we make the necessary phone calls, send the necessary emails that first night, telling ourselves how this was actually “all for the best.” we make ourselves downright giddy with anticipation of seeing confirmation that “this is sure to be the best thing that ever happened to us.” we’ve said it to others so many times, now it’s our turn.
“no alarm clock, right?” i ask as we get into bed.
“no alarm clock – maybe ever again,” he replies as we await the arrival of the sandman.
he sleeps until 9:30 and announces it a good, restful sleep. we tend the animals, do the barest of morning necessities, then because the rain is replaced with sun, and because we are no stranger to the escape mode of dealing with dreadfulness, we strike out for a day of errands. “together,” we say. “this is good.”
and we don’t lie. we absolutely love being together, we enjoy each other’s company. he still laughs at me, i still give him reason to laugh. we work every single day to have the kind of union we want to enjoy. after 38 years of togetherness, we still hold hands everywhere we go. i rub his back as we wait in the checkout line at the grocery store, he squeezes my shoulders as i call to get after the doctor’s office who hasn’t called in the refill for him, the refill he needs today. yup, we are good together.
our last errand checked off the list, he surprises me by turning right off the proverbial beaten path. “where are we going?” i ask him. “taking the scenic route,” he says.
and we do take the scenic route because like he says, we have “nowhere to be and no time to be there.”
we drive along the mountain backroads, the blue sky, the purple mountains, the white/blue/lavender clouds stunning us into silence. we see a fox and four wild turkeys. i vow (then forget when we get home) to look those up in my animal totems book. we see horses and cows, old barns and captivating falling-down houses. we see a donkey standing right beside the road looking adorable, as though that’s his role in life. roadside adorable.
“do you ever . . . did you ever come home this way?” i ask him.
“once,” he says then tells me about how he got behind a school bus that trip. and when it stopped at this one house on the lefthand side of the road in front of a house with a fence all around it, a little boy – maybe 8 years old – got off the bus and headed to that particular house. “there was a donkey in the front yard,” he tells me, “and when the donkey laid eyes on the boy, he started jumping up and down. that donkey was sooooo excited to see that boy . . . at least i think he was excited.”
“of course he was excited,” i offer. “that’s the story you made up about it, based on reading the ass’s body language.”
and we laugh some more.
we get home just in time to work side-by-side in the kitchen cooking supper. “this is gonna’ be great,” we tell each other.
this morning we are up at 7:30, dress, then ride into town together to deliver the dog for her spa appointment. then we go get the slow leak in his front right tire fixed, then, because we can, we make a spur-of-the-moment decision and stop in at the small, old-fashioned superette and take our time walking up and down the aisles filled with all sorts of odd and old-fashioned (and sometimes odd old-fashioned) delectables. from the butcher in the back of the store, he orders a ribeye steak, about an inch thick, for our supper. i pick up the potatoes and some frozen chocolate chip cookies because, well, we don’t have any chocolate in the house, and the time is fast-approaching, me thinks, when we’ll need a bite or twenty of chocolate.
“supper for two for less than $20,” he announces proudly, and i feel a twinge skirt around the edges of my smile.
we putter the day away, readying the house for the arrival of loved ones for thanksgiving week. we are quieter, but still laced with determined optimism. then he gets a call from a friend, and a crack appears.
it’s grief, you know. the roller coaster of grief. grief isn’t contained to bodily death.
we’ll be all right – and i say that with certainty. maybe certainty laced with a we bit of denial. maybe not, though. i guess we’ll see as we go along.
i’m lucky. i’m married to a man who never invested himself in his career for the sake of identity. he didn’t bring work home on the weekends unless it was absolutely, unavoidably necessary. he went in early so he could be at the kids’ soccer games, school plays, recitals, and other special events. though he never really liked the work he did, he eventually developed a solid good reputation in the industry for his steadfast loyalty, honesty, affability. i don’t think he’s sorry to not be making the 2.5 hour drive twice a day. i don’t think he’s sorry to be shed of that tiny, windowless office they stuck him in (something he never complained about, but still). i don’t think he’s sorry to be done with that, and yet it remains to be seen how he will handle living in a week of saturdays. it’s not as easy as some might think, this working from home all day every day. it’s what i do, and i love it. but i wonder: since he’s accustomed to having the structure of working in an office outside the home and enjoying the elasticity of weekends at home – how quickly, how easily will it be to treat home as both work and play?
so yes, there will be adjustments – how he will spend his time, how i will adjust and amend my daily routines and rituals, where we will go from here. not only am i accustomed to, i need long stretches of silence. i’ve trained the dog, i’m sure i can train the husband. one thing i know: we still have miles to go before we sleep. and maybe it’s escapism or avoidance or maybe we have our figurative fingers stuck in our figurative ears – doesn’t matter. we’re focusing on thanksgiving next week. on togetherness, on abundance of life and love, on feasts of love and friendship and family. and week after thanksgiving, we decide together, we’ll start crafting a map.
and me – on the side, i’m quietly conjuring things to do with the strips of cloth, beautifully tinted by errant rainwater . . .