A Day at Home with Some Minutes to Write
It’s Thursday and the touches of fall seem to be appearing here around New England. I have SO much work to do that I’m not doing; just trying to do what I know I need whilst caring for and about everyone else. I know this is a pretty typical “post caregiving” kind of thing, but I feel like my particular set of stuff is me coping with crap that falls on me rather than any desire on my part to manage anyone else’s problems.
At the moment I have all three sons in residence: Cameron (the singer) and Maxx (the graphic designer) are expected to be here, both completing the steps to their own futures as planned. They’d been my auxiliary team during Paul’s illness. But I now also have the eldest (Frank) who is such an incredible disruption to the fabric of life at any time let alone back to school and readjusting to life in public. It’s a major stressor to have him here, and “a lot of Frank to feed” in my current circumstances.
Some of you may recall I was up for promotion to Full Professor last year, and that did come through in May. It comes with a salary bump and also percentage raise, but that doesn’t manifest itself until mid-September at the earliest.
There are good days and bad days for me. When I know I absolutely HAVE TO perform in the outside world I do so, and will continue to be able to do that. But there are certain times of day that get me; primarily the daily 5-6 p.m. when Paul would say, “So – comes the question. What do you feel like for dinner?” Since that question no longer comes I’m intensely aware of its absence; I can cook just fine, but cooking together was our way of connecting the ends of our days, coming together for the evening and working as a team who knew what the other needed next.
Once his illness had robbed us of the exquisite physical intimacy we’d shared, this became “our time.” As I return to work, I also have that heart-skipping feeling as I enter the dining hall and automatically look for him; a 10-year habit is hard to change. That, at least, I have better control over but occasionally a tall bearded bald man is in the room and it catches me up fast.
What’s going well? His memorial service locally was lovely, close, communal and well-attended. We had a service at his family property on Cape Cod June 23rd that was also lovely but terribly difficult for me, particularly as I began to more clearly realize the attendees were celebrating a different life of Paul, i.e. the life before me. They had more years of “Paul awareness” than I, but I was the only one there who knew and understood the man he had become and what he’d meant to others in the present. Leaving his ashes was very painful for me, but it did provide a kind of closure I wasn’t really expecting, and coming nearly three months after his death it was certainly a (too-long delayed) type of letting go.
Later (first week in August) I spent there by myself with his parents wherein we had a very quiet time. I swam across the pond and back several times (almost a mile round trip), read enjoyable non-academic books, and laid in the hammock a lot. It was during this time that I realized that the Cape is the one place Paul is still alive and healthy in my head; although he’d not been 100% last fall (not even 80% of what he’d been before) he was still contributing and participatory. It was here that I finally experienced that expectation that he might come through the door any minute.
As he was dying, the disintegration of his perfect body and wonderful mind was tough to witness; the more caregiving he required (and it was quite a lot at the end) the more I loved him and appreciated the little that was left of him as it was fleeting fast. He was becoming less and less able to even communicate, but OH! those eyes!! Now I wonder how much of his dying self will stay on the top of my memory stack as it is now, and if I will ever just think of/picture him as he was for the first eight years I knew him. Our life truly had been perfect.
Like everyone, there are legal and financial considerations that must be dealt with and these make me want to scream! But I pace myself as best I can and get through. I’ve also caught up on my own health care issues with visiting the GP, dentist, etc. and scheduling my own “age appropriate” tests.
But when day is done, I am still missing half of my soul, the love of my life. It’s a lot to juggle. Sorry to have gone on so long, and now I must get to some work stuff!