Dear Larry, my love:
You spoke to me last night. It was in that twilight of sleep state when I heard your voice. You startled me awake, but I cannot remember what you said. I want to believe that you said to me the last thing that I always say to you before I go to sleep. “I love you and I miss you.” I do not know that you really said that, but that is the story I made up and it comforts me. I did hear your voice. That part I did not make up.
We have had several unwanted milestones that we have reached this week:
It is the one-year anniversary of our last date.
It is the one-year anniversary of our last day together in our house.
It is the one-year anniversary of your admission into the hospital.
It is the 10-month milestone of your death.
All of those have happened so fast and I can barely breathe because you are gone. The memories are so sweet while tearing my heart out. I smile and cry at the same time. I miss you.
You were insistent that we have Friday night dates after the kids grew up and left the house. We decided years ago to close on 3PM on Fridays and made a new habit of having dinner early and maybe attending a movie. It was our reward for a week of hard work completed and to get US time. Despite living in food mecca, we had the same conversation each Friday as we left our office parking lot. “Where do you want to have dinner”. “I don’t know. You choose.” “What are you in the mood for?” “Whatever you want to eat”. And finally, we decided. It really did not matter. It was never about the food. It was about the time we had together, the conversations we had, the problems we discussed and a nice glass of wine. Toast. To US.
On our last date together, you picked the restaurant. This new restaurant featured char broiled oysters loaded with butter and garlic. For our entire married life, you gagged when I ate oysters and had fondly referred to them as “snot balls”. I invited you over and over to try them, but you had some memory of some oyster trauma from your childhood and could not get around that incident. The night this restaurant opened, we were there. You asked if I wanted to order oysters and I said yes. To my shock, you said that because they were not raw that you would try one.
The waiter brought the steaming tray of char broiled oysters posed on the half shell swimming in butter sauce. He placed it on the table, and I sat quietly with my hands folded in my lap. I watched the expression on your face because this was the moment you would do what you committed to do. It would have been fine with me if you backed out, but that was not who you were. You said you would eat one and “By God” you were going to eat one. You were anticipating, but I think you wondered just what I appreciated about these little snot balls. Want a cracker? Some hot sauce? “No. Going to do it straight up. Here goes nothing.” And then you were hooked. You ate the majority of the dozen we ordered on that first night. We frequented this restaurant often and I teased you about after all of these years hating oysters that you now needed an oyster 12 step program. You laughed and confessed that as early as Monday morning you were already salivating and waiting for Friday night so you could eat oysters.
So, for the evening of our last date, you got to pick. We had the dinner that you loved, enjoyed the oysters and the conversation and most of all, we enjoyed being US. Neither of us realized that it would be our last lovely dinner out together. We could not have predicted what the next few days had in store for us.
I am so glad that you got to pick the movie that night. Clearly our choices differed. Give me a good love story with a mushy plot where I got to cry a little and I was a happy girl. You, on the other hand, endured these movies for me. There were a few that you admitted enjoying. Your taste however was very different.
You loved sci-fi. You could watch it for hours. Every Star Wars movie that came out required us to attend the first showing even if it meant leaving work early to be there. I hated sci-fi mostly because I did not understand the point. We would leave the movie and you extolled the special effects along with the clever plot twists, the excellent actors and outstanding graphics. And I would say, “huhhh?” I don’t get it. I have no idea what the entire movie was about. Where did that alien manifest from? What was the purpose of that green globby thing? How can they justify coming back to life? What do you mean it was all a dream? What the heck is a prequel anyway? You would just laugh at me, tell me I was too pragmatic, and you could not analyze sci-fi that way and thanked me for enduring this for you. I did not care what we saw and what I understood. I was with you and that was all that mattered.
So that night we saw the latest Star Wars movie. To be honest, I have no idea what it was about, and I remember very little about the movie. What I do remember, though, is that you began to feel very ill and I wanted to leave and take you to the emergency room. You refused and said that you wanted to wait. Two of our grandkids were coming the next day and night and you wanted to have time with them. So, we stayed in the movie and as we left, I could see the weakness and pain in your face. I walked you to the lobby and had you sit so I could get the car as close to the door as possible. That was our last movie together. This was your last movie forever. I am so grateful that the last movie you saw was Star Wars. If you had written the plot of your life, this would have been how you would have ended it. You, me and Star Wars.
The next day would be the last day we would ever spend together in our home. We bought this house several months after we got married and the foundation of this home is built on our memories and love for our family. This day was filled with our two grandkids, baking a cake, preparing dinner. Nothing special. Everything special. Just US and them and our life together swirling to completion before our eyes but without our knowledge. I wanted to take you to the emergency room that night, but you begged me for one more night and you would go in the morning. I should not have let you win this one, but I also wanted one more night. One last night.
When you climbed into bed, you said that you were freezing. I piled extra blankets on you, but nothing helped. You asked me to just get into bed next to you. I wrapped myself around you to give you as much body heat as I could. I felt you stop shaking and you whispered in my ear, “Thank you. You are the only way that I could get warm” and this is how we stayed the entire night. Neither of us slept because we heard the footsteps getting closer and closer and we both knew that we were running out of places to hide.
This is how we spent our last day and night together. We were surrounded by our grandchildren and comforted by US. We were content. We were terrified.
The next morning, I knew we could wait no longer and when I asked to take you to the hospital, this time you said yes. We called to have the children picked up and I explained to them that you needed to get medical attention. They got very quiet and looked scared. We got someone to help bring you to the car. You were brought into the garage and I stayed behind to lock the house. You turned to look at me as I was standing in the doorway. I will never forget the look in your eyes and in your silence I read your thoughts. Your eyes said it all to me. You knew you would never walk back into our house. I knew what you were thinking and my heart broke. I closed the door so you would not see me collapse as I placed my hands on the door frame and pleaded with Almighty God to heal you and let me bring you back home. I did not pray for the right thing. I neglected to ask to bring you home alive. I did bring you home, but not the way I wanted to. I still see your face that day in my dreams and I relive the sense that I got from you as you got into the car. You were peaceful. You knew what the future held, and you were in acceptance. It was far from the same for me. Through your calm radiated my panic and my commitment to stop the earthquake that threatened our future and sabotage our plans to grow old together. We have a Bucket List. We have places to travel to where we have never visited. There are places on our map where we need to place pins. No, dear God, don’t take him! Please let me bring him home.
That day your medical nightmare began. What you endured was unspeakable. I tried to be strong for you and not let you see the terror that I felt. Do these people know what they are doing? They wheel these computers around and spend an inordinate amount of time typing God only knows what into your file, but no one seems to know anything about your case. How is it that the morning doctor tells us you can go home tomorrow and the evening one says you will be dead in two weeks. How has no one noticed that you have been unable to keep down any nutrition or water in 8 days? This is supposed to be a world class facility. Why are the floors so sticky? Why are we here and why can we not escape this nightmare? This is not US. This is not our plan.
Today is another milestone we never wanted. You are gone 10 months today and my heart is as broken as it was on March 24th. No, it does not get better with time. No, you do not get accustomed to it. No, it does not become a new normal. It is all nonsense to make them feel better by saying it. The fact remains that you are gone, and I am yet to unmake your side of our bed. It must stay nice and fresh in case you decide to come back. It will be just like you expect it to be and I will be next to you. Because this is US.
I miss you.