27 years ago, in the midst of a slowly crumbling marriage, my first wife and I made the decision to leave Maine, which had been my home for the 29 years since my birth, and made the nearly 700 mile journey to Maryland to set up residence there. I left behind everything I knew, cut almost all ties to friends and family, and found myself living in Baltimore. It was culture shock for a boy from rural central Maine, but it was what I needed at the time and I relished it.
The marriage did not survive, though we clung to it for another decade. But Maryland remained my home for another sixteen years after the divorce. I found work in the information technology field repairing computers, and cultivated a brand of in-person customer service that would seem unlikely given my social anxiety. An entire career built on a false persona, and I’m sure millions more have done the same as me. I remarried (too soon), divorced again after one too many incidents of drunken abuse, and eventually found the love I’d been seeking all my life. I married Jennifer… twice. I’ll probably marry her a few more times, too, just for good measure.
And I woke up this morning in Maine once more.
The past year has been long. We’ve struggled to make this dream happen since we first conceived of it last year. It’s been a series of ups and downs, and a hell of a lot of stress. But we finally found a home we loved and could afford to buy, though not one we expected. It’s a cottage right on the coast, just a few hundred feet from the water. We have great views past our neighbors homes across the street to where the lobster boats rest at anchor. We’re in Jonesport, a rural down east community with a working harbor, not a tourist destination. It’s quiet here, and we love that.
And yet, this is all bitter sweet. Friday night we rushed my beloved golden retriever, Cooper, to the emergency vet, an hour and a half drive away (rural Maine means you’re far from everything). He’d been ill since we arrived, unwilling to eat much, with a barking cough. When he stopped being interested in even chasing balls, we knew he was in bad shape. We hoped it would just be kennel cough or something simple. Truth be told, though, we’ve replayed the last few months and even year in our thoughts and we realize he’d been slowly getting sick, we just didn’t pick up on it because of his age and lack of dire symptoms. He just kept being the same old Cooper he’d always been, just a little more tired, a little heavier panting. Older, like all of us we assumed.
We waited for several hours for the diagnosis, holding out hope, but hope didn’t come. He had cancer, and it was throughout his lungs. He was dying. So, we sat with him as they put him to sleep, and we cried like children, and every day since I’ve cried because he has been a presence in my life for the past almost twelve years. I adopted him at 8 weeks, and there was rarely a day not spent with him, but for a few trips Jennifer and I took, when he would stay with her daughter, Taryn, who loved him every bit as much as we did. She’s hurting now, too, and more so because she couldn’t be with him at the end. Cooper was my best friend, and that’s not hyperbole. I have precious few friends, and none like him. He can never be replaced.
Day three, and I’m crying again. I’ll talk more about him in another post, when I’m ready to go on at length.
For now, we’re in Maine. And there’s a hole in our life that can’t be filled. We’re in a house that’s not entirely ours yet, though many of our things are here, so everything feels unsettled and strange.This is not how we wanted to start things off, though we knew Cooper would only be with us a short while longer. We just thought that meant another year or two, not a week.
But in time, we’ll heal from his loss, and we’ll grow comfortable in this home we have chosen to make ours. We’ll reignite this dream and take hold of it. Jennifer will get her gardens going. I’ll start cleaning up the flower beds. We’ll get out for hikes and kayaking. We’ll meet more of our neighbors, see family, and meet friends both old and new. We’ll dig out after winter storms, and weather spring black flies.
Welcome to Maine, Jennifer. And for me… it’s welcome home.