I walked into the house tonight, after more than two months of being away, and it felt unfamiliar.
You weren't there.
The spot where you'd sit on the back deck with your neck stretched upwards to peer at your arriving visitor and your tail swishing back and forth in warm welcome...was empty. And so was my heart.
There was resistance in me. An underlying sensation of dread. Internally, I braced myself as I stepped over the threshold and entered the house.
You weren't there.
No running up towards me. No bending down to engulf you in my arms. No heads rubbing together. No burying my face in the soft hair on your head. No "Kovu!!! It's so good to see you!!!".
You simply weren't there.
I looked over at the spot where your toy bin used to be and saw that it was replaced by the baby's. No more walking over to grab one of your toys and tossing it down the hallway as I watch your excited little body on your too-short legs go tearing after it.
That was when I felt the tears starting to fill my eyes.
Mom started crying. I wrapped my arms around her. But there was no comfort to be found. In bracing myself for this moment, I almost felt like my heart was encased in ice. I couldn't feel much. I couldn't really cry, maybe I didn't want to. Maybe I couldn't.
All I knew was that everything was different. You weren't there. And more than anything, I wanted you to be.
While sitting at the kitchen table with the usual catch-up chatter in session, I couldn't feel you at my feet or hear you chewing on your toy on the carpet. Those familiar sensations from the last twelve and a half years were missing and I felt off.
I kept wanting to ask, "Where's Kovu?". I suppose that's one way grief affects you - it's like short term memory loss on a loop, your grieving mind's struggle between resisting and accepting reality.
But this is reality.
This is our new reality.
You aren't here and you never will be again.