Staying in touch

Sometimes when I’d wake up in the middle of the night, Patti beside me, I’d wonder if she was breathing. I’d put my ear close, hear nothing, then nudge her to see if she was still alive. She’d stir and I’d exhale. Sometimes she’d wake all the way up and we’d talk. I never felt that bad about rousing her; she had the gift of falling right back to sleep. Sometimes I’d put my arm around her, feel her by me, and wonder what it would have been like if she hadn’t stirred, if she’d gone in her sleep. I’d try on that hollow feeling. But I really had no idea.

A lot of people miss Patti. They send me emails to tell me. They send her emails too. I miss her, of course I do. But I also miss my life, the way it was, so steady — built layer upon layer like a giant oak, habit wrapped around habit, assumption encircling assumption. For nearly a quarter of a century, we built this life and, when Patti’s ended, so did mine. My life was like the second twin tower. It collapsed right after the first one fell.

Now I have a different life. It’s a pretty good one, despite what I would have thought as I lay with my arm around my sleeping love. It has moments of sadness, deep holes in the road,  but it has a lot of beauty too. I love my son, my  mum, my sister, my hounds. I have so many good friends and the generous support of people I’ve never met. To a large extent, they help me fill in those moments of darkness, help me decide what garbage bags to buy or what to have for dinner. They will talk to me on the phone for hours when I need them, will indulge my nonsense, will cook me rice and beans. But they can’t fill in all the gaps.

Jack and I are resilient. We get on with it. But no one else puts notes in our pockets or brings us ice cream or keeps our every doodle in a file like PL did.

I’d love to chat on the phone with you as I walk to work, Pat, just once. I’d like you to reach out in the dark and stroke what’s left of my hair. I’d even like you to just tell me it’s okay to cry. But failing that, I will remember as well as I can what it was like to put my arm around you, even as I walk down the road alone, and I will treasure every day I have, rather than lying worried in the night.

My new life will be bright. Because you light it.

21 thoughts on “Staying in touch

  1. Oh Danny, this is so sad and sweet. So articulate and real. So human and hopeful. You’re so gifted. Thank you for sharing yourself with us this way.

    My heart goes to you and Jack.

    I am in Paris now and part of my work is to do some illustrations for my new web site. It’s raining so I won’t be wandering endlessly as I so love to do.

    But I’ll take myself to a café, have a glass of rosé, do some drawings, and send a toast your way.

  2. I cannot imagine losing my husband, as with you through decades of marriage our lives are completely intertwined, almost as one. the day to day practical, who does what – and the spiritual, knowing how each other thinks and reacts – the balance – the ying and yang. With a serious illness now in play we feel shaken and very vulnerable. Your words mean so much to me, in the end we all stand alone just as we did at birth. Life causes Death (as I often say) but my mom said it best – This ain’t for Sissies!!
    You do have a Bright Light!

  3. GLAD BAGS. I’m thinking that’s what Patti would suggest, Danny. GLAD bags. Because in the darker moments, it would remind you to be GLAD – life goes on, Patti’s lighting your way, and she (and Jack) want you to have those GLAD moments. So that’s my feedback. BEAUTIFUL POST, by the way. Stating the obvious, I know. Your words ring so true. – Davielle in California

    • At age 76, I’ve never found the experience expressed so well, so honestly. You are as talented with words as you are with your pen, watercolors and journal. Bless you and Jack as you work your way through this. And thank you for keeping us in the loop.

  4. Isn’t it interesting how those little things can mean so much, the tiny details, that until we lose them, we really don’t take notice of. Thank you Danny, for in your sharing I will learn to better appreciate the little things, starting now. And in true every day matters fashion I will try to document them so I will have reminders on those days when even the little things are too big.

    Thank you for sharing and letting us travel along side you in this new journey. And for sharing so honestly and truthfully your pain.

    Prayers for you and Jack.

    Lynn

  5. Danny,
    I have told you many times how you have inspired me, inspired me to draw the beauty in every life. Now, you have been inspiring me on a whole new level. Your wisdom never ceases to amaze me. If everyone could view the world and have the same clarity that you do – it sure would be a better place. Bless you and Jack through the journey you must now walk without P.

  6. Right after Dad died, I’d call him and leave a message. After the phone service discontinued, I’d send him email. I think it is cool that we couldn’t get into his account to delete it. Given that the address is hotmail, it’s probably still up and running. I like to think heaven is connected to cyberspace. It was certainly helpful to do in those days.

  7. Dan, I hope you will compile these blog entries one day. Save them and bind them, including the journal pages, and give them to your son. To know the depth of your feelings for your wife, for your son, for the changes wrought in you…There is nothing that he will value more. I can only imagine how you are feeling for I’ve never found what you have with your wife. Keep going, one step at a time.

  8. Beautifully said, Danny. I think you should write a book about the grieving process–you are doing it so eloquently and simply here, and anyone can relate to what you say.

  9. Danny, I have read your blog for years and own your books. You have continually inspired me be faithful to my art no matter what. Now you inspire me with your honesty, courage and strength. Thank you. You are a gift to the world.

  10. Danny,

    Thank you for sharing this. I have been following your art for a few years now, and it made me feel so sad yesterday when I checked your website and found this post. It made me do a lot of thinking.

    I’m so sorry that you and your son had this happen to you.

  11. My Mum said much later she’d worried so much over the years about how she’d live without my Dad, only to discover you just do, making it up hour to hour, day to day. It’s never the same again, but that’s not the same as it never being doable again more days than not.

  12. I’m so very sorry for your loss. I understand. I lost my precious husband Oct of 2008-it seems like yesterday. We would have been married forty years the following month. He worked on Friday, got ill Saturday morning, in critical care by Sunday evening, and left us Tuesday morning. First diagnosed with the flu in the ER, it didn’t occur to us it was much more serious, and we should say goodbye. Then it was too late . . . Your words, “when Patti’s ended, so did mine. My life was like the second twin tower. It collapsed right after the first one fell”, are so true for me, except for a name change. I still cry a lot.

    • Dear Betty Jo:

      Thank you for commenting on my blog so I could find my way to yours. I see you on the same road as I am taking but about a half mile ahead. Your wisdom and experience are very helpful to me and I plan to spend even more time reading what you have already written.

      You have summarized much of what I believed before Patti’s death and has been affirmed since:
      “If I’ve learned anything these past eighteen months it’s the uncertainty of our days, and how important it is to live each moment with awareness, with joy, and appreciation. It’s about making the time and space to do the things that are important. It’s about spending time with those we love. Most importantly: It’s about giving and helping others. And, it’s never too late to start!”

      Be well,
      Danny

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