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.