I miss him.
Dear friends and readers,
This week I remembered how the Admiral read aloud three of Kipling’s Just So stories to Caroline when we had no TV; how he read aloud to me and I to him when we were first married and living in Leeds, and then it was a volume of Virginia Woolf’s letters. That was a happy memory, one I can now scarcely believe happened but it did. And I remembered too how my father read aloud to me Dickens, RLStevenson.
Now that I have my driver’s license back over the last two weeks: Yvette and I have been able to keep a busier schedule and be around people more. We’ve a weekly shopping schedule, and this week I went to my new grief support counselor, saw and talked with my financial advisor and consultant (two hours!), joined the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia and went for my first session of Waterarobics (I did enjoy it, especially the relaxation exercises at the close); joined the Cinemart theater’s Sunday film club (once every three weeks) and saw a truly great 2 and 1/2 hour film by Jan Poellen, The Last Sentence, went out to lunch at Clyde’s (well-known local restaurant for office lunches) with a friend, went to a JASNA meeting (suggested really doing charades as an alternative for the ball); and took (with Yvette) wildly protesting cat (Ian, who escaped out of his carrier after desperate chases around the house to put him in it) and quietly mewing one (Clary) to Vet.
I knew I needed him for basic help in life: well I now manage some of these basic things by myself — which includes doing bills, managing taxes. I can now get to the bank again. I have a professional level PC and a IT man who can enter by remote control and helps me out whenever I need it (he will come to the house too). Those things I cannot do and do not need to do I never will, whatever the loss I must endure it. The worst still is driving alone in unfamiliar routes and to unfamiliar places — but familiar streets hurt bad too. Then listening to a great intelligent novel beautifully read aloud helps. I still remember him sitting beside me and how I never thought about where we were, how we got there and back. It’s so lonely in these vast anonymous roads. What an ugly world the highways and cement overpasses make. People have showed me Road Scholar: I get anxiety attacks trying to find a library in Arlington I’ve not been to before. Have to say a direction aloud over and over as I go, and then when I reach the new direction say that. At any rate I’m not ready for it.I have avoided anguish since a week ago last Thursday — again partly prompted from the fool flat back screen TV — and will try to avoid in future. PBS is making it easier for me: I tried to watch the new Mystery Masterpiece programs: they are violent drek, cynical in the stupidest ways. Trash wastelands.
As to plans, I bought 7 different events (plays, concerts, music events) for the Capitol Fringe Festival over 3 weeks in July; if I’m not too late I’ll buy for July 5th, a matinee of a supposed hilarious satire on these increasingly debased ubiquitous crime-police procedural programs at Signature (we’ll get there by cab as here is no parking). I could find only one matinee for Wolf Trap for us and it conflicts with one of Yvette’s social club days: I cannot see myself driving back on the highways at night (it’s a complicated route); Castleton festival and the Shenandoah Shakespeare out of reach. I did look at the schedules and have thought about the fall at the Kennedy Center and Folger Shakespeare Library.
An exterminator was here, so wasps and bees nests all gone; the landscape and mowing man will grass over the two small plots I had planned for flowers for Jim and I; and tomorrow a man will come to tune the piano. It was my father’s and then Jim’s. I’ve cleared the his song books off of it as Yvette has begun to sing and play again. Here she is singing so beautifully. I mean to retrieve it and take good care of it as what is left from my father and Jim. Who knows? Maybe I’ll take lessons to keep the piano alive. I have good precedent in Jane Austen. I have a website to explore and am told music stores today which survive are like bookstores: make worlds of social music to participate in.
I will force myself to look at Angie’s list and Yellow Pages later this week to find a handyman to do another needed thing for the house. One thing at a time. I do dislike doing these things because of bad experiences with contractors over the years.
While at home by myself I have my early morning time reading — sometimes for as much as nearly 3 hours. I read again and watch movies at night and try to blog (like now). Central day time: I wrote my introductory essay for the Valancourt edition of one of the Northanger Novels and am reading towards a review of Kenneth Johnston’s Unusual Suspects as well as making efforts at the edition of Smith’s Ethelinde (I’m proof reading the text and doing arduous notes) and slowly watching and taking down the screenplay for the marvelous The Jane Austen Book Club. I have my good online friends, am still reading with others, talking on-line thoughtful conversation. I listen to music on NPR.
All this no longer keeps at bay the central fact of my life now: that the Admiral no longer exists. In a way I wish he had not said he wanted to be cremated, for at last his body would exist even as a corpse. Now nothing but the dust in that urn. What I find I’m facing for the first time fully is how much I miss him, his company his conversation, his ideas, his wit, his quiet kindness. I am still blocked off from him in the sense that I can’t imagine specifics; I still have trouble remembering what it was we talked so much of — night after night over wine and coffee, during the day over lunch, walking, doing things together. I don’t look at his letters lest I go wild with grief for him: they were so filled with affection for me, he valued me, my ways, my character, he thought me pretty still because he loved me. The last time now will be when I put that flapper dress on for Caroline’s wedding and I saw his eyes light up as he looked at me; I pleased him. August 3rd. I can’t ever hear his voice again. He had lost a good deal of it after that operation which mutilated him and then shortened and rendered wretched the rest of his time.
I am left in the silence. I imagine this is what it is for other widows and widowers. I miss him all the time now. When I wake, I am aware of it, when I fall asleep, coming in, going out. He said among his last words that he did not want to die. I sometimes think what we might have been doing this summer. Last year at this time on this day I was hoping he’d live for even years to come. He’d make it to 70 at least. I didn’t think about whether he’d live to be old, just that he might have more life, more pleasure eventually. We thought he was getting better. We were taking our daily walks. Walking for life, for strength.
As to what killed him: as individual after individual is killed off by cancer much earlier than they needed to die, there is no core constituency, no sizable body of people identifying with one another, no organization adapted for political intervention, no where to intervene it seems — well there is (for a start these powerful medical institutions and insurances companies); the people to act must be those left, but each lives isolated outside these seeming family and job clans; the world constructed to be that way. The world is not constructed for widows of 67 to find true companionship. Maybe you are not supposed to seek it, not supposed to want it. Remember (someone said to me this week) what other people want and do not want.
Talking of flirting on one listserv this week I wrote: I can recognize it, but it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know how to cope with what is a sort of game. When I was younger I did try to reciprocate in kind and was elephantine, ludicrous. So I think now — for the most part it has not happened in a long time — what I used to do was just look at the person sufficiently hard and silent to convey the idea of “please stop.” I am in accord with the person who cannot understand why people play such games with one another. I experience flirting as a distraction which gets in the way of getting to know the person. Whether you like or are satisfied with it, depends not only on whether you can pull it off (and one feature of an Aspergers/autistic personality is not to be able to because performances manipulate the unwritten rules), but what you seek to get out of a relationship or friendship and what you long to put into it.
Cats as a species seem to be constructed differently. Both have become so much more affectionate to me, and I interact with them as personalities. They love reciprocation. Maybe that’s why some people keep them. It is to be remembered they have been bred this way (by taking them too early from their mothers?)
Do those couples who love one another exist much of the time in the reflected gaze of the other? Honestly I’m not sure I still don’t feel he’s there somehow. His presence is in my mind. And though he’s not there literally it’s a comfort to me to feel this even if I can’t reach him and miss him so.
I am very sad tonight because last year at this time we both hoped he would live. We didn’t think he’d make it to 80, but we hoped for 75. He would be weak, he would not be able to eat and drink as he had, but he would have a number more years of life: we even dreamed of going to England once more, just spend a lot of money to make him comfortable. Now he’s gone forever. Damn all those who hurt him directly, all those who were indifferent to his sufferings and made them worse, those who never told us about the dangers of acid reflex, and all those who pollute the environment and are responsible for doing nothing about this epidemic.