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.


  1. I was touched by your post. Moments before I read this I was at the grocery store. I hate going shopping with my family. My kids ask for things, or touch or run around. My husband walks around in a flurry and I run to catch up. At one point I stopped said I didn't come as a babysitter and I walked away. Although, at the time I was frustrated your post made me stop and realize how lucky I am to enjoy this moment with my family. It doesn't change the moment, but it shows me to stop and appreciate the little things and let some of the frustrations go. I'm sorry for your loss, and hope each day you find a smile.

    1. Austine, what a lovely comment. Thank you. I have wondered about sharing this stuff - if it would be of use or interest to anyone ese - but now feel encouraged. So you're my smile for today!

    2. Rosemary - I think that you can see by Austine's very astute comment that you and your extraordinarily wise and wonder-full view of all life's twists and turns have enormous appeal - not only (of course!) to those who are sharing this particular life passage but to all who are 'simply, beautifully human.'

    3. Thank you too, Pearl. It's good to know that.

  2. Yes, it is the little things that count but it is also so easy to forget that at times. Thanks for the reminder, Rosemary.

  3. I read several of your entries. You are a beautiful writer.

    1. Kate, thank you for that lovely compliment. It's very heartenng.


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