Two years ago you were not well.
The “kidney stones” had reappeared and not resolved.
I made you a doctor’s appointment and the very day you went you found a clavicle lump.
And Sandra said, “That changes everything” and sent you off for tests and late in the day called to ask you to come back first thing Monday morning with me.
I thought it was friendly because she was my friend. She later said she had waited all weekend for me to call her and ask “What’s up?” But it never occurred to me that something was wrong, tragic, life robbing. I must’ve known, somewhere deep, as with Bill’s infidelity, Ken’s alcoholism—I am not stupid—except, perhaps, when I want to be. When I need to be.
She did a long doctor riff that so failed to register that I actually said, “You mean it’s NOT kidney stones?” like a little girl who can’t quite get that Santa somehow forgot the very first thing on her list, the one she wanted most.
But they are good, our docs. They have read Euripides and know that hope is everything, in life of course, but even more in death and so they fan it, they carry the bellows 24/7 and oxygenate the tiniest ember as it tries so hard to fade.
So on we went for you would do no less, deciding right away that 2-3 years was clearly not enough, but 10 might do, would get us through—to see Alyssa graduate (twice) and maybe find her love and her life’s work, to make our move north (or not) and root in to retirement and leisure, to have a few more adventures between chemo rounds, during the presumed remission of limited but precious shelf life.
And yet in 8 months you were gone—the slowest imaginable disappearing act, the sun lowering across the lake inch by inch then holding at the horizon refusing to disappear. We didn’t talk about it for that would seem defeatist and we could not admit defeat, could never admit defeat, though somewhere deep I’d gone to death and loss right at the start. Of course! This was always a dream, too good to be true or real or lasting. This wasn’t how my life rolled—all peace and joy and comfort, with a kind and good and strong partner right there at every turn. But you, you never gave up, could not believe you had to let go of the life you loved, had always loved, no matter the circumstances. You hung on and on—like my dad in this one small way—your tenacious hold on life, your refusal to go gently. But go you did, having slowly sunk deeper into yourself—ever quieter, never wanting to talk it out as we did so very many other matters large and small. I wish we had. I know we couldn’t. I’m glad you made it there. I’m sorry (of course) I let you be a grown-up and make your own decisions on seeing doctors or not—back when they could’ve helped, back when you might’ve been cured. It was not my decision to make. I believe that all decisions in all people’s lives are mine to make. I have the temperament of a despot. But this one thing was not for me to control and the one time you did go, in pain, it was up north on a very old doctor’s very last day of work, on New Year’s Eve and he had no lump to show him the way to the truth of the ravages maybe only beginning back then.
Two years right now since I started to lose you. How many more before I will stop?
You would love this spring. Can you see it? Are there lilacs in heaven?
Oh sweet husband, love of my life, the porch you couldn’t finish is so lovely—Rainer made sure of it. And Charlie goes to the cottage alone and talks to you at graveside. And Alyssa has learned to channel your calm and your literal warmth. You live on and on with us, my love. In memory, in gaping absence, in spirit that surrounds. I hope I will be with you again in this universe or another or another, but forever this time. Forever and ever.