Friends ask, somewhat anxiously, How are you? I try to smile and joke a little, but the truth is, I don’t know. I believe it is best not to cry all over one’s friends because they will get sick of it — and you.
And anyway I don’t know. One moment I am laughing, joyously planning the next year’s work for the magazine, reveling in friendships, companionship, and the luxury of human conversation. The next moment, with no warning, I am wandering around the house in tears, not understanding why this grief, after so long, is still so strong.
I too should be sick of it, although this is the first time in a decade I have really been alone and able to grieve. A few times over the years it overcame me and I cried and cried in my perplexed love’s arms, but mostly I was pretty good, and took my grief “in small bites” in the bathroom, or at the stove, when no-one was looking.
Now it takes me by surprise, jumping out like my love on his happy days when he played peekaboo.
I tell myself sternly that this loss, this grief, is no more than we all go through, many families with far more horrific losses and tales than this, my heart song. But measuring buckets of grief is like whistling in the rain. And I am half a widow and half not.
I know my friends rejoice that I am slowly regaining my energy and focus, my creativity, my ability to shake off those chains of caregiving.
But when I go to visit at the care home, my love looks at me, and sometimes cries with joy to see me, other times politely asks, Who are you?
They tell me he asks about me all the time.
They also say he is having difficulties finding the bathroom, and this sparks my realization that I spent hours a day and night helping find that place he knew he needed, waking up at 4….or hastily dropping phone calls… only now when the care home mentions the difficulty do I remember how much time and attention this was taking every day and night. How sleep only came after that last bathroom visit at night was safely executed. No wonder I am still sleeping a full 8 to 10 hours a night, 8 weeks after the reprieve of his admittance.
In a strange moment of truth, I blurt out to the nurse on the phone, “Better you than me” and then gasp and apologize. She laughs and says, “It’s okay. I have broad shoulders.”