It is always, or almost always – except for brief respites like insanely joyous holidays, wonderful evenings with friends, or walks in the woods – with me. A bit like a mild toothache or a sore joint. You don’t pay much attention but it never goes away.
And sometimes erupts.
Today at the care home, i find him out for a walk with the recreation aide, who is clever and compassionate and indefeatably persistent in her pursuit of ways to engage her charges.
He is hunched over walking crooked, looking oh so desolate. If this was Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, he would be judged and discarded as a druggie. Brought it on himself you know or whatever savage paradigm is in vogue these days.
But the aide points me out and after quite a bit of prompting he sees me, and grasps my face and says,”oh thank god, it’s you.”
I say “Yes, and i am so happy to see you.” We walk around a bit up and down the hall and out into the garden and wind up having lunch.
There’s a lot of things to look at and play with at lunch – spoons, napkins, cups, food, and what to do with it besides mounding it into the centre of the plate. Lunch is a full time occupation, not to mention the external factors: who is paying, can we stay here, (more and more his ideal world features staying where he is) and, will i be staying the night? He “would be happy here” then. Somehow his smarts are at work because he is aware that he is well cared for in this place.
But me. Eventually i run away, or sometimes walk, happy to leave the hourly responsibility behind, thankful that our health system stepped in and found care for him, which IS care for me. I have been spending these many months recuperating, beating back illness and stress effects, searching for a new base. Wondering what kind of life is left for me.
I leave as i do every time, no longer choking back tears – mostly – just aware that the ghost of my love is always with me, always whispering “be careful, babe.” Always loving me much more than i have ever loved myself.
Tomorrow will be another day of mourning, one of my secret days, but tomorrow i must go to him again. A ghost of the man i chose to spend many joyous decades with, but still himself to my sorrowful eyes.
They call this “the long goodbye” but it is more like an amputation, day by day, week by week, as more of your relationship gets cut away.