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Uncle M searched, almost frantic, through the top drawer in his kitchen. The bright light illuminated the dark wood of the ’70s cabinets, and he almost shone in his white T-shirt. The fatigue of over eighty years and recent surgery fell into a puddle around him as he became intent on his mission.

“I know it’s in here. I kept it. It’s a bent spoon. That’s what I used to feed her. It’s bent. I bent it, so I could feed her. It is here somewhere.”

“Here it is!” He shoved it toward me, lying it carefully on the white Formica and sliding it my direction.  The bowl of the spoon was twisted back as though it were trying to kiss its own handle.  It was beautiful.

Not that it was a lovely piece of sterling.  It was just plain old stainless steel with that awful floral pattern I’ve seen thousands of times.

But, it was beautiful.

He moved back to his chair at the claw foot table, back to the dimly lit corner, where he seemed to disappear into the yellow light of the lamp behind him.  And, he began to share with me the story of Aunt M’s medically induced stroke.

The seasoned doctor who had performed the first surgery promised he would be the head surgeon for this second operation.  However, he went fly fishing in Belize and left a team of young foreign doctors to patch the weak vessel at the back of Aunt M’s brain.

They botched it.  The translator told Uncle M that the young, inexperienced doctor was trying to tell him that his wife of 55 years would be dead in three days.

He dutifully sat by her bedside as they medicated her comatose body with narcotic pain killers.

At first, he was devastated and in shock, but his usual bull headed determination slowly found itself over the next few days.  When she survived past the initial brief period they had expected, a decision was made to perform another surgery and place a pump in her that would regulate the strong medications.  They would literally pump her full of narcotics.

He gathered his 5’5″ frame and stood up to them.  No!  No more.  He was removing her from the hospital that couldn’t seem to recover from its own initial mistake.  The staff told him that he could not do that.  He told them to get a court order stating that he couldn’t.  He would have her gone by the time they got back with it.  And, he did.

He brought her to a hospital in the largest town near home.  But, the care there was not much better.  They brought her half an unpeeled banana for her breakfast.  They didn’t bathe her or change her bedding.  The staff there let him know that she needed to be in a nursing home, not an acute care facility, and they resented her taking up space on the floor.

So, he brought his bride home.  She would never speak or walk again.  She would require round the clock care.  But, this was his wife, his best friend, “a good woman, and she deserved better than she was getting.”

For seven years he bathed her daily, took her to the bathroom, fed her, exercised her, and did her hair.  He took her off all of the medications, and she began to come around.  She would blink her eyes and make noises, communicating with her doting husband.

He bought a motor home that could accommodate a wheelchair and took her on trips.  They even fished.  He would cast out for her and place the pole in her good hand.  When she felt a tug, she would holler her one nonsensical word that stood for every word she knew, and he would run to reel in her catch for her.

They enjoyed the last of their time together the best they could.  And, now he is alone.

Some people might say, “They had a full life.  They had 62 good years together.”  But, that is no comfort to him.  Those full and good 62 years have just left a larger gaping hole in his heart and his life.

The silence of his dark house is deafening.

He was eighteen when they married, and he was 80 when she passed.  His entire life was so tightly interwoven with hers that when she ceased to breathe, he could no longer breathe as deeply.  And, he doesn’t even want to be alive now that he is alone.

“And, the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone.”

I listen to The Black Keys and Ruthie Foster and busy myself with writing and tearing strips of pastel fabric for a wall valance.  I replace R’s distasteful decorations with my own antique and shabby chic preferences.  I work, and I teach my children.  I run them to activities, and I cook.  I deal with household repairs, and I organize what we have left.  I’m exhausted from it all.

I am painfully aware that this rough season will pass, my children will grow up and leave home.  That is, if R doesn’t eventually win in court and rob me of their precious faces and laughter.  And, I know that when the last one leaves the silence of my house will be deafening.  I will be alone.  Alone with my organic coffee and my pies, my lace and my crafts, my unfinished writing projects no one wants to read, and the music and the art that I love.  I will be surrounded by the things that I enjoy, but I will be alone.

“And, the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone.”

I don’t want to be alone.

 

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