For better or for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health. Right up until somebody kicks the bucket.
Ah, the lovely marriage vows.
It wasn’t until seven years later we realized we had omitted one: Nothing spells togetherness like a couple attempting to bury the remains of a beloved dog.
Then all bets are off.
When our beautiful Chaser, Wondermutt of West Edwards Street, passed away, my husband and I had her body cremated.
I had envisioned tossing the ashes into the sunshine and wind. Say a poem. Sing “Kumbaya.” You know, a real “Dead Poets Society” kinda moment.
My husband, on the other hand, had different ideas.
“I want to bury her in the backyard. At home. Where she belongs,” he stated. (Let’s disregard, for the moment, that it’s illegal to do so in most towns. Go ahead. Arrest us.)
He picked up the small box we had prepared containing her ashes and headed out the door.
Before I took two steps, he stopped me and motioned toward the garage wall.
“Grab the shovel,” he said, “and the spade. Don’t forget that little trowel thing. And the clippers.”
Geesh, I thought as I collected the items. Are we digging a hole to friggin’ China or what?
I dropped all the tools into a pile at his feet and pointed out the spot I had chosen beneath a tree. I took a deep breath. I will not cry. I will not cry.
My husband picked up the spade and quickly got down to business.
For about 37 seconds.
“What the hell!” he yelled, his hands rattling from the impact of the spade ramming into a particularly large tree root. He tossed the spade onto the ground, bent over and surveyed the situation.
I decided not to complain that said spade had landed and smashed three plants nearby.
With gloved hands, he began digging through dirt covering the root, trying to ascertain just how far it reached.
Apparently the answer was China.
“OK, this isn’t gonna work,” he huffed and stood up. “Find another spot.”
My jaw dropped and I peered down into what seemed like a perfectly good hole to me and whined, “But I want THIS spot. She used to sit right here. Watching the neighborhood. Terrorizing rabbits. Being beautiful.”
I will not cry. I will not cry.
My husband pointed at the hole and answered, “I. Cannot. Dig. Out. That. Root. Without. A. Nuclear. Warhead.” He paused and repeated curtly, “Find. Another. Spot.”
I pouted but knew if I insisted I’d be digging the hole myself. Alone.
A girl learns a few things after seven years of marriage. I sighed and gestured nearby. “OK, how about there?”
He looked over and asked, “There? Where that flower pot is?”
“Yes,” I answered with one raised eyebrow. “Right there.”
His own eyebrows met in the middle of his forehead, but he didn’t say a word.
Apparently a guy learns a few things after seven years of marriage too.
He yanked on the pot, picked it up and moved it over. And got back to work digging hole #2.
Twenty minutes, two broken shovels, one lost trowel and 138 swear words later we were the proud owners of one gigantic hole.
And that’s the point our five-year-old son wandered into the yard and demanded someone make him a peanut butter sandwich.
Before my husband could howl at his poor timing, I shepherded the royal heir back toward the house. “It’s only fitting, you know. Chaser did love her peanut butter,” I pointed out.
When I returned, Chaser was in the ground, and my husband was pouring dirt back into the hole.
No ceremony? No poetry? No Kumbaya, My Lord? What kinda funeral was this?!
“So that’s it?” I asked, watching him casually toss another uprooted plant to the side. “It’s all over?”
He stood, wavering from the exhaustion of digging halfway to China in 90-degree heat and answered, “Yes, but just so you know, we’re never burying another dog.” He paused then added quietly, “But now she’s home.”
And then we looked at each other, looked down at the freshly dug earth, and with the physical task completed, the weight of the moment pushed us over the emotional cliff we had tried so hard to avoid.
And then we cried. There by her spot under the tree. Together.
Now that’s marriage.