|501 Administration Winona Lake, IN 46590
Last Monday, in a move to get me moving, I disconnected all the cable/internet/wireless stuff in the Kokomo house. I was spending way too much time messing with media. My goal was to be in one bedroom and one bathroom by the close of the week. I made it.
However, I discovered, quite suddenly, that I depended on the great out-there world for information as well as distraction. I actually read a few books at bedtime. Also, as my ‘phone’ would do little, I scrolled back through this year in my photo gallery. Quite a year.
It was about this time last year that Mike and I closed in on the reality of his disease. He had kept some things from me, figuring that it was best. We kept going but obvious signs pointed to the end of this chapter.
Except, not so obvious, at least to me. And I think that was the plan all along. I had a friend who said she admired how we just kept going. That was Mike’s idea. We would keep living until we couldn’t.
The last semester of 2013 was hard for me. I was stretched thin; bosses (not colleagues) had dumped additional tasks on me that I did not understand and I could not accomplish. I tried. My efforts were deficient. I knew it and I had to be content with doing what I could do and letting the rest go. However, as a formerly competent teacher, my failures felt foreign even as I went about my teaching.
Several times, I know, I brought up the logic of my staying home with Mike. Finally, he said, “Look, I know you want to stay home. I get it. It’s not time yet.” That might have been the final word had I not been me. But, I had lived 40 years with a man who was raised among men who regularly expressed regret for something they had not done. I had tried to fix it so that my husband would never say, “I wish I would’ve.” Couldn't to it: he still said it from time to time. So my final word on staying home was this:
“Ok, buddy. I don’t care how sick you get. If the time comes that you are lying in bed and you look up at me and say, ‘I should have let you stay home.’ I’m gonna punch you right in the nose.”
He smiled at this. I smiled, too. But he knew I was not kidding. And he never, ever, said it to me. So, no punched nose, at least.
Somehow, being busy with living took the edge off what was obvious to others. I am looking at a photo I took of Mike about a year ago. He is addressing his colleagues at Ivy Tech, telling them how much he loved teaching there and reminding them that these students are the real heroes: so many have fallen and are fighting to get back, into the workforce, into the good life.
He is standing at a dais, gripping it for leverage. His navy blue suit hangs off his shoulders and contrast with pale skin. I took that picture. At the time, it was just a picture. But, I’m sure his audience noted that he looked ill.
I snapped a photo in early March as Mike played with his Oakbrook brothers. By April 14, his last gig, his jacket hangs on him; his jeans hang on him.
We had flown for a short weekend to our place in Lauderdale-by the-Sea in January. We took another trip at the beginning of my spring break (3/31); Mike had to get back by Friday for teaching. His visage between those trips is startling.
As was our practiced plan, after 4 years, we kept looking ahead so we made reservations for our anniversary in June. We didn’t make that.
He remained hopeful that we would see the summer again at Winona Lake. What a contrast from that first summer (2009) when every thought centered around….any day now…certainly by next month….He had stopped telling people he was dying: he was dying.
Yet, I must say, that by staying busy, by living until we couldn’t this transition was not as difficult as it might have been.
I’m in the final sorting at the Kokomo house, readying it for sale and our what-nots for auction. I’m moving on rapidly; I know he would be pleased.
For this week, as I recalled our last few months together and how sweet that time was, I am also grieving that he stopped living even as I’m confident that he would want me to do what I’m doing.
But today, in my friendly little cottage, I stopped for a while and shed some real tears for this wonderful man with whom I shared my life.
|Missing my Budds.