Nothing was as intense as the love that put fire in our intimacy – deep, rich and hot. Now Bob watches TV, switches to the Internet, then goes to bed. He does not even tell me goodnight. Before, we had evening talks and walks, watching rabbits and squirrels. Now, TVs, email and Facebook vie for his attention. Screens can be tough competition.
My routine has its own flaws. I exercise to control pain each night. Do I start early enough to go to bed at 10:30 when my husband retires? No. Does he understand I am not rejecting him? I am not sure. Maybe it takes the darkness of death to turn on the lights.
This is a routine of lost time, a loss that cannot be found again. Tonight he sits glued to the TV, while I, like a two-year-old, want to walk to his big chair and kick him in the shins. But I can’t kick anyone, least of all the man I love.
“You can’t do that anymore, Bob.” My smile carefully hides my frustration. I do not want to anger him. I am not afraid to piss him off, I just don’t want to – he has leukemia. Besides, this anger is mine. I understand that. I have lost a husband before, and once again I hope that God forgives me for the anger that hides in my grief.
“What can’t I do?”
“You can’t go to bed without kissing me goodnight.” The very dimples that make me want him highlight the warmth of his smile.
When he is done with email, he walks into the exercise room. He closes his eyes, and puckers up impishly extending his lips toward mine. I bend forward and collect. As he leaves, I notice his steps are slow. He is exhausted from the harsh chemo today, circulating through his not-so-tough body.
I give him time to crawl into bed, then slip into the room and lie next to him. I want to cuddle his tired body, but I cannot hold him. I cannot lie on my side. My back and neck are too bad now. How can this be? My husband is dying and I can’t hold him.
Inside our home, our walls, the courage that others see in Bob wanes. I hear the concern in the soft cadence of his voice. I see the timidity in his face. He shares his fears about dying, his fears about living with pain. I absorb his every word as I listen with my ears, my mind, my heart, knowing someday soon these moments will be no more. Then he pauses, and gently asks me a question.
“You know what I wish, Babe?” He reaches over and puts his hand on mine.
“No, Honey, I don’t. What do you wish?” He turns his face to look at me.
“I wish we had met 20 years earlier so we could have had 20 more years together.” A silent tear falls down his cheek.
I take my hand from his, and cover my face as I start to cry. When I can stop, I sit up in bed so I can look into the eyes, into the very soul of the man I love so much.
“I didn’t know you felt that way. I didn’t know.” Tears stream down my face as I bury my head in my knees.
Screens can’t even compete.
© 2012 Jeanette Reese