A writer shares her unique love story
If only restarting your state of mind were as easy as restarting your laptop. As part of a collection on Changing Perspectives, the writers share the struggles, revelations, and joys they experienced as they began to see themselves and the world around them from a point of view. different view – and experts give advice on how you can change your perspective on just about anything.
Since I was little, I have wanted two things: to write books and to find a great love. I was a born romantic, making Cinderella aprons with curtains and sweeping the hearth, dreaming of the prince. My mother, an OG feminist, was unhappy. “It’s so regressive,” she said, replacing my princess dresses with overalls.
As I grew older the pattern persisted. I got married at 23, when everyone was partying in the rooftop bars. I didn’t like children; I had thrown my doll in a dumpster. But I had love until my husband and I realized he didn’t understand why I wanted to write books instead of having children.
Cut 20 years later. I am divorced. A novelist, this dream, thank God, has come true. Writing teacher, owner, mom dog from my beloved black lab, Woodrow. I have the most devoted friends in the world. But sometimes I feel even less than that because, despite a series of great relationships, I don’t have a permanent partner. And with parents gone and siblings far away, no immediate family of mine.
Summer 2019 highlights this. Woodrow, 14, develops congestive heart failure. Each day, determined to keep him with me for as long as he enjoys life, I carry his 85 pounds in a harness to the park bench across from our Boston apartment. There he enjoys her sniffles as I sit up and worry. Woodrow’s care is physically difficult, not the kind that you can turn to friends for help; I can’t call them morning and night to help me bring him up or clean up his crashes after midnight. Old questions creep in: why didn’t I remarry? Why didn’t I have now teenage children who, even though they reminded me of how cringe I was, would still help me with our old boy? I think of Carmela Soprano commenting on a Christmas card: “Pictures of their dogs. It’s sad without children.
Then something extraordinary happens. Woodrow’s nickname is “The George Clooney of Dogs” due to his magnetic appeal; even with its snowy muzzle and four remaining teeth, it brings people in by tractor. First our dog-parent friends arrive, bringing me coffee, doggie ice cream for Woodrow. Then, complete strangers. A farming couple from Pennsylvania are celebrating their 55th anniversary with us. A charming Italian tourist sits in the dirt with Woodrow and weeps over his “special soul”. People help me bring him home, stopping traffic – in Boston, a death-defying proposition. One day in December, when Woodrow is too weak to stand, a woman appears out of the snow, helps me lift him and disappears, not even leaving a footprint.
When Woodrow died, at home on his bed, I fell off a cliff. For 48 hours, I was numb, even crying in my sleep. But I was not alone for a moment. People sat shiva with me, bringing food, flowers, cards. They remembered the adventures of Woodrow. No one said, “It was just a dog.”
If you have a partner and a family, you are in luck. Me too. I will never give up on finding my partner forever, but I have love. I’ve had it from the start. The love of the friend, the love of the neighbor, the love of the community, the love of the dog. The love of the good in the world. Whoever has love in his life, whoever he is, is never alone.
—Jenna Blum is the author of the novels Those who save us and Storm chasers, and the thesis Woodrow on the bench.
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