The Presence in the House

I spent the weekend with my nephew, an up-and-coming movie producer, whose latest piece deals with the effects of a sudden death; how that person’s presence can linger. (The End of Summer)

credit: Urquhart Butterfly Garden

But it’s not only ghosts that leave a mark. Pettigrew has a presence. When he’s not in the house, the air feels different. Like barometric pressure, the balance is off. When the weight isn’t right, I find myself searching the rooms, under the tables and piano, inside the bathroom, where can he be? Not until I find him lounging in the sun on the back step can I rest. (And, yes, sometimes when I sense a “disturbance in the force” he actually is in the house. My spidey sense isn’t foolproof.)

But there are these invisible bounds that are hard to explain.

We check up on each other.

When I go down to the basement to do a load of laundry, Pettigrew waits anxiously at the top of the stairs for me to come back. If I’m gone longer than he thinks is appropriate, he puts his forepaws on the top two stairs, weighing the risk of not knowing where I am against his fear of walking down a steep, long stairway that is open on both sides.

And his eyes reflect caring and love and relief when I finally appear at the bottom and look up to see him gazing down at me, watching as I mount the steps. He’s aware of my presence too and wants to be sure all is OK.

Last night, as we were heading out for the evening, I glanced back to confirm Pettigrew was settled on the sofa. His eyes met mine. Lying on his side, he had craned his neck up over the armrest to gaze back at me. In that moment I wondered who was checking on whom? Did we both crave that last contact before continuing with our evening plans?

Although I tell people that Pettigrew is taking me for a walk; like most jokes, there’s an element of truth. I need to get outside every day. I love to walk. Pettigrew ensures I honor that commitment to myself.

Lives intertwine in mysterious ways: the flapping of the butterfly’s wings that affect the winds miles away; the presence left by a loved one who has died; or, the sound of an unoccupied house. The mystery eludes, teases, and engages us in this moment of life.

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