Sunday, January 29, 2012

What Time Will You Be Home?

I remember, shortly after my husband was diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis he said to me,
"I have an idea.  Let's just go along with our lives as we always have and pretend that this (diagnosis) never happened." 
"That's fine in theory."  I said.  
"I wouldn't mind trying that, although how long do you think that will work?" 

We then had a long discussion about the pros and cons of denial.  As though denial is something we could "decide" to do.  Which is kind of ironic considering the discussion alone meant we were accepting what has occurred.  Throughout his illness, we both experienced different levels of denial.  Within the months that followed, he would toss and turn in his sleep and the next day, I would ask him if he remembered what his dreams were about. 

"I was dreaming about being on the truck."  Or, "I was at work."  Was his usual response. 

Months later, when he was unable to walk or leave his bed -it was my turn.  At night, I always dreamt about he and I holding hands and walking.  The dreams were so strong that when awaking, I would have to stifle my sobs, so that he would not hear them.

Even up to the few days prior to his passing I lived in a world of denial, while he, on the other hand, seemed to have come to a strange level of acceptance. 

He would say to me, "When I am gone, please take care of yourself.  Do not just settle for someone new.  You deserve the best." 

Meanwhile, I would say to him, "You can't die just yet, we haven't taken care of such and such...." 
I did not do the proper thing that most caregivers should do, giving him permission to go
I never did grant that to him.  It was a very selfish thing on my part and I knew it, but I just couldn't tell him it was okay to leave me.

The whole time I took care of his everyday needs and with my own two-eyes saw his strength leaving him.  We even discussed his wishes for after he was gone.  In advance, I went through the proper channels of arranging all of these things, just as though I was scratching off a list in my day planner.  Yet, I was in denial that there would ever be a time when he would physically leave me. 

My hubby died in my arms and I literally saw the light leave his eyes. 
But, I was surprised.  It took me off-guard.  Now, I wander around the house looking for him. 
I rush up the stairs to tell him about my day. 
I turn corners and expect to see him. 
I call his cell phone to ask, "What time will you be home?"

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Invisible Man

My husband has long told me stories of the times he felt invisible. 
Being a truck driver on the road, there were many a time that he braved weather, fatigue or loneliness as he and his truck winded down the roads across our country.  When, at the end of his day, he looked forward to parking that big, beast of a truck and stepping out to stretching his bones.  Dusting off the days thoughts and worries to join others in a simple meal.  Usually this would occur at a diner or cafe.  The type of place that always had hot coffee on hand and smelled of onion rings.  With the wind at his back he would pull the door open and anticipate some form of a human connection.  Sinking into a vinyl booth, and seeking a belonging, even if that means just to be handed a menu.  Listening to the conversations around him, the clinking of glasses or plates.  These things reassured him to know that he was not just a milk-weed seed floating aimlessly in the air, that he was an active part of something larger than that.  He was still a part of community. 

There were times that he would tell me that sitting in his booth no one would notice him there.  No one would approach him and offer a menu, or noticed that he turned his coffee cup upward.  Because they just did not see him.  He did have a quiet way of carrying himself and was not the type of person who carried himself in such a manner that announced his arrival into a space.  He was also very patient.  So, he would sit there and wonder when he would be noticed or addressed.  After enough time had passed, a familiar thought came into his mind, "Am I  invisible?"  This was the type of thought that crept into his mind often enough that when it did, it never surprised him.  It was something he became used to and accepted. 

On the day we met, it was at a neighbor child's birthday party.  I was very close with the family and the birthday parties were a cherished tradition.  There, on that warm day, the mother of the birthday girl was handing out homemade lollipops.  Made with flavors of cinnamon and strawberry.  The kind of suckers that were thick and hard and stuck to your teeth.  Happy Birthday was sung and presents were opened and then the cake was being sliced.  Big, fluffy slices of cake. 
I was by the pool with my youngest child, who was a year-and-a-half old.  My child had been through three open-heart surgeries by this age and he was wearing oxygen.  With his little hand firmly in mine, I was crouched down by the edge of the pool, encouraging him to touch the blue water. 

I felt someone staring at me.  This was not unusual, as it was common that people stared- out of curiousness that such a young child was on oxygen.  Often because of the stares, I wished that we were invisible.  When I looked up and across the pool, I noticed a handsome man sitting in the corner.  No one was speaking to him and I had not noticed him before.  So, my little boy and I walked over to the cake station and grabbed three slices.  One for my boy, one for me and one for that man. 

We then walked over to the man and I said, "Would you like some cake?" and the man said "Sure!" With a big smile on his face.

The man eventually became my husband.  He often speaks of that day and says it was one of those moments that he felt invisible until "a little girl" (as he often calls me) handed him a slice of cake. 
I look back at that day as one of the luckiest days of my life... the day I saw him.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Thanks For The Ice Cream, Babe!

Naturally, after my husband passed on, my mind and heart has been filled with many emotions.  I walked around the house completely lost.   The strongest sense of desire to hear from him, to know that he was okay, filled my every being.  I did things (and still do) like talking to him as though he was in the same room with me.  After my morning showers, I write him little messages on his side of the misted bathroom mirror such as, "Where are you?" or "Are you okay?" and of course "I love you". 

One difficult night, I finally fell asleep and dreamt about him.  We were walking through some kind of airport together.  My hubby, myself and my youngest son.  My hubby was beautiful.  Blonde hair glowing and he had a slight smile on his face.  While we were walking, I was was talking to him in a very animated manner. 
What do you think I was saying to him? 
How much love him? 
 I was riding him.  Completely yelling at him. 

I recall my exact words to him, "We used to do so many things!  We never do anything together anymore!"  Then, I mentioned his laugh.  "I don't even hear you laugh anymore!"  

The whole time I'm going on and on, as though we were having some form of a marital spat and he is just walking along with that little smile on his face not saying a word.  Next thing I know, the three of us head out of the airport through double doors.  Then we were outside, in a really cute, quaint, little town.  I felt my mood change and I thought to myself, "Let it go.  Stop being mad, it's not too late to enjoy the day together." 
I said to my husband and son, "Let's get ice cream."

Now, we are suddenly at an ice-cream shop looking at a huge variety of flavors.  We each chose a flavor, although I do not remember what kind.  Then we strolled along the wooden walkways of this cute little town.  Trees lined the walkway and there were storefronts with old fashioned awnings.  People were mingling around and the three of us just happily walked along, licking our cones.  
Then I woke up.

The dream was so vivid in my mind and it left me with a sense of being content. 
I felt grateful that we spent family time together, although I wished I would have said more wonderful things to him, instead of yelling at him.  That part, I wish I could have changed.  Nevertheless, the feeling of the dream stayed with me and after that morning's shower, I wrote on the misty mirror,
"Thanks for the ice cream, Babe!" 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Where Do We Go Now?

I thought after my husband's passing that it would be right to let his blog rest a bit.  Actually, this is not a new concept to "Breathing".  From the beginning of his diagnosis with Pulmonary Fibrosis and the birth of his blog, when something in our lives happened, I never immediately ran to the key board to write the story.  Actually, it was quite the opposite.  I made an internal promise to emotionally digest the experience first then I would know better how the story wanted to be expressed.  The idea is that I am not writing his story.  His story has a life of its own and tells me how it wants to be written, using my fingers as the catalyst. 

As time progressed and toward the end of my husband's life, so many things began to happen that I began to feel as though time was pressing forward too fast.  So fast in fact, the stories themselves did not have enough time to resinate and therefore, never made it onto the keyboard.  Internally, I really did feel as though I was racing against a clock.  Then, to confirm my internal struggle, my husband was gone.

Grief is a funny thing.  No two people experience it the same way.  What if grief is the story that now lays upon my fingers?  I thought about why I began "Breathing" which was to put another personal connection to the disease of Pulmonary Fibrosis, so that others may stumble across it and find bits of understanding, information or connection.  How would a wife's grief fit into this picture?  Even if there is a place for this, did I trust myself to let the story tell itself as I always had? Did I trust the readers to find anything of value within this?

So, my friends, where do we go now? 
I suppose that in the larger realm of things, my husband's passing was in sense, an evolution.  There is no way he could have sustained and thrived in the condition that he was in.  He had no other choice but to move on and leave the things he was comfortable knowing in exchange for a bit of the unknown. 
Like two birds flying in sync, my life is doing the same.  
We are flying parallel, but in different realms.