Strictly speaking it’s not yet mid-March, but the month’s weighty core is everywhere.
March is the month of frantic emergency hospitalizations and hospital rooms with stale, feverish air and windows which neither opened nor allowed a peek of sun or moon.
It’s the month of death and the dread of death, the late weeks of a winter that cut short my husband’s life and took away our future together.
In Middlemarch, George Eliot wrote of marriage as “still a great beginning, as it was to Adam and Eve, who kept their honeymoon in Eden, but had their first little one among the thorns and thistles of the wilderness. It is still the beginning of the home epic – the gradual conquest or irremediable loss of that complete union which make the advancing years a climax, and age the harvest of sweet memories in common.”
After Jim’s diagnosis we spent hours in so many medical waiting rooms filled with couples of advanced years. Wrinkled, white-haired patients sat side-by-side with their spouses in rigid chairs, and I felt myself unjustly resenting them for the comparative good fortune of being afflicted with cancer so much later in their lives.
Maladies and good fortune alike, at that point, seemed suddenly relative. Scales had shifted.
Jim read my eyes in the first radiology waiting room and whispered in my ear: “Other people are allowed to get older.”
Today thick mud rivers lie between mountains of grimy, slushy ice. Everything is saturated, densely layered from months of storms. Nearly each day’s great middle is suffused with white-gray.
This morning, before black broke into hazy gray, I awoke from one of those Schrödinger dreams. In my dream I was alone and sobbing alone upstairs in our old house. My conscious self knew I was in that state because Jim had died. Jim died downstairs, but his death, though a continuous feature of my waking hours, particularly in March, wasn’t part of my dream.
In my dream I was growing more and more upset, wondering why Jim wasn’t coming upstairs. He was always the one to comfort me. My dream self simply couldn’t compute why he wasn’t coming.
Sometimes a guy can’t win.
Jim had a couple of foolproof systems for maintaining an even keel in a relationship that included one comparatively volatile person. (I’m going to be talking about one of those techniques on a radio show in a few weeks; that will be the only spoiler alert about my segment’s topic, so don’t ask.)
His other technique for marital harmony was fairly simple, and foolproof: on the rare occasions when he had done something that upset me, no matter how irrational my perception, he would say, “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
There’s just no comeback to that.
Once I had a dream in which Jim managed to do something wrong, no doubt minor–perhaps being late to an appointment or forgetting to pick up a prescription.
This had not actually happened.
In a very accusatory way (which comes easily to a prosecutor), when I woke I told my poor, sleepy-eyed husband what he had done only in my dream. “How could you do that?” I asked.
“I’m sorry, dear. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
He got me to laugh at myself, and had an uncanny ability to dilute the worst tensions and crises with gentle humor.
I knew we would miss him every day, but didn’t realize I’d even miss being given a hard time–always in the right spirit, and when I needed it.
I wish I’d thanked him for making me laugh.