I had four legs and a bad eye when she found me in the woods behind the barn, abandoned, my front leg caught in a trap she had not set. The vet took the leg, and my wife carried me home in a box.
The girls recognized me first.
“That’s what you get for killing yourself,” my younger daughter said the first time I tumbled from the top of the television and landed at her feet.
As she and her sister laughed, I thanked God they still could after the way that I left them, the older one sick in the hospital, the younger banging at the door while I sat, shades drawn, goodbyes written. How could I not have answered that door?
My wife—ex-wife, I always forget; what I put her through, stray even then—lifted me from the floor, held me to her, the way she held me the first time I appeared at her door, injured, abandoned by my friends, banging with my good hand, the other stitched and wrapped. She was a girl then, when she led me to the couch, where we sat and she held me close, as close as she is holding me now, and when my hand healed I held her back, held her too tightly, and then not tightly enough.
The man I was thought I could never lose her. The woman she became grew strong enough to let me go, strong enough to know she deserved more. I see it all so clearly even with my cloudy eye. I feel her strength, her love, the miracle of the life we shared, and now share again. Curled in her warm lap, I cannot speak; I cannot tell her what I’ve learned, how sorry I am for everything, but I can purr as she strokes the back of my neck; I can lick her hand with my sandpaper tongue; and I can wonder what on earth I did to deserve this taste of Heaven.