I always associate Leap Year with Election year as in presidential election. L and I are both avid news junkies so following the circus that passes for political debate these days is a fascinating hobby for us both. I will so miss our discussions (and laughs) about issues, candidates, etc. It’s the same with sports–we LOVE college basketball (as well as other sports) and as March Madness approaches it occurs to me that this may well be out last chance to pick our teams and follow them. So many things these days strike me as “last time” things–would love to be wrong about that and sometimes — like now — when L’s health seems more stable I dare to hope. His b’day was last week and lots of people baked goodies for him since he’s pencil thin (and always has been) and loves to eat (and can do so with no problem in the weight department). His sister made chocolate pudding and chocolate chip cookies both from their mother’s recipe and brought them over. She also brought with her a bouquet of the most gorgeous sunset-colored rose I have ever seen. Turns out L asked her to get them—for me. I found some silica gel in the garage and am desperately trying to preserve at least one bloom–I will definitely save the petals even if they do dry out and fade. When I saw the roses and realized what he’d done I thought about all the times early in our marriage when I cried because he placed no importance on my need for tokens of his love–I wouold gladly trade all those tears and the tokens that followed to know I would have him with me for years to come.
It’s the weekend and sometimes — unless I have deliberately set myself some chores and busy work — I get hit by the sweet memories of busy, fun-filled weekends in the past. The movies we saw, the dinners we shared, the visits here or at someone’s home for dinner and an evening of conversation, the basketball games we attended and the plays, the hikes we took and the overnight trips. And then I remember how as recently as last fall before L’s hospitalization (see Day 1-3 tabs above) I would bitterly complain that we had no future.
I didn’t get it then–I wanted the plays and ballgames and social events. Now I treasure every night that L and I have left to spend together, talking, watching basketball on television, renting movies and bringing in take-out. I treasure the willingness of our friends to always come here instead of being able to welcome us into their homes. I repress the thoughts that come later in the night as I lie alone in our bed listening to L’s oxygen machine pulsating life into him in the other room–thoughts about what on earth I will do when that sound is only silence and he is no longer here.
That day when this journey to widowhood that still seems so surreal in spite of all the evidence surrounding me day in and night out will have reached its destination and life as I know it now will change–yet again.
We sold L’s car over the weekend. We didn’t have to sell it although he’s too frail at this stage to safely drive it. Still, it’s something I could have managed later…after. But I see that he needs to do these things himself and so we put the word out there. Last Sunday a couple showed up to check out the car for their daughter. They seemed interested but we had already had two other parent-types interested and the kid had vetoed the deal for various reasons–I suspect one of them was the fact that this is not exactly a “hip” car–it’s a Grandma car. So I took a break from caregiving and went to a play and when I came out I called L to let him know I was on my way home. He told me the couple had returned–with the daughter–and the deal was being made.
So when I turned onto our driveway and opened the garage door, I knew the car wouldn’t be there and yet I felt such an emptiness. I went inside and carefully gauged L’s mood related to the sale of his car. He seemed fine with it. He admitted feeling “a little sad”–we had made a lot of memories together driving that car–trips and work and such. I burst into tears–huge silent tears that plopped off my face and onto L’s shirt as he held me.
A couple of days later–Valentine’s Day–I left a card I had made for L on the table so he would find it at b’fast. He opened it and laughed at the message then asked me to get an envelope from his desk. L is not a shopper–never has been. And while now and then I have received the store bought hearts and flowers card, most of the time I have gotten something far more precious–a sheet of paper torn from one of the yellow legal pads he keeps on his desk with a message written in red ink and sometimes–if I am very lucky–a drawing to illustrate the message. On this day I was very lucky…the message was longer than usual and the drawing was there as well. And as I read that Valentine, it hit me that this–like so many things in our lives these days–will likely be our last Valentine’s Day together…and I burst into tears.
Today we sold L’s car and when I came home and found its space in the garage empty I burst into tears. Unexpected, those tears. It was a car–an old one and yet it represented so many many happy times. Drives to Florida–how we laughed as we listened to tapes of Prairie Home Companion and Mel Brooks’ 2000 Year Old Man on the old-fashioned tape deck (no CD player in this one). Trips “up North”for fishing and hiking. Going to and from work and plays and movies. We name our cars–this one was “Flash” because it was silver.
And so another passage–another step down this inevitable road.
As we travel this road together it has occurred to me many times how truly blessed I am to be traveling with “L” — he has been facing this destination for sometime now while the rest of us–me included–walked around in a state of pure denial. We were so certain that there would come a new medicine–a cure–something to keep him going. Only he saw the reality of things. And in all of that time I have never once heard him say “Why me?” or “Poor me.” Or anything even close to words of self-pity. This is the life we get has been his mantra. I heard about a young athlete suffering from ALS who said something like “We all have a timeline–most of us just don’t live our lives that way.” L does and I am so very very lucky to be the person at his side as he plays this thing out.
Well, today L got his first tiny dose of morphine. It’s to help increase his energy and it did work so we were both happy about that. On the other hand the fact that we have started on this road is unsettling. Our home care nurse was talking about the difficulty of getting folks to understand the importance of planning such things as healthcare power of attorney, etc. reminded me that I need to start thinking about who will serve in that role (and others) for me once L is gone. I guess in a way I saw a shadow today…