This week’s Prompts For The Promptless topic is saudade:
Saudade is a Portuguese word that describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something/someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing will never return.
I’m a big fan of words from other cultures that can’t be easily translated. Leave it to Rarasaur to come up with such an interesting concept to write about, albeit a sad one. There’s no way you can write about a topic like that without a tinge of melancholy.
When I think about nostalgic longing for something that will never return, the most poignant example is all of the pets I’ve had in my life who are no longer with us.
My family always had rescued animals from the shelter. Usually, we had dogs, but I pestered my mom into getting a cat when I was five years old. In my sophisticated five year old way, I named him Tigger after the character from Winnie The Pooh.
Tigger was the best cat ever. He was tolerant of all my five year old shenanigans and spoiled me on the concept of cats, making me think they were all chill. They are not. In fact, I don’t think Tig was really a cat. He was more like a patron saint of patience. He had no front claws when we got him so he used to climb the tree in our yard that was at a generous 45 degree angle backwards. He wouldn’t drink water from a bowl. He had to have fresh water from the tap. Every tap in our house was left on all the time with a little trickle of water for Tig. He lived a very long time and died of old age when he was about 20.
At the same time, we had a few dogs. There was Minnie the mutt, a smallish terrier mix, who would sing along with my mom whenever she played Home On The Range on the piano. It was only that song that she sang to. There was something about it that would cause Minnie to jump up on the piano stool next to mom and start howling along.
There was Daisy the Dachshund who was sweet as pie. Daisy loved to roll around in the daisies in the yard. Strangely, she was named Daisy before she picked up that habit. Daisy used to howl too, but not to Home On The Range.
And there was Tammy, the white shepherd, the best of all animals. She was my favorite dog. She came from a shelter and whoever had her before we got her used to beat her with a rolled up newspaper. For the rest of her life, she was terrified of newspaper. My dad had to read the paper flat on the dining room table or Tammy would freak out.
Tammy was our babysitter. She would not let anyone within five feet of my sister and me. We were her own children. We had a cottage on a lake and you could pick up a rock, throw it in the lake and Tammy would not rest until she found the exact rock and brought it back to you. She is the one who got me over my fear of dogs after I was attacked by an Alaskan Malamute. Tammy lived to an old age. She had hip dysplasia and arthritis so badly towards the end that she couldn’t walk up and down the stairs. My mom carried her up and down because none of us could bear losing her. Finally, my mom took pity on her and put her to sleep.
After Tammy, my mom was afraid of getting another large dog with dysplasia again, so she adopted a couple of miniature Schnauzers brothers, Fritz and Franz.
Fritz was tall and lean, Franz was short and fat, like the odd couple. Those dogs barked at everything, especially Franz. Fritz lived to be about eight before he died of some sort of cancer. Franz missed him terribly. He became a vicious little thing after Fritz died. He would bite us, his own family. He lost his vision and he’d sit in front of the window barking nonstop at every little noise he heard. Eventually, he too got cancer and died. Franz is the reason that, to this day, I’m not really fond of small dogs and neither is anyone else in my family.
After Fritz and Franz, my mom threw caution to the wind and got another big dog, Lexi, the golden retriever.
Lexi was an incredibly sweet, dopey dog. She wasn’t all that smart, but she was a happy dog. She loved the water, and just like Tammy, she would retrieve rocks if you threw them. She was a great dog and my mom absolutely adored her. Lexi was my mom’s dog, no doubt about it. She lived a nice long life, until she too got terribly bad arthritis. It killed my mom to have to put her to sleep, but she learned her lesson with Tammy that you have to do what’s right for the dog.
After that, my mom adopted a yellow Labrador retriever named Maggie. Mags had the most expressive face I’ve ever seen on a dog. She would come up, put her giant head your lap, and her eyes would look at you, her brow would wrinkle and you knew exactly what she wanted. She was thick and chunky unlike Lexi who was thin and graceful. Mags was all muscle and even when she was ancient, she ran away any chance she got.
Around that time, I started to get my own animals. I had two dogs, Madeline and Gregis. Madeline was a yellow Labrador, German Shepherd mix, who looked a lot like this:
They were both rescues and they were both amazing dogs who died way too young under awful circumstances. I described that in the post Wounds That Never Heal and I’m not going to go into it again.
I lived with a girl who had two cats. One day, she moved out and just left them there, so now I had two cats. Aslan was a Russian blue cat that was born in a barn. He was completely feral before my roommate took him in as a kitten.
And Sherekahn was a Maine Coone found in a drainage ditch at two days old suckling off his dead mom. He lived in a Kleenex box and drank from an eye dropper until he was older.
Aslan died of kidney failure the night before Thanksgiving when he was only three years old. Sherekahn lived to be seventeen years old. He lived in three different states with me. From Detroit to Boston to Los Angeles. He was a total sweetheart and I miss him very much.
My mom has another dog now, a black lab, who is also getting old. Her name, by sheer coincidence, is also Lexi. She had that name already when mom adopted her. My mom will get another dog when Lexi goes because she, like me, cannot bear the thought of not having one.
And now I have a cat and a dog. In my current animals, I see bits and pieces of all of my former animals. I see Sherekahn’s coat and Maggie’s eyebrows. I see Tigger’s calmness. I see Madeline and Tammy’s protectiveness. I see Minnie’s wilfulness. I see Aslan’s fierceness and Gregis’ sweetness. I see Lexi’s joy at being alive. They all live on in my memories and they always will. Rest in peace, my friends. You are missed.