The following summer, June, 2010
Jenny and I had no choice but to move in together last fall. The first cold snap convinced me the car wasn’t where I wanted to be for the winter. Jenny couldn’t afford to live any longer in San Francisco once her partner left her for someone else. A tiny studio apartment in Findlay was the only answer. We finally moved in together in November. I tried to help Bowser overcome his distrust of Jenny. He finally let her take him for a walk. We got on pretty well through the spring, but then things began to fall apart.
“You sure you want a third glass of wine?” I say to Jenny as she settles into her chair after dinner with a full pour of Rose’ at her side.
“Goddam it, Ellen. You gonna try to manage my diabetes as well as every other fucking thing in my life? Who the hell do you think you are?”
“Jenny, I . . . “
“You’ve been pissed at me ever since dad died- you think my coming out to him caused his heart attack, don’tcha?” Hers is an ugly face, seething with anger – her way-too-white teeth bared in a scowl; beads of sweat on her upper lip. Bowser, now sitting up by my side, narrows his eyes when he sees her teeth. “I’ll bet you fuckin’ blame me for Mom’s suicide too’’ she shouts.
“I do NOT” I sputter, choking back my tears and hoping she doesn’t recognize my lie. She can’t know my pain – having the rug pulled out from under me when the recession hit: both parents gone, job gone, house foreclosed.
I’m shaking and flushed as I head out to the kitchen to get some wine for me. As I’m about to open the refrigerator door, I notice the picture of my old Prius parked under the bridge with Bowser’s nose sticking out the back window. It’s taped there as a reminder of what I used to think was a low point in my life. But was it really low? It was actually quite simple; uncomplicated. Just me and Bowser.
Two years later, October 2012
It was a horrible decision to involve hospice. I felt like a failure. I begged her to take better care of herself, but I just wasn’t getting through to her. We’d fight, and she would drink more and snack while binge watching TV all day.
After the third hospitalization in two months for complications, the doctors were recommending a breathing machine – something Jenny has told me many times: “no fuckin’ way”. All she wanted was comfort – just to go back to our apartment with some morphine. So that’s what we did.
We’ve been home for two days, and Jenny and I are looking out the open door to our porch. She is barely conscious. “Ellen . . .” she mumbles as I raise a snifter of Rose’ to her lips – giving her just a few drops to let her have the taste. I’m sure it is a small smile I’m noticing. “I love you, Jenny . . .” I say, but it is just a little too late.
One year later, October 2013
It’s been four years since I’ve been back under this bridge. I park my Prius in the old spot where Bowser and I lived for all those months; I wish he were still here to share this moment. I sit on my favorite rock, watching the river slowly slide by at my feet. I think about the anger I felt so long against Jenny - when she was in California - when we lived together in Findlay. Until she got sick . . . really sick – just when we had to put Bowser down. She’s not here anymore. My last shred of family, gone. I take the top off of the canister and slowly scatter her ashes on the water. “See ya, Jen”. Odd. I’m not angry anymore. But I’ve never felt lonelier. As the last of the ashes float away, I smell a nearby fireplace.