On Mount Hood — without Oliver
Yesterday marked a year since Oliver left us after almost 13-and-a-half years. We raised our glasses to him at dinner and talked about him throughout the day.
I’d also written a little recollection about him over the summer after a hike up the Mazama Trail on Mount Hood with my friend Mark Pomeroy in July. That hike sparked a lot of memories of Oliver, as he and I had done it together five years earlier.
This is what I wrote.
I still see him every day.
Not literally, of course. He’s been gone now for just over seven months, so there’s no real chance of that.
But I still see Oliver in so many passages throughout my daily life, even though he’s not physically there anymore.
When I wake up in the morning, I see him following me downstairs, heading outside, coming back in for his breakfast. Now, though, where once there was a loping black lab, there is a sly black kitty, Morrie, whose food is in the same can in the pantry that Oliver’s was.
I run down the road and along the Willamette River, which I’ve done for more than 10 years now, and I know he’s not there next to me anymore. But there were so many times he was. Ten years’ worth, and so I see his black shape there always, running alongside me, tongue lolling, nails scraping the pavement; when I’m running through the natural trail section that heads under Highway 43, I see him bounding through the greenery, running up over the boulders, slopping up water from the creek.
At home, I swear I hear his feet and toenails clicking across the kitchen floor. Occasionally I’ll see him moving across the backyard or waiting behind the slats of the side gate when I pull in after a long day of work.
But nowhere do I see Oliver more than when I’m on the trail, out in the world. Spencer remembered so clearly as we hiked Blacklock Point in June how the last time we’d done it, it was him, Oliver and me, and Oliver had gotten perilously close to the edge of the cliffs.
On that most recent trip, even though he wasn’t with us anymore, I saw Oliver running zigzags across the beach, his ears flopping in the wind atop the cliffs, the grass flattened where he would have laid after a long day of exploration.
The reason I still see him, aside from the fact that I loved him so much and he was such a good friend to me, is that he was just always there with me. At home. On the trail. In the campsite. On his bed at my side. Always.
I saw him so much today on the Mazama Trail up Cathedral Ridge to McNeil Point with Pomerory. It’s been five years, almost exactly, since Oliver and I hiked up that trail for the first time ever. I remember that hike so vividly, how we’d never gone to McNeil that way, how Oliver’s tongue lolled way out during our lunch break, how natural he was off-leash when he was on the trail.
I couldn’t stop thinking about that hike with him today. So much sadness. But there he was again, darting after a chipmunk, lapping up a drink from a crystal-clear stream, seemingly smiling for the camera from our lunch break spot.
Oliver was always with me. I know he always will be.
But my heart breaks every time I think I see him and then remember that he’s not really there anymore.