We did everything together

We did everything together.

I sit here mourning your death, and I think, who would understand this pain? We did everything together. Since you retired in 2011, you’d drive me to work in the morning, pick me up and take me to lunch, then pick me up and take me home.

On Fridays, I worked from my home office, and you and I chatted throughout the day.

On weekends, we began every morning with you across from me at a diner table, reading your New York Times, while I sat across from you, doing my crossword, and seeking your knowledge on various arcane or esoteric topics. At the end of the meal, you’d reach across the table and say, “Let the big fella take a look at it.” I’d give you the puzzle and jokingly hold back the pen, saying, “You won’t be needing this.” But you’d take the pen, and you’d fill in some blanks. And I’d scowl, and you’d laugh. Then you’d hand it back and say, “That’s why they call me the big fella.” And I’d say, “No, it’s not.” And you’d chuckle.

On Saturday afternoons, we’d do errands, or shop, or look at condos that we’d consider for our future. Or we’d work on our clients’ websites – you in your office and me in mine – arguing across the hall about how to proceed on a design, or what the best content writing should be. You’d swear intermittently about some slow-moving software, or some password you forgot, or something that irritated you. And that irritated me. “Just take a break,” I’d say. Or “Knock it off; it’s not that big a deal. Why do you get so upset?”

And sometimes you’d quit and go into the bedroom to take a nap. And most times I’d join you. And it would evolve into more than a nap. And every time, I appreciated what I had. Time with you. Time to love. Time to talk.

And Sundays were much of the same. Same diner, some errands – or home improvement projects – but we’d always have that afternoon nap. And we’d agree that there was nothing like a Sunday afternoon spent together in bed.

And this last year, after the doctor pronounced the death sentence, I made a point to live every moment. We both knew the end was going to come earlier for you. How long? Every breakfast, I thought, how will I do this without him? Every nap, I thought, hang on tight. Hang on tight. Every errand, I thought, how will I navigate a Saturday alone? Every dinner, I thought, how can I enjoy food that he didn’t cook on his precious grill?

My boss let me work from Florida. We had six weeks. We had two long road trips, stopping for Jack in the Box, staying at various motels that you’d rate based on their access to a nice place to sit outside and drink wine. We had day after sunny day, me working in the condo during the day – you’d bring me lunch, or take me to some interesting place you found during your daily travels. We had those nightly Florida sunsets and weekend explorations.

And in those final months, those months I hoped and prayed weren’t our final months, as you got weaker and sicker, and you stopped cooking, as you stopped driving, yet seemingly without reason because they said the cancer wasn’t back…in those final months, I was able to work from my home office and see you all day, every day. You took lots of naps, but I was here when you awoke. And sometimes, I’d join you on my lunchbreak, and we’d lay in each other’s arms talking. And most days, I’d join you again, the minute I shut down my laptop for the day. You’d say, “Come lay with me.” And I would.

You said you didn’t really have a bucket list. You didn’t want to go back to Europe (although before the death sentence, you said you did). You said you wanted two things: to go on a long road trip and to finish our house and move me into a condo. You wanted to know I was okay after you were gone.

We never got to take that road trip, and you were too sick to work on the house. But that’s alright, because I’ll never be okay.

We did everything together, and now you’re not here.

And I grieve, and I wail, and I mourn.

But I try to remind myself that we had years of doing everything together and how very lucky I am that we had that.

August 21, 2017

About the author

Katherine Billings Palmer is a technical writer, poet, and essayist from Garden City, Michigan. She’s won several academic writing awards, including first place in the University of Michigan Dearborn Critical Essay Contest for her work about poet John Donne: “‘The Sun Rising’: A Lover’s Boast.”

In 2017, Katherine’s husband, Rick, died of complications from small cell lung cancer. She wrote a series of poems and essays about her struggles to cope with her grief. I Wanted to Grow Old With You is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

Her latest book, A Widow’s Words: Grief, Reflection, Prose, and Poetry – The First Year was published in January 2019 and is also available on Amazon.com.

Katherine is a guest blogger for the Hope for Widows Foundation and writes about her grief journey at www.TheWritingWidow.com.

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