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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Strange Journey of Widowhood Begins

It feels weird, surreal. Well, it's only been 16 days since he died, 10 since his commemoration ceremony. Sometimes it feels as if he's still here, just resting in the bedroom as he did more and more in recent months. At other times I'm acutely aware that he's not here. At least not physically; sometimes I'm aware of his presence in other ways, but it's not the same. And that has good and bad aspects. I can still tell him stuff, but I can't hug him. I just have to be glad of the 20 years of hugs we did have. I am not accountable any more; I can please myself what I do when, what I eat, where I go ... only it is hard to get used to taking even the simplest pleasures alone, for instance not preparing a meal with his enjoyment in mind.

I can't believe it was all so quick in the end. 'Only a few weeks ago we were soaping each other in the shower!' I thought yesterday, as I turned on the taps. We didn't always shower together, but it's a big enough space that we could and quite often did. That last time, I think my ulterior motive was to keep an eye on him. With our non-slip floors and substantial railings, when he was at home he was always able to shower himself despite problems with his legs and his balance. He seldom even used the shower chair. He could still shave himself too, but sometimes needed a hand with drying and dressing himself. But he was frailer, that last week at home. Nevertheless, he managed just fine.

I didn't mind any of the nursing I did for him; I wanted to help as best I could. But I must say I don't miss it. I have a lot more time to accomplish other things. And now, when I look back, I realise how much I was doing in the way of practical care. His body was breaking down, inexorably. When I feel lonely and weepy, I only have to bring back the image of him shuffling about painfully with his wretched wheely walker, and I can't wish him back. 

Not that I thought his walker wretched until now. It was a godsend, a valuable tool, the only thing that enabled him to get around. At first he only needed it for long walks outside the house; in the end he couldn't do without it anywhere ... until at the very end he could no longer walk at all. We went through a few different models, actually, to find the one that suited him best. I bought the first brand new, the rest second-hand from Palliative Care. I used to think that if he died before me, I'd keep the walker stashed away somewhere in case one day I should need it. Not at all — I couldn't wait to get rid of it. (I donated it back to Palliative Care.) Though I hate, now, to think of him shuffling along behind it, at the time I admired his guts and patience. As a friend said to me today, he kept going as long as he could, with great determination. As our doctor said, he was a fighter.

These last months were more and more difficult for us both. Yet there was also great sweetness and much love. As my poet friend Joyce Lee said to me of someone else, long ago, 'His soul was showing, like light through a crack.' When I remember those times of enduring, unconditional love, I am calmed. And then I want to weep all over again!

I see some things he has used, and feel not the least bit sentimental about throwing them out or giving them away.  'You don't have a body any more,' I tell him in my head. 'You don't need these.' Other things I feel revulsion for, angry with the poor, inanimate objects for the fact that he is no longer here to enjoy them. And others again I hug to me because he cherished them, or simply because they have felt his touch. 

It seems I can't talk of widowhood without talking of the marriage partner. In a way it is as if I am just in another phase of the marriage. And I haven't yet changed my relationship status on facebook. I still feel that we are husband and wife, and I rather expect I always will. However I shall change the status at some time — soonish — when I feel ready — so as to acknowledge the external fact.

It's lucky I have two cats dependent on me. They keep me grounded. It's time to go and feed them now. (They are getting extra cuddles these days, because they miss him ... and because I miss him.)

PS (Sept. 25) I have decided to create a new blog, The Widowhood Chronicles, and start it with this piece.

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