It's my turn to post and I don’t have a story to write, unless you count my suddenly, after thirty-two happy years of marriage, batching it.
Our dear elderly friend has been battling cancer for several years, and my wife, Ellie, and I are her primary non-medical care-givers. Ellie is “hands on;” I have been in the background. Ellie had, perhaps a dozen times in the last few years, stayed overnight with her in the course of helping her with this fight. The first few once-weekly chemo treatments; in case of a bad reaction overnight. Occasionally when they had to be at an appointment early in the morning; for logistical reasons it is much easier to start from her place than from ours. Her first few daily radiation treatments. More recently her energy has nose-dived and Ellie has needed to be there as much for emotional support as for actual physical aid and comfort. These were short-term; although I missed Ellie's companionship and lying next to her overnight, I supported her doing this.
On the Sunday before Christmas, completely unaware of the implication of my suggestion, I said to Ellie, who had come home from our friend’s and was intending to stay the night, that I think she should return, “as we agreed she needs help managing her meds.” She had, indeed, shown signs of overdose the prior week and clearly needed help if she needed to take the same med more than twice a day … which she did need to do. Ellie returned, realized her help was badly needed, thanked me for suggesting she return, and hasn’t slept in our bed since; it’s coming up on five weeks.
Ellie and I have lived together our entire thirty-two married years, rarely had been in different locations overnight and now she’s gone. At first I thought this an adventure. Not as in, “wow, is this going to be fun,” but as in “life will be different for a while, I wonder how I’ll experience it!” I looked forward to finding out.
I sure found out. She left just before the Christmas Holidays, and I joined them for the holidays. They spoiled me by sending me home with lots of leftovers. Meatballs; soup; bread; sausage; pie; chili; dip; crackers. As time went on and I finished off the leftovers, I realized that if I were to eat, I’d have to shop for groceries; and put them away. I’d have to make a list.
Other findings: if I wanted clean dishes, I’d have to wash them. Same for clean clothes. I’d have to reprise my role as bill-payer. If I wanted to see the top of the dining room table, I’d have to do a better than half-baked job of sorting the mail that had been piling up. In short, I needed to consciously care for the environment in which I was living.
As the time lengthened, I realized I was no longer learning how I’d experience Ellie’s absence, I was actually experiencing it. I learned, without reservation, that I prefer sharing our house with my spouse. But our friend is battling cancer, she both needs and welcomes Ellie’s on-going presence, and I am more than willing to batch it, even for the long haul, if that helps. She is my friend, too.
What started as a short term adventure had become a long-term accommodation and I noticed a change in my experience of it. I spoke with Ellie about this; she, too, felt the change as we segued to a long term commitment.
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