Gidget, best known as the ambassador of fast food chain Taco Bell, died today of a stroke. She was 15 years old. I stumbled across this story on People.com this afternoon and instantly the tears flooded my eyes. My father’s beloved Taco Bell chihuahua was gone.
I didn’t keep many things that belonged to my father after he died unless you count my mother and the home they shared together for nearly 30 years. But there were a few little things that were special to me: I kept a wind-up bright red Mickey Mouse alarm clock that used to wake him up every morning, an acrylic cube with a cartoon rat holding a piece of cheese that I had bought him as a Christmas present when I was in grade school, his Harley Davidson motorcycle helmet, a hardbound 1991 diary he used to use to write in all the towing calls he went on for the state and lastly his XXL Yo Quiero Taco Bell t-shirt.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve worn that t-shirt to bed over the years when I was feeling sad because I missed him so much. Enough times that the material feels nearly threadbare in spots and the screen print of that cute little dog is all but faded away. He loved that stupid shirt and used to tease me all the time by calling out ‘Yo Quiero Taco Bell’ when he’d see me coming in the front door on Tuesday or Friday for my weekly visits.
I realized today as I read about the passing of Gidget that it’s been quite sometime since I’ve worn his shirt to bed. In the beginning it felt like I never took it off. I guess eventually weeks turned into months and I needed to wear his shirt less and less. The process of grieving for my father naturally progressed in stages to the point that his t-shirt remained, more often than not, neatly folded away in my bottom drawer – just outside of reach should I need comfort after a particularly rough day.
So many things have happened to me since my parents died that I can’t ever tell them about. I’ve learned that letting go is really, really hard sometimes and I know it’s perfectly OK to hold onto a few material things that make me feel connected to what I’ve lost.
The news that Gidget the chihuahua died today reminded me that sometimes inconsequential things are meant to be left behind.