After a surprisingly long 26-year life, Hector is gone. Although his health was declining the last few years, I was so used to him being around, I took it for granted he’d always be there. Unfortunately, he fell into a slump over the winter and couldn’t bounce back, no matter what we did to help him pull through. Although his death was not entirely unexpected, it was still a painful loss.
Hector and I went through many life changes together. When I broke up with my fiancé and left the house we shared, Hector came with me. He remained by my side when I married “the one” (yes, Walt, you) and settled into our new home. Since then, I’ve experienced a new pet, a baby, jobs gained and lost, a couple of house moves, ongoing health issues—so much, I can barely remember it all—but through everything, the one constant in my life was Hector.
My stepson Jeremy and I got Hector when Jeremy was six, just after his father and I were engaged and the three of us moved in together. I have loved Jeremy since the day his father introduced me to his sweet, shy little boy. When I couldn’t hang on any longer and his father and I broke up, it was the loss of my little pooky bear that made my heart ache and kept me up at night. I fought for years to keep Jeremy in my life and largely succeeded, despite having to jump through flaming hoops inside of other flaming hoops to make it happen. Walt knew we were a package deal. He embraced Jeremy being part of our lives and grew to love him immensely. Even though Jeremy was only with us a few days a week, we were a family.
As Jeremy grew older, other parts of his life began to take up more of his time, and we started seeing less of him. I think that’s largely the case as any child grows up, but since he was only there part time to start, it felt like he was hardly around. Then he skipped his first Christmas with us in 2019 to go on a trip. I wanted to crawl in a hole and die, but I needed to accept that he had grown up.
Since then, I’ve talked to him some by text or phone, and there was a quick Zoom last Christmas, but we haven’t seen him in person. The pandemic certainly hasn’t helped, but I don’t think the result would have been different without it.
At this point, after much agonizing over whether to keep Jeremy’s bedroom intact, we’ve converted it to an office-ish space we call The Studio that Amelia and I use to film her YouTube videos. We have a box full of birthday and Christmas presents people have sent here for him, and I’m hopeful to one day be able to hand them to him. I am so proud of him and all he has accomplished in life, but it still guts me when my mind drifts and I think of how long it’s been since I’ve seen him.
Hector was one of the few ties to Jeremy I had left. When he died, I felt like I aged 20 years in a heartbeat. A door closed, and another one wasn’t opening. My husband and little girl mean everything to me, but there is this empty spot in my heart that cannot be filled, and Hector’s demise made it a little bigger.
Hector grew from a tiny bit of leaves in a four-inch pot to a giant tree-like plant that could dominate a room. I never did figure out what type of plant he was, but it didn’t matter—he was a Hector. He could take any level of neglect, which was important because my attentiveness over the years ebbed and flowed, but he stayed strong. Yes, he was “just” a plant, but he was also a constant in a sea of change. We might get another plant, but nothing will ever replace him or what he represented in my life.