If we were having coffee, I’d be reminiscing about life. Over the last year or so, my life has changed in so many ways I still feel like I’m trying to wrap my head around the simple facts of it, let alone the scope of the implications.
The most obvious change is my husband’s death of Stage 4 pancreatic cancer on January 12. He was officially diagnosed on November 13, 2017 – so those not-quite 2 months were clearly the seismic shift that ended with finality with his death.
But cancer, even aggressive kinds, doesn’t happen in a sudden flash. Jim hadn’t felt great for a few months before a painful swollen leg sent him to the doctor, then the emergency room, then a diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis that led to the discovery of the tumor on his liver…
A tumor that had been just a spot way back on August 24, when it was spotted on another emergency room ultrasound, when we thought the pain in his abdomen might be appendicitis, so went the night after our 20th anniversary, when we’d gone out to an oyster bar and feasted on rich foods we usually don’t indulge in. That spot, which would kill him not 6 months later, was suspected of being fatty liver disease, and Jim was so sure that’s what it was, he didn’t follow up with his primary care doctor.
Since she couldn’t have saved him, even then, I think maybe it was for the best that he didn’t, because we had those months of relative ignorance, and even though Jim wasn’t feeling especially well, those were charmed months.
It was during this time when Jim’s hot sauce business – a dream he had way back when we first met – really started to take off. We worked farmer’s markets and events, met lots of people, and Jim got to share his passion and see the expressions of the people who tried and loved his creations. He didn’t have a lot of energy, but we had a lot of fun, and I picked up a lot of slack…which means I was pretty exhausted and overwhelmed, though happy to be helping him realize a dream.
While we were so busy, we were also neglecting some things in and around the house, because there just wasn’t time or energy to get to them.
And that’s where I am right now – with a roof in desperate need of replacing, with bathroom and kitchen floors that aren’t far behind, and ceilings in the wings that have leaked and need patching.
And Jim was the handy one…
During the time between his diagnosis and death, we talked about many improvements we might make. We’d been shopping for a sectional sofa – our son, at 16, is about 6’3”, and our 13 year old daughter is closing in on my 5’9, so more space was indicated. We had a budget and a style in mind, but hadn’t found the perfect unit yet.
Since Jim died, I’ve been giving these things some thought – but the death of a spouse comes with a lot of immediacy – things that need to be done, children who need tending, dishes and laundry, sleeping and eating and absorbing.
It’s interesting, and sometimes very overwhelming, the way the new ideas are creeping in around the edges and through the middle of other things I’m doing.
It feels a bit like cheating on Jim when I realize I can change the budget for the sectional, and get the ottoman he didn’t like but the kids and I do; or when I changed our bedroom to be my bedroom, with a large corner workstation and a far more feminine flair – and, as happened earlier today, I realize that I want to replace the large and heavy bed, built like a miniature house with 4×4 inch posts, with something we didn’t share – and that the bed frame, which is incredibly heavy and was built in this room, is the perfect size and shape to frame the woodshed I dreamed of putting by the door, so we can get to our firewood easily, and without braving the elements to do it.
It feels like cheating…and it doesn’t. Jim is dead, even though my heart and soul don’t want to accept that fact, and I need to redefine my life if I am to move forward -as a mother, and as a person. Everything I do won’t be what I would have done, if Jim was still alive, and I was still his wife, and not his widow. But my role has been redefined, and so I need to redefine to thrive…
So I will move through the process – and maybe, one day, it will feel natural and fine.
Join us at Stream of Consciousness Saturday, where this week’s prompt is the word “fine” – with bonus points for ending with that word.
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