Only this morning I fed the cats, then sat at the computer checking emails before breakfast, and after a while had the habitual thought from the back of my mind that I'd better see if it was time to do something for Andrew — give him insulin, get his breakfast, dole out medication.... Wait a minute — habitual? Hey, that was nearly a year ago!
Well, my psychologist reminded me yesterday that a year is not really very long on this particular journey.
It's good to be seeing her. I was telling her about 'a bad memory' of an altercation Andrew and I had in his last week at home, a product of his dementia and my exhaustion — after which we both cried and hugged, and reaffirmed our love for each other.
'Was it only a bad memory?' my psychologist asked. For a minute I didn't get it. I looked at her blankly. Then I realised: 'No, it was a good memory too.' Now I can allow myself to dwell in the love we expressed, rather than the difficulty.
We only came to live in this unit two years and nine months before he died, so it's full of memories of his final decline. He wasn't in perfect health when we moved here, and some of his physical ailments were giving more trouble than they had, but he was still full of life. Six months later he had a sudden collapse and went to hospital, and they didn't know if he'd recover. He was weak and frail when he came home, and that's when I raced out and got him a wheely walker. He recovered and didn't use it much for a while, but then things deteriorated further and further. So I tend to remember him shuffling on painful legs, staying in his dressing-gown some days, always having breakfast in bed...
He used to apologise for that. I finally convinced him that it was only fair, after him giving me breakfast in bed most mornings for the best part of 20 years!
It still feels surreal at times, not to have him around.
I've always talked to the cats, but now I talk to them in new ways as well as the old. I find myself passing the same sort of little comments I'd once have made to Andrew. Nothing special, nothing earth-shattering, just remarks on what I'm doing or how I'm feeling.
In the bathroom this morning, I moved a jewellery box back to its usual position, where I think it looks best — then suddenly said out loud, 'Oh shite, what on earth is the point?' I was hit by the realisation there's no-one but me to see or care. Yet, that IS the point: it's I who see, and do care. Andrew would have moved it for convenience, not for aesthetics. It's taking such a long time to grasp the concept of doing things just for me. (Even though for the most part I do keep up my standards, because my head tells me I must.)
I hear the new neighbour start up his motor bike and drive off. That's a big change! It used to be lovely Penny next door, in the other unit on this block: Penny who was so understanding about Andrew's illness and death, and my stress and grief. She wanted to move nearer town, and we're still in contact, but I selfishly wish she had stayed. The new guy seems OK — polite, pleasant, unintrusive — and that's all one can ask. But, as one of my friends pointed out, it's probably not a great idea to do any more skyclad rituals in my back yard!
My friend Mo is concerned about what I'll do on the death anniversary. She's ready to step in and help if I need. I don't at this point know what I want to do. Maybe stay home and write. I'll ask for guidance on that one.
For reasons both emotional and financial, my stepchildren are still undecided what to do about a memorial service for their father in Melbourne, where he used to live. Perhaps they will decide on a small family gathering, or perhaps a larger event close to the anniversary of his death. Meanwhile, with his old friends in mind, many of whom became my friends too, I want to get on with a project I've had in mind for months. I want to turn one of his old blogs, which are now under my management, into a memorial site. I want to get all the wonderful tributes that were posted on his Facebook page, and first of all print them out and stick them in the book which people wrote in at the memorial I had for him here. Then I want to type up the handwritten tributes from that book, and put the whole lot on his blog. It would be good to have that ready for the anniversary, and invite people to add anything else they might wish.
Meanwhile, there are things to enjoy about the solitary life. In his last months he didn't want me watching episodes of my guilty pleasure, 'True Blood' (sexy vampire show, if anyone doesn't know, with lots of explicit sex and violence). 'You don't understand,' he said, in some distress. 'I can't have that energy coming into the house. It's not good for me.' I expect he was right. But I think I can clear any bad effects for myself, and now I can watch it freely. Season 5 awaits right now.
The cats and I have settled into new routines. Some clothes and some household appliances have worn out and been replaced. The rooms, particularly his old office, have been more or less transformed. I have made new friends who never met Andrew. The GP who looked after us so well has moved, and I have a new doctor who didn't see me through all that. The vines with orange flowers have grown halfway along the side fence, where I've been training them. I have begun writing my memoirs — or perhaps it will be a full-scale autobiography.
'Change is the only constant.'
'Change is the only constant.'