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There’s no real way to explain it. How that spot down by the river would witness the change in us all. How it would keep us company when all we really wanted was to be alone. How it would cool us off after a long day playing in the melting Tennessee sun. How the moon would reflect off of the waters top line and peer back at us. Keeping so much alive.
It all started when Ma took me down to the river edge the night Pa left. I was still just a young ‘in. She bawled her eyes out into what was just a stream at that time. We sat under the apple tree as she hummed me a song for what seemed like forever. ‘Hmm hmhmhm hmm.’ Rocking her body softly back and forth, Ma held me as I drifted into a deep sleep encompassed in the warmth of her chest and the security of her arms wrapped around me. The moon tried to show its reflection in the line of water trickling down stream. The current carried the sorrow away with it. I was too young to realize it at the time, but it was quite magical.
But that wasn’t the only time the river was a witness to the ever changing lives of the Nicolson family. You see I have an older sister, Bre; let’s just say she doesn’t have the best of luck, whether it be crashing our brand-new pickup truck, or getting suspended from school. There was one night when her and her boyfriend, Mike, had driven to the river that was still young, but nevertheless much larger from the previous memory. They sat at the edge, dipping their feet into the, touch too cold, water. The current pushed their feet whimsfully down stream; they just sat there, talking about their day and so on so forth.
Peacefully minding her own business, peering down at the mirror of water, Bre felt something brush against the side of her foot. She didn’t think much of it, until she felt something brush against the bottom of her foot. She jumped back, out of the water. Meanwhile, Mike happened to see something exploring in the water below. He looked back at Bre with a grin stretched across his face. “What?!” exclaimed Bre.
Mike fished in the monster lurking below, and turned to show her. Flapping in between Mike’s finger tips, an abandoned plastic bag was held up. As the fear sunk from Bre’s face and turned to embarrassment, all Mike could do was laugh. Once the teasing began to pickup Bre playfully charged Mike, and with enough force managed to throw him off balance. The two of them stumbled into the river that had to have only been three feet deep. The two gasped in unison upon impact. There was a moment of heart stopping adrenaline as their bodies adjusted to the cool water. A silence followed soon to be burst by laughter, the real kind of laughter, where you truly mean it, no falseness, just pure.
They goofed around in the water for another 20 minutes after the initial jump in, splashing each other with the water, dunking each other, having as much fun as one could possibly have. The moon acted as a spot light on the two of them. The river was growing larger and larger with these building experiences.
We had this dog, Remi. We had him longer than I could remember. Boy was he stubborn! Most of the time he would completely ignore you, no matter what you did, but come nighttime, it was like he was a completely different dog. The best snuggle buddy, and foot warmer.
We used to always take him over to the river. Even though he would never listen when we called his name, he would never stray too far from us, be it running the edge of the water bed, actually swimming in the river, or hunting for the unknown in the prairie.
I remember early one Saturday morning in July, I was awoken by a strange commotion coming from the living room just down stairs. I tried to go back to sleep but to no avail. The noise was so great that I went downstairs half asleep to find out what was going on. I turned to look into the living room, and in no time I was more awake then I ever could be. My eyes bulged out of their sockets, my heart stopped and spontaneously boomed in my chest, beating faster and faster as time ticked away. Adrenaline rushed through my body. I was frozen when Ma peered over towards me and our eyes chained together. It was the longest few seconds of my life. There were paths on her face from where the tears had fallen, the small crystal drops driving down her cheek and free falling into the open air, flurrying to the ground below.
As my eyes made their way through the scene, they became fixed. Lying completely frozen on the floor was our 12 year old German Shepard, Remi. I hadn’t noticed but at the time, my own waterfall had carved its way down my face. My ma encouraged me to come say goodbye, but I couldn’t. When something terrible happens, the last thing I want to do is accept it. He’s not really dead; we went for a walk yesterday; he’s just tired! You lie to yourself to make things easier: throw the water on the flame to extinguish the problem.
As time continued on, my sister awoke to the passing of a great friend. One by one we each said goodbye to him that morning. All in all we probably said ‘you were a good boy,’ more times now, than when he was actually alive. When you come across something as stubborn as Remi was, you fail to acknowledge the good in such a thing. You’re stuck on the idea that everything they do is bad and that good is a foreign language to them.
Later that afternoon, Ma, Bre, and I traveled down to the river edge, and dug a hole under that tree bearing the red fruits. We gently lowered Remi’s body into the hole and carefully put back the dirt. Upon doing so, we recited memories we had with our dear friend. As past memories became real again, we all began dripping tears on the freshly placed dirt.
As Ma and Bre began walking back to the car, I took the opportunity to have a one on one moment to really say goodbye, “I’m sorry boy, I really am. You were the best dog I could have ever asked for, and I hope you know that. I’ll miss you, don’t forget me, please, don’t forget me. Well, I have to go; I’ll come see you again soon. Bye boy.”
The few remaining tears that could be cried were falling from my eyes as I walked away. I was apologizing to him for something I didn’t know I was sorry for, but it just felt like he deserved my apology.
After that day, every once in a while one of us would go and bring a flower or two, place it on the mound of grass, and just talk, talk about anything and everything. And you know what? He had the best advice… that he did. He knew just what to say at just the right time.
We got another dog, a rescue dog. His name is Toby. He’s this little ball of energy that loves to romp around out by the river. And he’s so responsive it’s unbelievable. He’d like Remi, I think, but I guess we’ll never really know for sure.
Witnessing the toughest night of my Ma’s life, the blossoming relationship of my sister and her boyfriend, and the sorrow of a lost friend, the river began to grow deeper and deeper; 3 feet became 4 feet, 4 feet to 6 feet, and eventually 6 feet to, in some spots, 10 feet deep, growing wider and wider, until it was about 16 feet across. It wasn’t just water filling the empty spaces; there were lessons learned, hardships faced, and memories made, waiting for more to be made.