Sunday, December 30, 2012

Two White Wardrobes



Propped up on pillows on top of the made bed, legs stretched out, I look across at two white wardrobes opposite. We bought them in 1995 from that funny little furniture shop in Boyd Street, which is long gone.

They have been many things, done many duties. We bought them when we discovered that the house we were renting had no built-in wardrobes. It was a shock. ('I thought they'd take up too much room,' the landlord said.) We managed to get hold of a clothes rack first, but the clothes got dusty. We lived on a dirt road there, and could never keep the dust out of the house. How glad we were of these two little white wardrobes, even though the hanging space was not very tall and all my long dresses had to be doubled over the hangers like trousers. Standing side by side, each with a shelf on top and two drawers underneath, they served.

In other rented homes which did have luxurious built-in robes, they became other things. There was one time I managed to rig up some sort of makeshift shelves in the bottom - can't remember how. Maybe I found boxes that could be turned upside-down ... I don't know, something weirdly creative like that. When we were at North Tumbulgum they were in the huge room that was a converted garage, which I used as my office/temple/consulting room. One held my big folders of Reiki notes, magickal instructions and so on. The other held material to do with writing, including folders of my own writings. 

I think at Nobby's Creek they were in the garage downstairs, used for storing junk so as to keep it tidy. I think ... I don't really remember very well. Certainly at Victoria Avenue, Pottsville, they were in the garage. Eventually they formed a dividing wall between Andrew's office, which he shifted out to the garage so as to have more space, and the junk storage crammed into one end of the garage — boxes, suitcases, that sort of thing.

At Elanora Avenue, Pottsville, they went into the third bedroom, the only one without built-ins, and they held magickal supplies and some of my soft toy collection. 

Now here they are, wardrobes again, in another house without built-ins. In the guest room we have a rack, but people are here only a short while and some choose to live out of their suitcases. It's not just a guest room of course; it used to be Andrew's office. Now it is in the process of being converted into a workroom/sitting-room for me.

In the cosy little room we chose for a bedroom when we moved here, the white wardrobes fitted neatly against the wall opposite the bed, between the doorway and the angled corner section where we put the full-length mirror. Our clothes just fitted inside them, jammed up. My shawls had to go in one of those big plastic boxes on wheels instead. Now, of course, both wardrobes are mine. I have summer clothes in one, winter gear in the other.

Not long before he died, I put some of our magical pictures up on the wardrobe doors. Shiny pages from a fairy calendar, laminated photocopies of pictures by Marieah, laminated images from a Susan Seddon Boulet calendar. Andrew was having two weeks of temporary respite in Heritage Lodge at the time. Without him at home to care for, I was finally able to take the time to do that, and to put a couple of pictures on our bedroom door as well. I was so happy to show him when he got home, and he did enjoy them. He spent so much time in bed, I thought it was better for him to have something colourful to look at. I put a picture of Jorell and one of his guru, Baba-ji, on the wall by his bed too, underneath Penelope's portrait of Pan. Pan and Jorell are still there. 

He was only six days home before he collapsed and went back to hospital to begin dying. But we didn't know that during those six days, and he did get pleasure out of the more colourful bedroom environment. We both did. Now I continue to get pleasure from it.

'I like my room,' I heard myself think yesterday, as I walked into the bedroom and looked around. 'My room', not ours. I have transformed it in the almost four months since he died, not in very dramatic ways but in little things like discarding his pillows, gradually beginning to occupy more of the middle of the bed, spreading my belongings into all the drawers and both the old white wardrobes, which have lasted well.



Saturday, December 29, 2012

Creating Yet Another Outdoor Writing Spot

So, here's outdoor writing spot number two. Its a very small space, just room for one small, straight-backed chair.It's the landing at the top of the steps to my front door — far too small to be called a veranda. It's where Andrew and I used to sit in the winter sun to get our dose of Vitamin D. We had to take turns, or else I'd let him have the chair while I sat on the top step. (He couldn't have got himself up from the step, and I couldn't have managed to pull him up from it.) We often had the cats with us too, usually Freya on a lower step and Levi on the doormat or under the pot-plant.

It's not winter now but a thundery summer. We've just had a wild and wonderful storm. Now it has settled down to the steady, soaking rain the ground has been needing. I went out to my writing spot at the back and found my table awash from the storm. I could have towelled it off, but if the wind were to rise again, I'd be in the same position

I threw away the weather-worn chair we had here at the front door, in the recent hard rubbish collection. I've missed it for dumping shopping bags on while opening the door. (Its mate still does duty in my backyard writing spot.) I bought a low deck-chair to replace it, at the same time that I bought two straight folding chairs for the market. The low deck chair doesn't work here; not comfortable for reading or writing, and too low for the shopping. But one of the market chairs does just fine. It's a bit different from the other, very comfortable and supportive but on the heavy side. I want market gear that's light to carry. So this is now my front door chair. The other writing chair and the other one I bought can come to market with me. So can the deck chair. It's useful to have an extra if a client brings a friend.




The rain doesn't come in here, under the roof that juts out over the front stairs. The temperature is mild, and the view here is nearly as pretty and peaceful as the one in my back garden. Some people would think it prettier. I overlook the street, which is full of trees that largely obscure the houses. And behind the houses opposite, on the low side of the street, are the tops of the mountains. (Today they are sometimes invisible behind clouds.)




Bit by bit this place becomes right for my needs. I could have sat here on the old chair if Andrew was still alive, but I probably would have wondered if I was preventing him from doing so. Or he would have been watching TV just inside the door, and I wouldn't have had this peace. I certainly would not have had this more comfortable chair, nor this iPad!

Yes, I would swap all that to get him back — but back in health and clarity. More and more I understand that he could not have gone on. The deterioration was continuing and escalating, no matter how we tried to keep it at bay. His quality of life would have been rat-shit had he lingered; more and more so. And so I have my bouts of fierce sobs, and also my increasing pleasure in my home and my solitude.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Need for Purpose


I see more and more that in his last weeks, and even months, he was merely existing, waiting to go ... even though I was concerned about his quality of life and arranged pleasant moments. He was in bed a lot, lacking energy, reluctant to move around because it was painful, and just plain sleepy much of the time. (A friend warned me last year that he would end up sleeping more and more towards the end, and so it was.)  

Pleasant enough it may have been at some times, but only in his dementia did he gain a sense of purpose to do with this life here. Then, inspired as he always was by great things others were doing, he would want to visit schools and show the film of 'The King's Speech', which moved him deeply and which he would watch over and over again.  Or he would want to go and visit the Prime Minister to put her straight on some of her policies. Or to involve me in creating a newsletter, with old-fashioned methods of layout, so as to present new ideas to the world.

Sometimes he would try to go to the WordsFlow writing group. 'I have to,' he would tell carers. When he was in the first nursing home, he worried the staff by getting very agitated about having to get there. Yet it was I who decided, early this year, that he couldn't come any more, after one dreadful afternoon when he couldn't stay awake and there was nowhere for him to lie down but our car. I laid the seat back and parked it in the shade, and he had water — but even so, it was three hours he had to be there! Just not acceptable — not to me. And he had not really been able to participate for a few months. It breaks my heart now, though, to think how much he wanted to be there when it was no longer feasible. (I myself had to be there. I am the group's Facilitator.)

Even in what I now recognise as the very, very early stages of his dementia, when he joined the Neighbourhood Centre's Management Committee, he did it with a view to improving the world. He didn't grasp the nature of that committee work, to do with the running of the Centre. He wanted to use it as a platform to rescue our deteriorating foreshore, stuff like that. Worthy aims indeed but quite outside the province of what he'd signed up for. So eventually he realised that and resigned. It was just typical of his burning desire to make a difference.

In those last many weeks, my thought was to find activities he could still enjoy. He couldn't handle the stairs at the movies? Then I would bring the movies home on DVD. He couldn't get out and about and meet with people? I made sure the caregivers' organisation knew he needed respite carers who could make intelligent conversation. (He and they did enjoy conversing with each other.) I searched the library and the second-hand bookshops for authors I knew he liked. And these things did provide enjoyment. But after all, enjoyment was not enough for him. He wanted to be fulfilling his purpose. I trust that now he is.

His daughter said that recently she seemed to have a conversation with him (cautious about stating absolutely that this was so). She said he told her he was helping young people — a thing he did in many ways during his lifetime. She thought he meant he was helping children who died to cross over without trauma or confusion. And he referred to some other work he was doing too, but she wasn't clear what that was. Then he suddenly said, 'Gotta go. They're calling me' — so typical of his suddenness and abruptness in life, that it made us both smile.

The things I thought I was doing for his wellbeing were actually not what he most needed and wanted. He wanted to be of service. He needed to move on.

(I need to move on too, despite reluctance. These writings are one way I hope to accomplish it.)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

In the Depths of the Night


2.04am. Night owl these days! (Always my tendency.) If Andrew was alive here with me, he'd be trying to persuade me to get some sleep.

I liked the bed to myself when I knew he was in the world and would come home soon. Not so good now it's a solitary bed forevermore. But then, I think how awful it would be if he were permanently in the nursing home, missing me every night and me him, not able to be together, so near and yet so far. How awful it was when we thought he'd be permanently there, in horrible Nursing Home 1 — yet quite nice when he was just having a little holiday in lovely Nursing Home 2.

This is certainly better than his existing like that, and me watching him deteriorate gradually. He did it so much better for me, bless him, and for himself, by dying when he did.  He is having such fun now, I know, and doing important work — but I can't keep up with that; still releasing the unshed tears of the difficult times we've recently been through. And I must live my life on the physical plane much longer, I believe. Which is what I want, and chose (as a soul coming in). I think it would have been great if he could have stayed with me, in health and clarity — but that was not his journey. And indeed, I do believe this part of mine is about being with myself, looking after myself, and so on.

When my psychic friend S predicted there'll be a male companion for me, it brought me to instant tears, only slightly assuaged when she made it clear, not a lover. I don't want another man.

I've outlived three husbands and a couple of lovers. I don't want that any more. And I sure as hell don't want to be nursing anyone again! Not ever.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Small Kindnesses (Blogsplash)

Before and since Andrew died, I have received many kindnesses which might seem small and fleeting but have helped a lot. Only today, for instance, someone I've known a long time encountered me in town and gave my shoulder a quick squeeze as she asked, 'How are you?' Her eyes were full of compassion, gazing into mine. 'Take care,' she said as we went our ways. A brief exchange. It was obvious she felt inadequate, yet still offered what she could. I won't forget her loving look and touch in a hurry.

That is just one example.

There is the woman fairly new to our writers' group, who invited me to Christmas lunch with her and her husband. 'That would be lovely,' I said, 'But I want to get away for a few days over Christmas and just be quiet. I'm trying to decide whether to ask my niece or my son to have me.'

'You're welcome to come to us for a few days,' she said. 'You can sit on the veranda and look at the trees.' They have a property out of town. She added that her husband is not very talkative and their neighbours on both sides will be away. How perfect! I accepted of course. My next door neighbour, who loves cats, has agreed to look after mine for those few days, as she too prefers a quiet Christmas.

And yesterday another friend from the writers' group took me out to a poetry reading in the nearby town of Lismore, as a late birthday present. It was noble of him, as he doesn't actually care much for poetry himself. (But there was music too.) The reading was disappointing — such polite poetry! — but it was lovely to have an outing on a perfect Spring day, to be driven through beautiful country, and to talk about books and writing and our lives.



Lismore

I remembered how, some years ago before Andrew became so ill, we used to go to Lismore for dinner and live theatre, or to participate in pub poetry readings — exciting readings, the poetry far from polite. I told my friend I should take him to a 'real' poetry reading, and mentioned that there used to be some at Byron Bay. That triggered his own recall. When he first came to this part of the world some years ago, he actually used to go to to poetry readings like that, in Byron Bay, and even enjoyed them. He looked at me with an air of discovery. 'You're a Bohemian!' he said.

'Of course!' I said. 'Did you not notice?'

We went home through Nimbin, and that brought back other memories, of the market stall Andrew and I had there for a number of years, on the third Sunday of every month. He did Reiki and Indian Head Massage; I did psychic readings using my Tarot cards and crystal ball. It was our favourite market, and very good to us.


Nimbin

Reminiscing about these things put me back in touch with who I am, and reminded me of the life Andrew and I had together before it got to be all about taking care of his health and wellbeing.

'There was life before all that nursing.' I said to my friend.

And why am I writing on this theme?  It's good to visit the past and remember. It's good to to rediscover who I am. But also I'm participating in a blogsplash to help celebrate the release of Fiona Robyn's new book, Small Kindnesses. It's called a blogsplash because lots of others around the world are doing it too. We're 'making a splash,' you might say.

In honour of the occasion, Kindle is making the ebook version available free just for today on both Kindle UK and Kindle US.  Race on over there, quick! Fiona is a lovely writer.




P.S. And if you like kindness, click here for more tales in the blogsplash!


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Visitations


Today at S's house there was a dragonfly, my messenger from Andrew.  As we were preparing to drive down to her creek, it rested by me on the car roof several minutes. Nice to have Andrew share that sweet morning with me! I wonder if he was curious, as neither of us ever went to her house before. 

How do I know if a dragonfly is a signal of his presence or just some random dragonfly? Well first of all we agreed on that signal before he died. And just now I pendulumed and got a 'yes' to it signalling his presence today. I think he is synchronised to my thoughts and/or energy, and will be conscious of anything he needs or wants to take note of. I also think that, because of our agreement, I can assume all dragonflies from now on are signals. After all we picked that because they are seldom seen hereabouts, although they do occur. Since he died, I have seen rather more than I might normally expect. 

He also shows up without benefit of dragonflies. The night before last I had been reflecting sadly on the fact that I can get through the days but the nights are difficult, especially going to bed. When I went to bed after that, I felt peaceful, and got the idea that he had come to be with me. These days I don't even have his pillow on his side any more, but that didn't seem to matter — as why should it when he no longer has a body? But I had the sense that he was there. Then my own hand started spontaneously stroking my hair back from my forehead in just the way he sometimes used to, and I thought that he was using my own body to do that. It felt nice — not premeditated, not controlled, just comforting. 

Then Freya came to lie beside me, and at last, for the first time since he died, she fully relaxed and purred wholeheartedly as she always used to when he was there. I was so pleased! Pleased for her above all, because it has concerned me. 

Of course, one could say all this is just my own mind giving me some comfort, and it could be so. But I have had too many indications of other-dimensional realities, over decades, to even be bothered explaining this away. 

However, though it is some comfort at the time, it doesn't take away the grief and the aloneness. My single friends tell me they get lonely. That's a general kind of loneliness. I don't have that, don't know if I ever will. I like my own company, and am liking it well enough even now. No, I am lonely FOR someone, that one specific person. It is not always in the forefront of my mind, but it is always there. Sometimes it hardly bothers me; sometimes it hurts like hell.

S today expressed the opinion that towards the end of Andrew's life I must have felt more of a physical than emotional bond, because he slept a lot and because he had mild Alzheimer's. I said, 'No, the emotional bond was always the strongest.' And of course it still is.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Shifts

The last couple of days, I've had a sort of shift. As I go about my days, doing the sorts of things I'd be doing if he was still here, the things I'd do anyway, it feels as if he is here. I know he's not, but because my routine isn't that much different, the feeling is also not that much different.

It's not the routine of the recent past, with all that nursing; more like the things I've done for the years of our being together, and things I've done in this house before his illnesses became so extreme. I feel at home here, and at home in my life and my ways of doing things.

And I'm getting the place more how I like it — how I always wanted it to be for his enjoyment, too. I walked into the bedroom tonight to go to bed, looked around and said out loud, 'This is a nice bedroom' — just as he himself might have done. It's even nicer now than it was when he was here, and I know he'd have enjoyed it.

Then, suddenly, reality comes crashing back, and my head says, 'My husband is dead', and tears start. My heart does, in fact, feel that heaviness that people speak of.  Because he is not here, and we can't go to bed together.

'Why don't you come and sleep with me in the nights?' He asked me when he was in the hospital that last time. I tried to explain that it was a hospital and I wouldn't be allowed. I looked at his narrow bed and the ward full of other men, and wondered how he could ask it, even in his confusion. But I understand very well now. One can get through the days, but oh the nights!

I suppose there's progress. It used to be at dinner times that his absence hit home. I am working out new routines for that, for me and the cats. Now it's bedtimes that hurt the most.

When he wasn't physically present, but was alive and I thought he'd be returning — from hospital or nursing home — it was like these days, but I was able to enjoy my solitude and its pleasures.

There are pleasures to enjoy now, too, and I do. It's wonderful to get immersed in a piece of writing, or answer an important phone call, without being conscious that I could be needed and interrupted at any moment. There are many such small and large freedoms. I do enjoy them, but at times feel a little like, 'Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.'

At the same time, I realise more and more how stressful and traumatic the last two years were.  I see that indeed I couldn't have gone on much longer — as so many people tried to tell me. I was told I was in danger of getting very ill myself, and I can see now how close I was. Now, alongside grief and readjustment, is the bit-by-bit recovery. I can take the time, now, to look after myself.

Oh, bitter irony that I now have time to moisturise the ancient bod after my morning shower, that I've discovered how much bright red lipstick suits me, that I've lit on the perfect colour for my hair. And Andrew is not around to see me looking good.

Never mind, when he was alive he thought I was beautiful.

'Will you recognise me when we meet again?' I demanded today, talking to him (at him) in my head as I so often do — while knowing that what he will recognise will be the energy of my soul.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I've Started Watching 'Brideshead Revisited' Again


... the 1981 British TV series.  I bought the boxed set months ago, after Andrew and I saw the 2008 movie on TV. We enjoyed that very much, thought it well done, and it made us want to watch the TV show again. We each saw that before we knew each other and remembered that it was wonderful, and that it had time to develop the story with more leisure than the movie could do.

But we never did watch it together. When I began the other day, I cut and removed the cellophane wrapping. We hadn't even got that far.

He got very tired towards the end of his life, and the pain he was in and the medications he had to take made him more so. I also suspected at times that he was somewhat depressed. Why wouldn't he be? There was the pain, and there was the increasing inability to do the things he wanted to, from simply walking a short distance unaided to operating his computer. He knew he had Alzheimer's, though I am not sure he realised how confused he sometimes was. But it was obvious to everyone that sometimes he was concentrating hard to keep up with a conversation. He must have known he didn't have much longer to live, and there were projects he had not completed, which weighed on him. The wonder is that he did not appear more depressed more often.

For whatever reasons, he slept a lot and we didn't watch Brideshead or many other DVDs I bought with the idea that he'd enjoy them. It became too difficult for him to cope with cinema-going, so I borrowed the latest movies from the DVD shop, and bought a number of old favourites when I saw them going cheap. We caught up with very few of those, but did manage On Golden Pond, Out of Africa, and Lawrence of Arabia. He knew he''d seen them before but didn't remember the stories. 

One of his in-home respite carers showed him Gifted Hands starring Cuba Gooding. He loved it so much, he insisted I buy a copy; he wanted to share it with all our friends. She also brought him The King's  Speech, and I had to buy that too. Not that I minded. I was only too glad to do whatever might make him happy. And it did. He had no recollection of ever having seen it previously — which he did, with me, when it first came out. He fell in love with it and watched it repeatedly. He wanted me to organise to show it in all the local schools! I got out of that by saying it would be against copyright regulations. Anyway, he wasn't much interested in watching anything else. There are others too with the cellophane still intact.

So it's time to do what gives ME pleasure. For the most part we liked the same things, so seeing them with him would have given me pleasure too, but now that option is past and it's only myself I need to consider. I'm sorry he missed out on revisiting Brideshead, but I dare say that's not important to him now. Myself, I'm loving it.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

I'm Going Away for Christmas

I decided I couldn't bear to do, without Andrew, the things I used to do with him.

Traditions had grown up. For a number of years we were invited to be part of friends' celebrations, people who claimed us as adopted family. We feasted with different ones on Xmas Eve or Xmas Day (sometimes both) and always on Boxing Day. Lovely times we had — but this year I think everyone would be too conscious of Andrew's absence along with my presence. Not that I am thinking of their feelings, I admit, but my own. I came to the conclusion I would like to be quiet and still, get away from home and even away from the Internet; maybe read some books, spend some time in nature, meditate.

I was tossing up, dithering. Perhaps this was the time to take up my dear niece's offer to go and visit her at her farm in Victoria. But would she have plans for xmas? Most people do. She might feel obliged to say yes despite inconvenience; or she might be happy to have me but want to play xmas. She's a bit traditional like that; or perhaps it's truer to say that family stuff is important to her. Anyway, one year when Andrew and I stayed with her over xmas, we had the tree and pressies and so on. It was fun then and we entered into it wholeheartedly, but it's not what I'm after just now.

So maybe I could put the hard word on the Firstborn and stay with him in Melbourne a few days? He would understand my wish for solitude and no fuss. Chances are he'd be celebrating with his new girlfriend at her place, leaving me free to chill out, or go out, as the fancy took me. But there are so many old friends in Melbourne, not to mention two-thirds of my step-family. I don't want more than a few days away because of the cats. No time to see everyone — or even anyone, if I want to be quiet and solitary. Melbourne's probably not a good idea right now. (Once before I tried to sneak back unannounced for work-related reasons, and immediately bumped into an old friend. My embarrassment and her hurt rather spoiled the reunion.)

I toyed with the idea of announcing I'd be away and then staying quietly at home, doing my own thing. But it would be apparent to the neighbours that I was here. They are kind and would want to make sure I was OK, perhaps try to include me in their own celebrations. I would feel obliged to accept graciously rather than hurt their feelings. No, that wouldn't work either.

Then, just the other day, out of the blue, a new friend invited me to have xmas lunch with her and her husband at their rural property out of town. I thanked her but explained that I was looking to get away somewhere quiet and peaceful for a few days. She said, 'You're welcome to spend a few days with us.'

What an ideal solution! Her husband is a quiet person, not very talkative — perfect. She understands what I'm seeking, and said, 'You could sit on the back veranda and look at the trees.' Perfect again. For a minute I had this wild notion that, being relatively close, I could duck home each day to feed the cats. But it's not so very close, and anyway that would rather defeat the purpose.

'I could go and feed your cats,' said my friend. How's that for a good offer? But common sense had re-asserted itself by then, and I told her I'd get a neighbour to do it. My next door neighbour, who is going to do the honours in January, when I'm off to Tassie to stay with an old friend there, will most probably be away herself at xmas, but I have other good neighbours I can ask.

I find myself looking forward to it very much. This new friend is someone I have been wanting to get to know better. And the idea of that back veranda is very enticing indeed!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sometimes I Think He's Still There

Sometimes I think he's still there. Or, more precisely, still here.

I know, of course, that he's not — but when I am engrossed in something that I'm reading or watching on TV, I notice that part of my mind just naturally thinks of talking to him about it, like the next thing I'll do.

I still think of all sorts of items as his.

It is slowly sinking in that, apart from the building itself, everything I see in this place is mine. Well, except for a few things still to be parcelled up and sent to his kids. He left few bequests; he trusted me, as his executor, to do the right thing by others. I have sent some of the bequests already, and also some mementoes I thought his children and grandchildren would like —and I was right; they do. There are still some items which are a bit hard to post, but I'm figuring it out. Apart from those few bequests, he left it all to me.

I'm not talking about great wealth, not in financial terms (though there are other kinds of treasures). I'm just noticing how I still think of 'Andrew's iMac', designate particular books as his, and so on. But in fact they all belong to me now and I have absolute authority to say what shall become of them. Right now this doesn't make me happy, it makes me sad.


Saturday, November 3, 2012

My Unshed Tears from His Life

Here I am again, in the bed without him. Everything now is without him. And yet my mind is so full of him, all the time.

I am crying more now than I did at first. I have realised that sometimes I am releasing sorrows I couldn't before.

I recall a time he wanted to go through his office 'into that other office' to talk to the Prime Minister, whom he'd just seen on TV. He thought she was missing a point or two and wanted to tell her so. It was urgent. How disconcerted he was to find there was no other office through his.

Remembering this today, I sobbed for his confusion and distress, as I didn't when it happened. Then, I was busy dealing with it, and with him.

I'm sure I have many tears bottled up inside, like that.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Two Dreams


(It's not clear to me in detail what these dreams signify, but both intuition and logic say they must belong in this blog. What else would I be dealing with right now, however symbolically?)

I have had two sequential dreams about involvement in an environmental group. I woke up this morning after the second, which enabled me to remember both.

They took place now, only I was still involved with the organic food co-op [long disbanded] that Andrew and I were in during our early days in the Caldera. I was doing something which didn't happen then — I was going out regularly towards Tyalgum and collecting potatoes from a grower, to take to the co-op to sell. [No-one from real life.]

In the first dream, I encountered a meeting about to begin in this grower's house, hosted by him and his wife. They'd brought a lot of chairs into the living-room, and people were getting settled, many of them people I knew. (LH comes to mind.) The host's wife was named Nettal; she was a gracious older lady. We talked a while about the issue. [What issue? I don't now know, only that it was obviously of great importance to the community. I'd like to think it was fracking but I truly don't know.] I was pleased but not surprised to see my good friends Mo and Al come in.

Someone (I think the host) gave a short talk, then we were all shown a DVD on a fairly large TV screen. We watched with rapt attention, taking it very seriously. Needless to say, I don't remember it now. I think the dream faded out after that.

In the second dream, I got a bit lost on my way to the grower's and went too far. On one of those bends on the way into Tyalgum I decided to go in the gate of a property I saw and enquire for directions. I met a delightful couple, no longer young, who grew potatoes too. With great enthusiasm, he insisted I sample some of his potatoes, raw, with the dirt just rubbed off. I did, to be polite, and it was wonderful: crisp and tasty. They introduced me to their several friendly dogs, and we had a nice visit before they sent me on my way with clear directions. In conversation it became apparent that, although some of our ideas were a bit different, they supported the environmental group's aims.

So it was no surprise to see them at the next meeting. We greeted each other like old friends. When Mo came in, she took me aside and said, 'I see you were with [unremembered names of this couple]. I prefer to hobnob with Nettal and Peter Garnet', indicating our hosts. [Names unknown to me in real life.] This was obviously a friendly warning against getting too close to the other couple, but there was no opportunity to find out more. People were taking their seats.

I sat next to Mo and Al and some of their other friends. My friend Katie arrived and sat nearby. During an interval for coffee and cakes, I got up to say hello briefly to someone else. When I came back, Katie was in my seat, deep in conversation with Mo. Someone else (LH?) observing my confusion, picked up Katie's handbag from where she'd been sitting and put it beside her, then indicated to me to grab the chair Katie had been in and bring it over next to my friends (who, still talking to each other, were oblivious of all this). I hesitated, as there were a few empty chairs, including one child-size, but all looked a lot less comfortable than the one I'd been in. This mattered very much to me.

While I was hesitating, trying to decide which chair to choose, the host came along and picked up the empty ones, several at a time.He put them off  to  one side, behind the others. As the movie was about to resume, I hastily went and sat in the nearest of these empty chairs — somewhat separate from the rest of the people. No-one seemed to notice, too engrossed in what was happening onscreen, but I felt isolated, awkward and sad: a misfit. [Something I often felt before I married Andrew. I only just realised, writing this, that being with him took that feeling away for 20 years — even at times he wasn't physically present. Even when I was away in Texas for five weeks. Evidently he gave me huge validation, beyond what either of us understood.] 

Then I awoke.   

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Normality, Part 2


The normality starts to get to me. I find myself missing him all the more because I slip into normality, and forget he's not here. Then I catch myself and remember, and it hurts. The familiar routines become suddenly empty. I realise it is because we had arrived at the thing so many think and believe they want: he was my 'other half'. As I have said, it's not that we shared every thought, it's not that we didn't keep some things private from each other. It's not even as if we were always in perfect accord — far from it. But we were necessary to each other. And now — well I guess it's a bit like the time I went off to Texas for five weeks and left him behind on his own. Except now he's the one who's gone off. I know he is busy and full of energy. That makes me feel even a bit resentful in my worst moments. Selfish of me — because I do not wish to join him yet. I am just grudging him whatever takes him away from me, from here. Selfish and childish; I am being a petulant child. Of course I don't really want him back to suffer and struggle. He tried so hard!

But when Freya lies down with me in bed and looks for him, and purrs — but never as loudly as she did when he was here, and stretches out — but never with such complete, trusting abandonment as when he was here, I become sad.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I Behave Normally; It Feels Weird

I observe myself doing all the usual things — shopping, feeding the cats, vacuuming the floors, watching the shows I like on telly.... Part of me just can't understand how I can go on acting so normal. My friend Mo said that when her first husband died — years ago, in a sudden and shocking way when he was still young — she used to think afterwards, 'How can the birds go on singing?' What I am experiencing is not like that. I'm quite happy for the world to remain normal; it's me being normal that seems bizarre.

And yet, what else is there to do? We had arrived at quite a pleasant lifestyle, in the way we conducted the everyday trivia. It was something we enjoyed together; now I need to learn how to enjoy it when it's for one.

It does make it seem, sometimes, as if he must still be here. Because there I am, going about my usual business just as if he was.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

There's Only Me (I Say Repeatedly)

... in all sorts of ways, with all sorts of permutations. So I thought to start recording a few:


There's only me.
The grapes rot
before I finish them.

There's only me.
I play music
without headphones.

There's only me.
Why do I wear
my prettiest sarongs?

There's only me.
The cats spread out more
on the bed.

There's only me.
It takes four days
to fill the washing machine.

There's only me.
But his voice in the passenger seat
still says, 'You're clear this side.'

There's only me.
I arrange the pillows
a different way.

There's only me.
I can eat all
the chocolate.


Expanded, final sequence here. (It could go on and on, but I think this is enough.)

Alteration


(from personal journal)

The cats are such good company for me! Now we are settling down into a 'we three' consciousness. We stop looking for him, who was so much a part of our home, our family, our lives. We know he has moved on. We know that now it is indeed just we three. We bond together into this tighter unit.

Not that we were not bonded, of course; it's more a drawing in closer, a re-configuration of the shape of this little family that we are. We make new routines — only slightly different from the old. All is familiar, reassuring, habitual — and yet it is subtly changed. We have got past the first awful weeks of feeing the gap, the vital ingredient gone missing. Now we have seamlessly closed over that gap, so we have not a gaping hole but an alteration in the fabric, a different pattern to the weave.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

So Soon?

We had the minutiae of daily life working well, in ways that suited us. So those details still work for me. At present my habits and routines help me feel normal.

It wasn't so in the beginning. All those little things were a source of pain because of the missing bit — him. After only six weeks it is a comfort, in a way, to know what to do. I fall back on the usual.

It seems very soon, but I find myself feeling acceptance. Not long ago I had a whole day of incredible peace — the kind I associate with being in the presence of angels. I think it was him. (He was what Doreen Virtue calls an earth angel, and what my friend L, who can see people's spiritual origins, refers to as a feathered angel.) It didn't last beyond that day, but afterwards everything had shifted.

Oh yes, I still have my grief, acutely at times — like, several times a day — and I still talk to him, both in my head and out loud, regardless of whether he's listening or not. I still have tears, and even the odd shriek. But behind all that, this shift into acceptance.

I guess everyone's journey of grief is their own, individual, but it does seem to me that it has come very soon.


From a Letter to My Brother

...in response to his hope that I'm 'doing OK and managing to stay on an even keel.'


I am doing OK, all things considered. I have moments of acute grief, but they are only moments. He went when it was absolutely time for him to go, and I can only be glad he didn't linger. We had a great 20 years, and the final years — while difficult in many ways — were particularly loving. I'm glad he is free of the physical restrictions and discomforts he suffered for so long, and in a way it has freed me too. His practical care, despite having some respite in place, was increasingly arduous and time-consuming. So much so that I am feeling a bit purposeless now by contrast, wondering what my life is for. In the past, I would always have told others that life is its own purpose and reward!

I am living it anyway, and glad to be doing so. My friends and neighbours are good at keeping in touch and making sure I am not too much alone, and that I know I can use them for unburdening whenever I feel like it. But I am a writer, so that is what I use for unburdening. Not much poetry happening since he died — just a little starting again — in contrast to the months of anguished poems earlier. (It really was a bugger of a year, when I look back ... though full of precious moments too.) But I am journalling and blogging. Meanwhile the cats keep me grounded. And I finally have leisure to catch up with many things that got put on hold the last coupla years, as well as the freedom to get out and about as I like. I have resumed Tai Chi lessons after a gap in which I didn't even find time to practise; and, having inherited Andrew's digital camera, am playing with photography. I am also sorting through his papers, which will be a long, unhurried task; and I am rearranging things in the house to suit me better.

It feels very strange not to share my activities with him, if only in conversation. But in truth there was much less of that in recent months, as he spent much time asleep, and when awake was sometimes confused and forgetful. I have in a way had a gradual preparation for being alone and self-sufficient.

Marriage is a great adventure, and ours was certainly fulfilled. No loose ends. I guess widowhood is my next adventure. Adventures aren't always nice, but they are interesting and they get you somewhere. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Finding a New Hobby


When young Andrew was to enter the work force, he wanted to be apprenticed to learn photography but his father steered him into retail sales instead. That didn't last long, but he'd lost his chance of apprenticeship. He became a film editor, which must have helped satisfy his artistic urges. All his life he also took photographs, most of them very good. There are some wonderful framed blow-ups which we've always had on our walls: a London bus at night (with Tardis in background, I swear); young lovers in Central Park, New York; a colourful New York street scene; and an Australian landscape. He gave one of his sons a stunning framed blowup of Mt Warning at twilight, as a wedding present.

When digital cameras were invented, he wanted one of course. I got him one for his 80th birthday. (We went to the camera shop and he chose the one he wanted, then I put it on lay-by and paid it off over the next six months.) He enjoyed it for the rest of his life, and took some more good photos. Also I used it sometimes when his hands were too shaky; he explained the shots he wanted me to take. And then I sometimes borrowed it to take other snaps. He left it to me (along with most of his other possessions).

I was given a box brownie when I was 12. I didn't have much idea of how to compose a photo, just snapped friends for the record. As photography was an expensive hobby in the days of film, I didn't continue with it when I got older. But now some things have coincided. 

In July a friend created the Photo a Day Challenge on facebook, with a month of people photographing trees. I didn't; I was one of the people who enjoyed looking at the results. The next month was rocks, and well into the month (Day 27!) I suddenly realised I had some rocks I'd like to photograph. Andrew was in the nursing home. My two older stepchildren had been and gone; the younger was yet to arrive. It was obvious Andrew was dying, just not exactly how long it would take. It was good, in the times when I was not bedside, to have something nice to do to take my mind off things for a few minutes. 



Andrew died on September 3rd and after that there was a lot to attend to in various ways. That was the month of birds in Photo a Day Challenge. I didn't have any bird photos, nor time and inclination to take any. I didn't even tune in that often to admire other people's. But now, in October, as widowhood settles in, the theme is flowers — appropriate for Spring in Australia. I missed the first week, but since then I have been enjoying the challenge of finding the flowers and attempting to compose beautiful and/or interesting shots. (And now of course, one can manipulate them on computer for better results.) It's lovely to have a new interest, just at the time when I need something.




Friday, October 12, 2012

Changing the Pillows

Strange little adjustments happen.

I arrange the pillows on the bed — the same number of pillows — so it looks more like one occupant than two. (Otherwise I am too forcibly reminded of the absent one.)

Each of us came to the marriage with a triangle pillow for sitting up in bed. His had a navy pillowcase, and was smaller than mine, which had an off-white one. And I had a big pyramid pillow. All have been very much used over the years and are still here. His triangle pillow was with him on both stays at Heritage Lodge, and in the hospital that last time.

I used to make our bed with a triangle pillow each side, on top of the pillows we slept on, and the pyramid pillow in front in the middle. (And a toy tiger sitting on top!) I put it back that way to show you:



When I make the bed now, I have the flat pillows either side, but I then arrange the triangle pillows atop them in the centre, one behind the other, and the pyramid pillow in front as usual. Psychologically it makes a big difference to me.



(I want to keep all the pillows, as I only have a single bed as a spare bed. If ever I get couples staying, I can vacate and give them the double, with two sets of pillows. Meanwhile there's nowhere else to store them all.)

The bedside tables and the pictures above the bed are somewhat different from how they used to be, too. That's for reasons of convenience and aesthetics, but it doesn't hurt in terms of reducing the glaring gap of his absence, either.

At night, I still sleep on 'my' side of the bed. The cats now stretch out on the other.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Adjustments, realisations, alterations ...


Already it's over a month since he died!

I've realised I need to get out of the house and be among people, if not every day then most days. For that and other reasons, I now shop often for small amounts, instead of doing one great big shop per fortnight. Although I didn't always use it, the Coles online shopping service was very useful when Andrew was at home and couldn't be left. Now I can't imagine using it any more unless I become sick. A friend informs me that what I'm doing now is 'the French way — buying everything fresh'. (It's certainly necessary from that aspect too, as otherwise food would be going bad at the rate I eat it.) 

My friends are very good. They ask me out or phone to check how I'm doing, making sure I'm not too much alone. I'm accepting invitations and enjoying them. Coming home again to my own company is sometimes a bit of a let-down.

I've always talked to myself, and to inanimate objects, so that's not much of an adjustment. But I've been doing it a bit more lately. And I'm talking to him perhaps a little less than I did at first — but still quite often. 

I still haven't had the 'good long howl' people advise. When I get weepy moments, I think I will — but then my mind progresses naturally to the many happy memories, and the tears dry up. So I am shedding them little by little instead. I can't seem to help this, but I don't know that it's a good thing. My body has always been inclined to give me messages that put me in closer touch with my emotions, and what it's manifesting right now is fluid retention! The message could hardly be clearer. Obviously I haven't shed nearly enough tears yet.

Sorting through his notebooks and unpublished writings, I find that several times in the last couple of years he wrote about being ready to die — partly because he was sick of the pain in his body, and partly because he longed to be with his father and brother again. It's clear from what he wrote that he hung on for my sake. I'm so grateful that he did! The gradualness of his deterioration gave me time to become resourceful and self-reliant enough for life on my own. His health scares and hospital stays which didn't result in death, but looked as if they might, allowed me to confront the possibility and motivated me to get wills and things put in place. 

He didn't always feel ready to go, however. Much of the time, even in his last days at home, he was keen to stick around and get on with his life's work — which was, essentially, inspiring people to embrace their highest potential. His gift for writing was simply one means of doing so. He was particularly motivated to work with youth — hence his children's books, and his role (before I knew him) in bringing to Australia the Discovery accelerated learning course for teenagers. 

Since his death, many of his friends old and new have mentioned what an inspiration he was to them. Several have credited him with being a mentor to them.  I hope he knows now how well he did perform the function he so wanted to in people's lives. I don't think he ever quite believed it when he was here. I said to a friend today that he under-estimated himself. 'The good thing was that you never did,' she replied. Getting him to believe me was a challenge, though! Now I have been coming across birthday and Christmas cards from his daughter, telling him over and over again what an inspiration he was to her, what a guiding light in her life. He kept and evidently treasured these cards, so perhaps her words got through to him.

I am making some changes to our home. 'You must make it your own little nest now,' said a friend who was widowed a few years ago. It started when I bagged up his clothes to give to the opportunity shop and spread into his wardrobe as well as my own. Various other changes have followed, and will follow. 

Pretty new couches have replaced the ancient armchairs which we only kept because he was still able to haul himself out of them. 




I was given a beautiful painting of an angel. (Long story.) Putting it in the perfect spot meant removing another picture, altering the placing of yet others.... In the course of this I realised I want to make the whole place into a more magical space now, instead of confining that aspect of my life and being mostly to one particular area. I've started with a small altar in the bedroom, even though I have a main altar out in the garage — which I'm never likely to use as a garage, it being my library, temple and consulting room. 




His office, which has the spare bed in one corner, will become a more comfortable guest room. When there are no guests, which is most of the time, it will be a pleasant work space for me to iron, draw, practise my Tai Chi, or meditate. Oh yes, I've started Tai Chi lessons again, after two years when I simply couldn't leave him in order to attend. 

I've resumed Tai Chi, daily walks, and meditation, and I've stopped the evening glass or two of red wine which I'd got into the habit of. After all, I have now had an excellent demonstration of the importance of maintaining good health into old age!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Things I'm Noticing

(Jotted down over several days.)


  • I hate it when a car drives up, because it's never going to be him. (Not that he drove the last couple of years.) It's not any old car but the sound of a familiar one, like my neighbour's in the back unit, coming up the driveway. Takes me back, I suppose.

  • I'm afraid that, as the years go on, I will lose the immediacy of my memories and my sense of connectedness to him; he will just become for me The Past. I can't bear the thought of that possibility! On the other hand, I'm afraid of getting stuck in the past and not moving forward and evolving. Also I believe that he, as a spirit, must evolve too and not be hindered by my emotions holding him back in any way. Academic questions, perhaps. I can't try and control things either way. I can only go on day by day, being in the moment and reacting spontaneously. And what will be will be.

  • I feel lonely when I do things for one that I used to do for two, such as making morning tea.

  • I was having a tearful day when I went out with my friend. 'You cry so lady-like,' she said affectionately. 'Have you had a good howl yet?' I laughed.' Oh yes, at home I wail and sob and swear.' But then I thought, afterwards, 'No, I haven't had a real good howl yet. The wails and sobs and swearing last only a minute or two at a time, and then I pull myself together and get on with whatever's at hand.' I can't produce a good long howl to order, but next time I find myself getting teary, if I'm home alone I'll go for it.

  • Everyone says how wonderfully I looked after him, and I certainly did my best. But what they don't realise is that he looked after me too. Tonight I choked on my dinner; a lump of food went down the wrong way. A scary moment! I reached around and thumped my own back, and after a lot of coughing and spluttering, it came up. He would of course have done that for me if he'd been here. On one of his last nights at home, I had an uncontrollable fit of sobbing. 'I don't exactly know why,' I told him, 'It's just that everything's a bit much.' He cradled me in his arms, murmuring endearments, until I was soothed. I felt cherished and safe. That kind of looking after I'll never get again. Maybe the memory will sustain me.

  • My appetite at mealtimes has diminished considerably. This was unexpected. I tempt myself with things I like, and paradoxically I am putting on weight, though just a little. 

  • My eating is altering in other ways. I used to make meals we both enjoyed, but there are things I love which Andrew didn't, so I am buying them now — salt herring, sardines, cottage cheese....  Instead of big tubs  of yoghurt, which now take forever to get through, I have started buying the tiny, individual ones. I haven't fancied tinned fruit, although I always used to. Luckily I still fancy fresh. I have largely given up trying to cook for one. I make stir-fries and get two meals out of them. I cook up big pots of soup and freeze most of it in individual containers — that gives me six or seven meals. I am sticking to the Oatmilk Andrew used, which I learned to love, but I don't go through it very fast as I don't have milk in my coffee and eat cereal only occasionally. Luckily it keeps. One packet now lasts as long as four used to. I have got in small UHT packets of dairy milk for visitors' cuppas.

  • There are times when I become aware that subconsciously I still expect him to return home after a short time away, as if death is just some kind of trip he's taking.

  • Freya still sleeps on the bed. She used to squeeze up between us and purr her little head off. Now she either stretches out on his side, or comes close to me for a cuddle. She does purr, but never so ecstatically loud and long as she used to when she was with us both.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

As Always, it's the Little Things

I used to tell him stuff. Not necessarily important stuff, though that too. But just anything and everything, and he was always interested. The weather forecast; when a favourite show would be on telly; what my son said in his last email; if I'd lost weight; who I bumped into in town; if one of the cats were off their food; the cockroach I saw in the kitchen; the new towels I bought for the bathroom ... the minutiae of everyday living.

I am doing much the same things as always, but without someone to share them with it feels a bit pointless.

What I don't do any more is the nursing — giving him insulin, and specific medications at specific times of day; hovering around as he showered and shaved; helping him dry and dress himself; taking his blood sugar twice a day; monitoring his diet; monitoring the effectiveness of his medications and checking for side effects; carting him to numerous GP visits, specialists' appointments, x-rays and scans, blood tests....  No wonder I have more time to look after me now!

It doesn't always work that way. Without his rigid medication schedule to stick to, I don't always remember the best times to take my own few supplements and things. But there's more room in the fridge without his insulin supplies and his Webster pack and the week-long pill container for his Warfarin dose. And because I am not so busy and not needing to be available to another person, I can take time after my shower to moisturise my body — with the excellent moisturiser I bought for his elderly skin. (That used to be my routine self-care but it lapsed entirely these last few years.) I can go out for a walk any old time, without needing someone to come and sit with him, and I can meditate without half an ear cocked in case he should need me.

There are various things I no longer have to consider. I needn't worry about making too much noise if he's resting. (Though I haven't yet broken the habit of using headphones to listen to things on my computer.) Often I find myself thinking, 'There's only me now' — reminding myself. This can be good or bad. I don't have to consider another person, but nor do I have anyone else around to think about me. (Not in the home, on a day-to-day basis, though my friends are very good.) 

It's the little things. There's no-one for whom it matters what I wear to bed; no-one to consult on which earrings look best with which outfit, or whether I can go another week without a haircut. No-one to talk to on that day-to-day basis about the wellbeing of the cats, or the state of Federal politics, or the condition of local roads. 

The hardest time, when I miss him most, is early evening. With two writers in the house, we spent large chunks of most days at our respective computers. Sometimes we shared an office (different rental homes over the years had different space available) but even then we were focused on our own projects most of the time. Then, around 5, we'd put them aside and come into the living room, turn on the telly, feed the cats and start preparing our own meal. We'd have a pre-dinner drink and snack, we'd chat and yarn, and after dinner, if there was no program we wanted to see, we'd read or watch a DVD.  

Even after he became old and ill, and rested for much of the day rather than using his computer, our evening routine was unchanged. It was our special togetherness time. Watching together our favourite shows was an important part of it. Sometimes we'd unplug the phone so as not to be disturbed. Not TV addicts as such, we were nevertheless devoted to a few mutual loves: MASH (in all its many repeats), As Time Goes By, Foyle's War, Doc Martin, New Tricks, Merlin, Robin Hood, Doctor Who, and various historical and current affairs programs. 

Shortly before his last illness, we had begun watching a re-run of As Time Goes By. We always felt sentimental about that show, because our own romance happened late in life. With stays in nursing home and hospital, he couldn't continue watching. I was all set to help him see the episodes online later, but that didn't happen. But of course, he had seen it all before. I'm still watching, as it winds to its conclusion once again — taking pleasure in our shared enjoyment, even now. The warm memory of our recent viewing takes me back to all the other warm memories of watching it, from its first airing through previous repeats. 

In other ways I'm often sorry that my most insistent memories of him are recent, of his increasing illness and all the care required. Then I remember that we only moved into this unit at the beginning of 2010, and he started going seriously downhill about six months later. So those are not only the most recent memories, but also the specific ones associated with this environment. No wonder they are uppermost!

When I look back, now that I am not too involved in the details to appreciate the bigger picture, I realise that the last year in particular was a difficult struggle for both of us. I don't know how we managed it, really. Yet it was also full of loving moments and small joys, which made it simultaneously one of our most precious years. Again, it was the little things — cuddles with the cats and with each other, the view of the mountains from our street, the enjoyment of our meals (he loved everything I made him), reading in bed, clean sheets, his hands stroking my hair....

'This is a nice house,' he said during his last week in it, 'And it's ours!' Maybe he was confused and thought we owned it; or maybe he was referring to our lifetime tenure, which has now reverted to me. He was full of delight in any case. He loved our latest car, and always praised my driving. He very much enjoyed our times with our friends. While I am remembering all the large and small frustrations and discomforts, it's good also to remember the joys.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Magickal Moment

I posted this at my SnakyPoet blog, then decided it needs to be here too. I can chronicle the whole experience.

I was feeling a bit down today — missing him. (I know he's around in spirit, but it ain't the same.)

Sorting through his stuff, I came across a note he'd written to himself, wondering  how to get me some $30 earrings for (last) Christmas. The money would not have been the problem so much as actually shopping for them without me knowing, when he could no longer drive and could barely even walk. Anyway, it didn't happen.

'You should have conspired with one of my girlfriends,' I told him in my head.

Coincidentally, I had recently decided I'd look better in stud earrings than the dangly ones I've worn for so long. I went hunting for some plain silver studs today, but ended up with zircons, a little under $30, and decided to regard them as a present from Andrew.

Later I was loading my shopping in the car when I heard someone call my name, and there was a lovely friend beaming at me. We don't bump into each other all that often, as she lives out of town. She gave me a wonderful hug. I admired the full-blown, pale pink roses she was carrying.

'Would you like them?' she said.

'Why?' I asked.'Aren't they for you?'

'Well,' she said, 'It's a funny thing. Someone just gave them to me and I've been wandering around, thinking, "Why have I got these? Who are they for?" Then I saw you.'

So I accepted with pleasure. I wonder if Andrew had a hand in it somehow. He liked to get me flowers. Even when he couldn't easily go shopping himself, if we were out together and he saw roses for sale, he would order me to go and buy myself a bunch.

Not that I mean to diminish my friend's generous impulse. She was in the middle of an assignment about citizenship. I told her I thought giving a bereaved friend roses was an example of good citizenship!

Here they are at home in a vase, viewed from above. (I sat them on the floor for the photo, to avoid distracting backgrounds).




Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Strange Journey of Widowhood Begins


It feels weird, surreal. Well, it's only been 16 days since he died, 10 since his commemoration ceremony. Sometimes it feels as if he's still here, just resting in the bedroom as he did more and more in recent months. At other times I'm acutely aware that he's not here. At least not physically; sometimes I'm aware of his presence in other ways, but it's not the same. And that has good and bad aspects. I can still tell him stuff, but I can't hug him. I just have to be glad of the 20 years of hugs we did have. I am not accountable any more; I can please myself what I do when, what I eat, where I go ... only it is hard to get used to taking even the simplest pleasures alone, for instance not preparing a meal with his enjoyment in mind.

I can't believe it was all so quick in the end. 'Only a few weeks ago we were soaping each other in the shower!' I thought yesterday, as I turned on the taps. We didn't always shower together, but it's a big enough space that we could and quite often did. That last time, I think my ulterior motive was to keep an eye on him. With our non-slip floors and substantial railings, when he was at home he was always able to shower himself despite problems with his legs and his balance. He seldom even used the shower chair. He could still shave himself too, but sometimes needed a hand with drying and dressing himself. But he was frailer, that last week at home. Nevertheless, he managed just fine.

I didn't mind any of the nursing I did for him; I wanted to help as best I could. But I must say I don't miss it. I have a lot more time to accomplish other things. And now, when I look back, I realise how much I was doing in the way of practical care. His body was breaking down, inexorably. When I feel lonely and weepy, I only have to bring back the image of him shuffling about painfully with his wretched wheely walker, and I can't wish him back. 

Not that I thought his walker wretched until now. It was a godsend, a valuable tool, the only thing that enabled him to get around. At first he only needed it for long walks outside the  house; in the end he couldn't do without it anywhere ... until at the very end he could no longer walk at all. We went through a few different models, actually, to find the one that suited him best. I bought the first brand new, the rest second-hand from Palliative Care. I used to think that if he died before me, I'd keep the walker stashed away somewhere in case one day I should need it. Not at all — I couldn't wait to get rid of it. (I donated it back to Palliative Care.) Though I hate, now, to think of him shuffling along behind it, at the time I admired his guts and patience. As a friend said to me today, he kept going as long as he could, with great determination. As our doctor said, he was a fighter.

These last months were more and more difficult for us both. Yet there was also great sweetness and much love. As my poet friend Joyce Lee said to me of someone else, long ago, 'His soul was showing, like light through a crack.' When I remember those times of enduring, unconditional love, I am calmed. And then I want to weep all over again!

I see some things he has used, and feel not the least bit sentimental about throwing them out or giving them away.  'You don't have a body any more,' I tell him in my head. 'You don't need these.' Other things I feel revulsion for, angry with the poor, inanimate objects for the fact that he is no longer here to enjoy them. And others again I hug to me because he cherished them, or simply because they have felt his touch. 

It seems I can't talk of widowhood without talking of the marriage partner. In a way it is as if I am just in another phase of the marriage. And I haven't yet changed my relationship status on facebook. I still feel that we are husband and wife, and I rather expect I always will. However I shall change the status at some time — soonish — when I feel ready — so as to acknowledge the external fact.

It's lucky I have two cats dependent on me. They keep me grounded. It's time to go and feed them now. (They are getting extra cuddles these days, because they miss him ... and because I miss him.)

(Reposted from my SnakyPoet blog, after I decided this subject needed a blog of its own.)