After five weeks, so much of our lives has returned to ‘normal’. Jack and I get up, go to work/school, worry about meetings and midterms, come home, hang out, eat dinner, watch TV, go to sleep.
A lot of things in our routines have changed. Patti handled every aspect of our domestic life. She walked the dogs, paid the bills, did the shopping, arranged dates with our friends, and a million other things I never knew needed doing, Sure, Jack and I helped out with a lot of that stuff, but she insisted on handling most of it. Now it all falls to me and Jack.
Oddly, doing chores isn’t a chore. On the contrary, it gives me a sense of order and control which I have been sorely lacking.
I like packing Jack’s Scooby Doo lunch box each night (it’s the same one I had when I was 13. Back then I was mocked for it but Jack’s turned it into a badge of coolness). I make sandwiched, pack snacks, write him lame little jokes notes.
I like walking the dogs and getting them back on schedule (I wondered how they would react to Patti’s absence. Would they miss their constant companion? She drove them around on her scooter everywhere, Joe at her feet, Tim in her basket. They were weird but are getting back to normal too. They have had some stomach problems and totally forgot their housebreaking for a while but they are getting better. I enjoy retraining them. Today we worked on sitting and shaking hands).
I like bonding with Jack though I have to beware that I don’t get too overbearing and overprotective. He is still a 15 year-old-boy and needs to stretch his wings. But, of course, because he is all I have left, I worry a bit excessively. He has a new phone so I can text and email and call him anytime. Sadly, I do.
I have been back at work for a couple of weeks. It’s been very busy and the routine distracts me. My tolerance for stress and bullshit is lower than it was. I still care but not necessarily in the same way I have for years.
Patti is still a part of my days. I think of her when I am at the butcher, picking ham. I think of her when I wake up in the middle of the night and want someone to discuss my dreams with. I see her down the block — only it’s not her. I bury my face in her overcoat in the closet and smell the last atoms that once touched her skin. Patti and I had a special vocabulary of our own, silly words I’ll never utter again except into my pillow.
Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I make myself cry. Crying is like starting a car that’s been sitting in the garage all winter; turning over the engine keeps the feelings alive, keeps my soul lubricated, stops me from becoming a dessicated husk. Pandy will always be in me, always be in Jack, so our sadness has been ironed into us, a layer of who we are, but not a crack or a break in us.
I am changed most because my future is blank. The many plans and decisions we made over the past 24 years are gone. Instead, I have to form a new map, a new set of goals, a new vision of what I’ll be in the years ahead. I imagined that Patti and I would keep growing old together, leave the City one day, go somewhere warm and easy, drawn and paint side-by-side, visit Jack and our grandchildren, feel free in new ways, live a full creative life. Now, it’s just empty. Not bleak or barren but absolutely undefined. I could do anything. Jack and I could move anywhere, anytime. The security I have been saving for all these years seems irrelevant now. I have to provide for Jack till he graduates …. but then what? Who will I be? What will I want? I have no idea.
I have lived with disability for 14 years, always looking for curbcuts, accessible bathrooms, room to maneuver. In an instant, that consideration has vanished. There are restaurants we can go to we never considered before. We can travel without worrying if the hotel has a roll-in shower. And, yet, I would do anything to have that limitation once again, give up any freedom to help Patti through the door or up the step.
Life goes on. The road bends. New obstacles and opportunities, ditches and valleys appear. I am taking them turn by turn, mile by mile, step by step. Head up when I can keep it up. Looking back now and then, but still moving forward.
My friend, d. price, called me from his surf shack in Hawaii and told me: “The universe picked you and decided to test you. It decided you were strong and had everything and so it would throw you a curve. First, Patti had her accident and it watched to see if you would crawl into a hole or would make the most of the experience. When it saw that you had become stronger and wiser, had discovered that everyday matters, the universe decided to test you again by taking Patti away altogether. Now it’s waiting to see what you will make of this, will you use it to learn, to share what you learn, to make the world a better place? The universe is just waiting to see.” I said, “Why can’t the universe just leave me the fuck alone?” He just laughed.
“Fortunately I am not the first person to tell you that you will never die. You simply lose your body. You will be the same except you won’t have to worry about rent or mortgages or fashionable clothes. … You will not have to worry about cellulite or cigarettes or cancer or AIDS or venereal disease. You will be free.” -Cookie Mueller