By Leo Tracy.
My wife Bette had been ill for the past year. The hospitalizations totaled three with the first two followed by a couple weeks of physical therapy. The third was her last. Bette put up quite the fight. I’m proud, numb and grief stricken to think she would not say goodbye to me without undergoing multiple organ failure. Bette’s spirit left with praise for her body’s sixty-four years of outstanding service. She was conscious to nearly the very last.
I was with her when she left her world, my world, our world and found her place in the spiritual realm. I must admit, one of the dominant thoughts in my mind was her consistently saying over the past year “I’m not going anywhere; I’ll forever be the bane of your existence.” I believed her. Love’s fool was I.
We met in our late forties and the past seventeen years have been a time of love, laughter and the occasional piss off. I moved to the apartment complex where she was already living, unbeknownst to me, and destiny took care of the rest.
The interests shared broadened each of our horizons. Her love of doo-wop and Motown and my love of classical and musicals made for an evening of varied music that had us touting the richness of each piece chosen. Bette’s love of travel was contagious, and our road trip to Miami sealed our bond forever. My interest in crime novels is thanks to her, and I’m sure to start reading one of her favorites sometime soon.
We didn’t want to face the seriousness of Bette’s illness. We left that to the health care people. Our job was to remain hopeful, keep anxiety levels minimal and depression at bay. We didn’t talk about dying. Optimism ruled the day. Having more time together was the only option.
We dealt with the few close calls by my searching the hospital room: closets, drawers, under the bed, and coming back to Bette, all smiles, “no ticket to be punched.” I believe the thought of dying was in her mind but wanting to protect me was paramount and Bette didn’t broach it.
In the end Bette did not keep death waiting; it came fast. She lost consciousness and passed away a day later. Bette threw in the towel and rightly so; why sustain a few more punches when the judge has already decided.
I miss her and struggle with being alone. The mornings are tough. I am retired so I don’t have to be at work, and getting out of bed just to eat holds minimal appeal. When I get up there is no anticipation of engaging in anything meaningful. The only thing that occurs to me is to go hungry for a day or two and maybe a one-time favorite sandwich, tuna melt, will beckon. Bette loved that I took the top layer of bread off the sandwich and cut into it as one would an open faced. She also always gave me her dill pickle; what a sweetheart.
I will admit to coming up with a goal while sitting on the chair and looking at the urn on the mantle; read as much as I can about grief.
The understanding of grief as an emotion shared by all brings little comfort, like knowing we are all going to die hardly makes a difference when contemplating one’s mortality. I stand alone among a world of millions.
Grief has invaded every molecule of my body. Any joie de vivre is gone. Reading about grief may be akin to finding the enemy’s war plans and discovering their strategy for taking you down.
When I momentarily forget and think of sharing something with Bette, the forgetting becomes a sledgehammer, and the once solid edifice of self crumbles under the blow.
I do believe I’m living a dual existence. The one life is about Bette and all memory of her. The other life is the loss of Bette and the black hole created with attending defeat in the game of life.
When Bette and I first met I would tease with ‘get to know me and I will tell you the meaning of life’. She laughed saying she loved the mystery of that. Over the years, especially after a drink, she would say ‘oh by the way, regarding the meaning of life, I’m still waiting.’ The running gag is now over, and the perilous thought of Bette’s corporeal passing rendering the punchline worthless scares the hell out of me.
I don’t go out much, and a good part of that is not wanting to be alone in the car.
Bette and I bought the car together before our road trip to Miami.
When going away on a three day weekend, which we did often, I would compile a list of esoteric subjects, and after a few miles into the trip, I would place the list in her waiting hand with the accompanying “Ah my captive audience is learning.” We laughed.
At this time I’m in the car. I have the ‘girl’s’ food on the back seat. The ‘girls’ are felines; beloved Enya and Tammy. I didn’t have to get much for myself, a half-gallon of milk and some cans of soup.
I haven’t gotten out of the car yet. It’s as if I am waiting for something, which I’m not. Through the front windshield I look at the few trees that Bette and I could also see from our kitchen window.
“Honey, do you believe there are a few leaves starting to turn and it’s only late July.”
“I know, sweetheart, we have to report this; who do we report this to, Bette?”
“I don’t know. Aren’t you the guy who knows the meaning of life? You should have some idea of who to contact.”
“Okay, I’ll make a call-it’s out of service.”
“Who’d you call?”
“Well there must be some mistake.”
“We’ll try again later”
LEO TRACY is a retired social worker. He lives in Middletown CT. He has 2 short story’s and a novel to his name.