November roared in like a beast, blowing a bitter wind and stripping leaves from limbs, filling gutters and forcing us into the car in the mornings. We sit there at the bus stop, a line of chugging vehicles with foggy windows and, when the bus comes into view, we spill children out onto sidewalks. They shuffle-run in new coats, filling the air with their white breath, hurrying into line and on board.
Then fall decides it's not quite done here, and the neighborhood is left with a half dozen houses with premature Christmas decorations, and me with dead mums and a yard full of leaves.
That first week brought with it a lion's share of community grief, and I dance on the periphery of it. I know a guy, who knows a guy, and that guy died. I co-opt that grief and wear a maudlin cloak in solidarity. I wrap it around me out of ennui, and because there is a perverse pleasure in being sad when you're not actually sad. It makes you do things like cry over Joni Mitchell records and fantasize about how horrible people will feel when you die. I picture my grown children, wailing over my casket, wide eyed grandchildren sobbing over their Grandmère (I am assuming that one of the kids will marry someone French, it makes for a more romantic funeral).
I imagine this as I stand in my postage sized backyard, fighting a ridiculous battle with an endless pile of leaves studded with dog turds. I look at Shutup Roxy, hunched over in the corner, looking at me as she drops yet another steamer. She looks at me with cataract-white eyes and I feel I'm embarrassing her. I look away. "Why do you have to shit so much, bro?" I ask her.
My husband has started calling the three year old, 'Bro', and I have adopted it. I have adopted it and expanded it, bastardized it brah, brahmin, brotato, broseph, brocephus. It is beyond annoying, and I can't stop. "Have a nice day!", says the woman loading my groceries. She is my mother's age, neat and trim, delightfully cheerful. "You too, bro!", I reply, and I can tell by the look on her face that this is likely the first time in her life she's been called 'bro'.
The dog does not mind being called bro. Two weeks ago, we felt certain that she was not long for this world. An injury to her already shaky hind end meant we had to have 'the talk'. She looked up at us from her bed, the heating pad tucked under her hips. "If she's not better by Monday, it may be time," my husband said. Shutup Roxy cocked an eyebrow my way. The next morning she was up, still wobbly, but considerably better. She made her way outside to the pile of dog shit leaves and did her business. Screw you, brah, she said.
The leaves are still there, waiting. My third degree grief is faded, already replaced by plans for turkey and pies and Christmas gifts yet to buy. Thanks, I give thanks, that I can shrug it off and worry myself with yard work and grocery budgets. I hold a pen that hesitates above a sympathy card for an acquaintance, unsure of what to say and how to say it. I write what comes to mind first and then reconsider - I reconsider it all.
"So sorry for your loss, bro."