It is 11:37 on Friday night and my husband and I were on the kitchen floor looking at the condenser, the evaporator coils and the compressor of our 15 year old refrigerator that isn’t working quite right. My major thought was, “Not now, don’t pooped out on me now. I don’t have the money to replace you because I need everything I have for funeral expenses.”
So, I use all of my weakened strength to push and pull this big side by side refrigerator out from the wall. I leave to get the sweeper and when I return, my husband is getting on the floor to “take a look” and determine what may be the problem.
In spite of my protests, he continues on to spread out on the floor with his over sized abdomen and he assumes the position of repairman and Mr. Fix It just like always. I know just how difficult this is for his tired and wasted body. I watch him juggle the tubes and take extra precaution so as to not pull the PEG tube ( It can be easily dislodged from its placement ) and to not drop the IV pump that sends a steady supply of potent pain killer into his pain racked body…There is no stopping him because this is what he has always done.
The refrigerator had set on thick carpeting for the 6 years that we were away and it sucked up every bit of animal fur as well as dust bunnies…all of these things kill appliances. But the grime wasn’t the problem. In spite of it, the old ice box had kept the milk cold, the jello jiggling and prevented spoiling of many left overs. Now, at this time of night and in this kind of warm weather it was going to quit on us…and there he sat, trying to clear a spot so as to see what was working and what was not.
We did basic Home Repair 101 by checking the power source and sure enough, when we tested the surge protector, it was clear that it had failed and not the appliance. That was a huge relief. I don’t know if we were just lucky by finding the problem so early and before anything could spoil or if we are just that good at spotting trouble before it gets too far, but we both breathed a sigh of relief when we learned it was the surge protector.
For both of us, the absolutely last thing that either one of us needed was to be wrestling with a huge refrigerator and with deep dirt. He, because of his body’s limitations, and me, because of my asthma. No matter, there was nothing stopping him and if he was going to sacrifice his comfort and willingly experience pain, then I would follow him and treat my asthma symptoms all night, if need be. As I have posted before, we are a team…
As I approached the refrigerator with the vacuum, he looked up at me and said, ” Have I told you that I love you today?” I smiled and went on with what I was doing. As I was chasing the dirt and dust with the hose attachment, I thought about how many, ” I love you..s” that I heard for the past 17 years. I could not begin to count how many times. The number rivals the stars.
Early on in our relationship, he told me how he didn’t want to miss a day of telling me that he loved me and if he couldn’t remember doing it by the end of the day, he would ask the same question, ” Have I told you…”.
While the roar of the vacuum made conversation impossible, I pondered further on the things that I would miss. I wondered if I heard his love expressed in words enough for a life time. I began to wonder how would it feel to live my life without hearing, “I love you.” ? Will I ever hear it said again by someone else or will I even allow someone to ever say those words to me? Will I even desire to share my life with another man again? If I thought for a minute that I wanted to find another husband, are there enough men out there? I don’t know.
As I poked and proded the stubborn grime, I pictured myself at 11:37 PM on a Friday night worrying over an appliance. It is just me and our little dog. There is no one to ask for their opinion as to what may be wrong. I saw myself tug at this old fridge pushing and pulling it away from the wall without any help and wishing that I had this man, who is presently setting in the midst of this mess, to ask what he thought was wrong. Or wishing that I could hear his voice asking for my opinion as to the problem.
I saw myself earlier on that Friday evening wondering if it is worth the effort to cook anything for supper and opting for a peanut butter sandwhich because I didn’t see the need to make a mess for one person to eat a small meal.
I saw myself take the sandwich into the living room and our little dog following after me as if to beg for a bite of my “supper”. I saw the TV playing and there was only one lamp to light the room of shadows. I saw myself going through the motions of living without the companionship that I craved. I would remember that I had it for too short of time and loosing it to the thief called, “Cancer”. Later, I would try to find a way to go to sleep or find a way to block out the unending lonliness.
I feel myself sitting on the couch, trying not to think about the weekend days that held nothing for me to anticipate, no planned pleasure or outing, just sitting on the couch waiting for the hours to pass until I could return to work on Monday. I could see myself trying to will these hours of lonliness to pass more quickly. It seemed to be a long time until Monday.
It isn’t a hard stretch for me to imagine this scenario because this was what it was like immediately after my divorce and I still remember the emptiness and the lonliness. I still remember the pain of coming home at the end of a work day to a dark and empty house with no one to greet me or ask me about my day. No one to call to say that they would be late coming home and what about supper. No one to get concerned if I didn’t arrive home in a timely manner. I still remember how that felt and I fear that it will feel as badly as I remember it.
In those early divorce years, I experienced a precusor as to what life is like when you loose someone that you loved. I realize that no matter how painful that time in my life felt, it will pale in comparison with the loss of the love of my life. I thought that if I felt like I almost didn’t survive the lonliness that divorce brought to me, how in the world am I going to survive living life when every part of me is bleeding from the tearing asunder what God put together? How will I be able to function effectively while in the throes of depression. Depression almost swallowed me whole after the painful loss of divorce.
At least, in divorce, I had lost that feeling of deep love that once lived but finally died. I mourned for the loss of the life that I had known and not the loss of the person who was in that life. If I grieved so hard over a marriage that was bad on its best day, how would I survive life without the love of the man who made the worst day wonderful? How will I be able to work and concentrate so as to earn a living and be competent and effective in whatever job I find? How raw will my emotions become when death brings a multiplied suffering such as this? I don’t know?
The cure for the loss of companionship is to find another to share your life. I don’t know if I want to find another someone to share my life again. I don’t know if my heart can trust someone that I just met or will I ever find the same trust as I found in my husband’s heart? I don’t know if I am enough of a gambler to risk finding a companion, a friend or even a lover. Can there really be another mate who was made just for me? I don’t know. My mind cannot conceive that being a reality. In all of my questioning and confusion at this moment, I definately know that I do not want to go through loosing another love by divorce or death. I don’t know if I could survive loosing another mate. Once in a lifetime is more than plenty.
My life with my husband has been full of great love, wonderful experiences and happy memories that only this depth of love can create. This life also had many emotional wounds, difficult trials with children and the atrocities brought about by mental illness. To repeat anyone of those experiences would be beyond my ability to cope. Sorting through the family dynamics alone is enough for me to say, ” No, Thank You.”
I don’t know if it is possible to love another person in the manner in which they deserve to be loved. How can I ever open my heart up again. How can I ever be totally commited to someone else? I doubt that I could ever rightly love another man again. It would not be fair to them. My husband would always be there.
All of this thinking takes me to a place of contemplation about my “Golden Years” as a widow. A widow that cannot rely on anyone else and one that must be self sufficient for the rest of her life. I do not have a retirement or pension. All of those plans were lost in the bankruptcy of 2003. I will have to work and hopefully have a little income from Social Security for the rest of my life. Working will be much more than a means to an income and independence. It must be a tool that will cause me to not stay inside myself. It will be a necessity to pull me through the grief and mourning that surely follows such a devastating loss…
When I think of my family helping me, I know that my son and daughter in law will be very supportive, but I do not want to be the “third wheel” or the “Obligation”. To put it succinctly, I do not want to be a burden or live life through my children and grandchildren. I still want to live my own God given and appointed life. Good or bad, I need my identity and self sufficiency. I need that more than consolation, pity or sympathy.
I think I need to stop here. If I stare too deeply into the reflection of these coming shadows, I become too fearful and the multitude of ” What If’s” overwhelm my senses. I close my eyes tightly so as to not see anymore. I am tired and I can’t see how all of this ends. I have endured this reflection to its limit and I do not care to peer into this pool of shadows any longer this evening. I reflected and I saw enough…