaming out-and-about, followed by a second escapade just one day later, he is tied to the post while contractors leave open the gate-of-escape. He’s miserable. And he’s just a dog. It’s not personal.

I worry about Bear, but it’s not Bear that I’m worried about. This mama’s heart is not quite broken but it’s being stretched into shapes and lengths it doesn’t know and I’m sure it’s not doing it right. I was “Mama”, then “Mommy”, then “Mom”, and now “Bruh.” I laugh at the progression but the humour catches in my throat surprisingly similarly to a sob and I’m not sure this progression is a promotion. And in fact I’m pretty sure it’s not. It feels a whole lot similar to loss, and yet what I’ve lost is smiling at me from across the living room as she points out that Bear looks miserable. What I’ve lost is sitting across from me at the dining room table laughing and giving Bear a wink as he hears of his night of freedom. If he could fist pump a dog’s paw, he would.

I look at Bear and he does look miserable and I want to shake him and demand to know what’s wrong with me that he doesn’t want to stay? What’s wrong with what we’ve built here in this beautiful home full of love and laughter and memories that he’s so desperate to leave? Bloody Bear, so bloody full-blooded, so full of life, so ready for childhood boundaries to disappear into the horizon. Bloody Bear.

I hurl iron balls of anger in Bear’s direction, but they thud to the ground long before they reach him, made impotent by the sorrow they have failed to distract me from. This Mama is not sure she knows how to fist-pump celebrate the night’s away from home, how to laugh with relief that her chicks are learning to fly, that they want to fly, that they believe they can fly. Relief at a job well done, at babes all raised to run out the gate into the boundary-less space we have raised them for.  Perhaps the progression is less promotion and more graduation, and though I’m not sure I know what I’m graduating to, I’m sure this grief is mixed with relief because this graduation has been the destination all along.

And Bear will stay. We’ll go for long walks on the beach together and I’ll let him run free and we’ll catch crabs and get our feet wet and watch the sky turn pink at sunset. And we’ll remember. We’ll remember with love, with grief and relief, the ones who have learned how to fly.

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Naveen Kashyap
Naveen Kashyap
May 15

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julie williams
May 13

Beautiful Jaci. These words are catching in my throat too! Thank you for expressing this bittersweet slow-fast journey so poignantly. Also though, bloody Bear!

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