What’s that smell??? I can’t figure it out… It’s familiar but I can’t put my finger on it.
Let me see if it’s in the other rooms… Nope…. Ohhhhh wait a second. I know what it is.
It’s the 9th of November 2016. The day after the elections. Everyone is either upset, excited or just tired of all of it. I wrote a post on Facebook about it. I was told by a few friends that I was insensitive about some of it. I don’t know. Maybe I was. If it was noticed by more than a few people, I must have been. I also must have made several people mad, because I was deleted and in some cases blocked by at least a dozen or so Facebook “friends.” They must have been too sensitive about my insensitivity.
I don’t even know what that word really means anymore. Sensitive. All of me – inside and out, is too sensitive right now. Maybe that’s why I didn’t notice it in a Facebook post. Maybe that’s why I’m pretty short tempered these days. At work, I have little patience for certain customers or questions I know I’m going to get asked. Maybe that’s just retail fatigue? If that were true, I’d be pretty chill the rest of the time – right? Nope. Driving. Sitting. Eating. Breathing. It all gets to me these days.
I knew I couldn’t stay in the house so I went out. I stopped by a local record store and talked to a friend there. He didn’t mind my Facebook post. Hell, he liked it and shook my hand. Too sensitive. Maybe. I grabbed some lunch, then decided just to go back home for a while.
It’s unseasonably warm out today. In the 70’s which is crazy. I opened the backdoor and several windows in the house. It feels nice to let it breathe. That’s one thing I do miss in the wintertime, fresh air. I wonder what the air will be like where I move to. Surely the winters can’t be as harsh as the North Dakota winters, but then I think about how the winters here lately have been pretty mild. I shouldn’t kid myself though – I know what’s coming in a few weeks. It IS North Dakota you know.
I’m really emotionally raw right now. These past several months have been the hardest. I’m sure it’s not going to get any easier or at least anytime soon. I’ve still got the winter and holidays to get through. I’m not looking forward to them at all. I don’t really feel like I’ve got a lot to celebrate this year although others will disagree and hound the shit out of me. It makes me want to disappear until January or maybe February… or March…
Here’s what I do know – This will be my last winter here in North Dakota.
When we knew things were ending last year, Mary made a point to mention that this would be the last Thanksgiving we’d have together. Birthday. Christmas. November. December. New Years. She was right. It didn’t seem real then. I’m not sure it seems real now because nothings really “normal” anymore.
A couple of weeks ago I started bringing my guitars back from a storage facility I’d been keeping them out. The realtor didn’t want to show the house with them in it, which I understood, so we took them out of the house to a safe place. I thought I’d bring them upstairs and into one of the empty bedrooms so one by one, I brought them up. This was Mary’s bedroom, or at least the last one she used.
I don’t come in here. The carpet still has the impression of where the bed once was placed. The dresser. The night stand. I start lining the guitars along the walls like soldiers. Upright and tight next to one another. I’ve got more than a few of them. As the room fills up with my guitars, I quickly realize, I have too many of these things. She always used to ask me why I needed another one, never stopping me, but always asking me why. Because they’re cool and I’d concoct a reason why I needed that particular one. The real reason I now understand was that I was trying to fill some empty void inside of me. Something new and different. Then onto the next quest… That’s how you end up with a lot of guitars.
Carrying guitars, two at a time, upstairs can be and in fact was, very tiring. I sat down on the floor and leaned against the empty closet. I look around the room trying to remember how it used to be. I close my eyes and feel the breeze coming in from the open window. I can smell this familiar scent. What is that scent…? The carpet in the room feels new under my hands. This room was never really used much at all until last year. The carpet feels soft and thick compared to the well-traveled carpet in the bedroom, down the hallway and stairs. If it were any other time, I’d consider laying down in the middle of the floor and making a carpet angel, a cousin to the snow angel. But not in here. Not now. Not today at least.
Not to waste anymore of the day, I figured I’d check some of the guitars out since I hadn’t looked at some of them since I put them in storage last March. I stand up and remember why I don’t like sitting down in one place very long. My back is sore from sitting and my arms are sore from carrying all of these cases. I start on the end and open each one. For the most part, everything seemed to be just fine – unchanged by the lack of attention. A few could use some tuning… but couldn’t we all.
And then suddenly I figured it out. The mystery smell I was smelling. It just popped into my head….
When my guitars were at home previously, I had them all set up and arranged in their cases in the lower level of our split level home. This made it convenient for storage and kept them out of the way. We primarily lived upstairs so the downstairs just made sense. Two different worlds. When storing a guitar, FYI, you want to store them in their cases upright like they’re standing up. You don’t want to lay them down flat. They get lazy.
On top of each of the cases, I could see that they were dusty. Or so I thought. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that not only were they just dusty, they had a fragrance to them. Yes the smell I was smelling was cat litter dust. The dust free kind. I had forgotten the smell. The litter boxes were in the laundry room, right next to the room where my guitars where stored. It all made sense. How could I forget that smell? Or the dust?
My grandfather John Gabbard, who I’m named after, loved cats. They were always outside of their 1950’s trailer on Little Bear Road in Everton, Indiana. For some reason there was always a white one who was always named Snowball and one he’d call Stella. I know that’s where I get my love for them. Dogs will bark, jump on you, slobber, steal your lunch and chew on whatever you claim to be your most valuable items. Not cats. I like cats.
We got our first cat soon after getting married while living in a very small apartment in San Antonio, Texas. He was a little guy – full of energy as you’d expect a kitten to be. He was into everything, cute and tiny. The day she brought him home I was laying on the couch watching TV while our new cat, Rosco, checked out his new home. She drove over to K-Mart to get a litter box, cat dish and all the paraphernalia needed for our newest edition.
Immediately he was on a shelf, over my head, where we had these blue oil filled candle burners. More decorative than anything, the blue color was hard to get out of the couch I was laying on when Rosco knocked them off and on top of me. His way of saying a little hello to me and letting me know who was really in charge. I was mad at the little guy but madder at myself for not moving them sooner. He was into everything and he loved to go into my closet and run through my black clothes, which makes up about 90% of my wardrobe. Orange and white fur everywhere…
Rosco didn’t have a preference for cat litter, or if he did, we didn’t pay attention to it. He just used whatever we happened to pick up at the store. To me, I just assumed it was like the difference between Charmin or Angel Soft – not much at all. We never had kids. So for us, Rosco was an important member of our family.
He traveled with us into three different apartments in San Antonio and across the country to Las Vegas and into two different houses there. He was so close to me. He knew when I was upset or needed company, usually sitting on me or on my recliner with me. We lost him in August of 2009. It was a devastating loss for both of us. I still don’t like to think about that time. His ashes are on the dresser next to the bed.
I was not ready nor did I want another animal in the house. It was too hard. Too soon. But Mary was lonely for one so she did the next best thing and got two of them – sister cats. Lulu and Jojo. Silly names but all animals should have a silly name. Steve or Janet just doesn’t sound right.
Right away, I knew that these two girl cats were NOT like Rosco. Very finicky and picky about what they liked and didn’t like. Mary chose Scoop-Away Multi Cat in the purple box. It has a certain scent. Not terrible, but perfumey. Sure, she’d try other brands, natural types that smell terrible, “dust-free” which doesn’t really exist… The girls preferred Scoop-Away Multi Cat in the purple box – and NO others! Like Rosco, they love to dash in and out of closets and especially loved laying on hot laundry, freshly cleaned and previously free of cat hair. Not just any cat hair – these sister cats are snow white. Did I mention I wear black?
The cats left with Mary in July. More loss. Sometimes in the morning, I swear I think I’ll see one of them laying on my bed in the sun when I get out of the shower. Nope. They’re not there. Jojo specifically loved to climb on top of me in the mornings. I can only assume it was to see if I was awake. My last picture of her is sitting on top of me in the morning. The last picture I have of Lulu is sitting with me on the couch downstairs where my guitars used to be. Before I moved them out. Then back again. Upstairs now. Into this empty bedroom. With fresh carpet.
I don’t like the fact I had forgotten that smell. It bothers me. Not that I particularly liked it before but that’s not the point. I go through closets and pull out shirts I haven’t worn in a while and there they are, stuck to the bottom, just like they left it there yesterday. White fur… But yesterday was long ago. When I dig deeper into my closet, especially where I have my old cowboy and western shirts I wore in Texas & Las Vegas when I was still playing shows, I can still find a Rosco hair or two. Little hellos. Small reminders.
I started to wipe off the dust from tops of the cases but I stopped. I can do that another day. The winter will be long and I’ll be trapped inside more than likely.
There will be time to clean them later. Not now.
I can leave the doors open if I want to now. There’s no one to catch running out. No one to scold for being “bad” while we’re really more scared of losing one of them. Scared for what’s outside. Scared for what could come inside uninvited.
I don’t want to get another cat.
There will be time for them later. Not now.
Forgotten smells… little hellos and small reminders.
3 thoughts on “Forgotten Smells, Little Hellos and Small Reminders”
I’m so glad you keep writing, Johnny. For some reason, it keeps me going too.
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Thank you so very much.
Rosco was a legend my friend. Great read buddy your very articulate with your words. I miss playing guitar with ya buddy and Lord willing we’ll do it again. Be well my friend.
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