Handsome Husband loved numbers. He would compile our miles traveled, tally up the military bases and hotels we’d stayed, the National Monuments visited-he loved those numbers. Me, not so much. My tally of anything is vague, mainly because I get more satisfaction with the pictures those numbers represent.
We stayed in Arizona for 3 months last winter. He started getting noticeably sick.
It took us 1 month to travel from Arizona to southern California. During that time we hiked twice. At Red Rocks National Park, outside Vegas, we hiked 1 mile back into the rocks to view the petroglyphs. It went okay but he was tired. We also walked around Manzanar Relocation camp, in California. We’d come upon it unexpectedly and I’d always wanted to visit there. So we did. He was okay for that, though he was getting very thin.
At Death Valley, we hiked 1 mile back to Natural Bridge Canyon. We met some other hikers and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Handsome Husband hiked an hour’s hike up Dante’s Ridge at Death Valley. He was thrilled. Excited to be there. I stayed down below and, in a moment of creativity, decorated my side of the car with flower stickers across the dashboard.
We danced for maybe 4 minutes alongside the road in Death Valley on our last night there, as we drove back to Furnace Creek Ranch. To Chicago’s “You’re My Inspiration”. He wasn’t sure he had the strength for it. He did. It was magical. I loved his arms around me. It was our last dance.
We stayed at 3 military bases between Arizona and Cathedral City, California. When we arrived at the Marine lodging, we parked under the overhang so he could check in for us. He had to step off to the side of the building where there were some bushes so that he could throw up. The pain was that bad. We thought it was the die-off from the systemic fungal infection. It makes me want to throw up, remembering back. Knowing how much he concealed from me. I knew most of it, but not the degree. And I want to rage against my frustration at the not-knowing. How could I not know? Except that he didn’t want me to know. He didn’t want to acknowledge the severity even to himself.
There were 14 steps up to our condo in Cathedral City. He was able to carry a pillow and our camera up those steps. Separately. I struggled to carry everything else. He felt so helpless watching me. He apologized continually. I hugged him and said it didn’t matter. It was okay. We’re a team.
He made 4 trips to the Yay Institute 3 hours away, seeking treatment for what we thought was his systemic fungal infection. On the first visit, after reading the computer readout, Dr Yay told him he was a very sick man. But no x-rays were taken that would have revealed the solid tumor of his left lung.
He made 5 trips to the chiropractor we found in Cathedral City, for what we thought was a pinched nerve. The chiropractor told him the left side of his back had seized up into a solid block. We now know that was the fucking tumor.
We made 1 trip to the Eisenhower Medical Center ER in Rancho Mirage. He had 1 tumor in his left lung that completely destroyed said lung. He had a smaller tumor in his right lung that collapsed the bottom 1/3 of that lung, rendering it ineffective.
He had 1 huge tumor in his pelvis that blocked his bowels and caused horrible pain.
He had 2 very large tumors externally on the inside of his thighs.
The tumors that destroyed the rest of his body were uncountable.
He died on April 21 in the year 2013. At 11:21 pm.
I’ve traveled almost 3000 miles since he died.
It’s been 4 months since he died. That’s longer than we were at the condo in Cathedral City where he died. Yes, he died. He didn’t pass. He didn’t cross over. He died. Those words are important to me. They make it what it is and doesn’t gentle it up.
Numbers. He would have tallied everything exactly. I’m working with rough numbers through all of these specs.
What I know definitively is that my 1 life was forever changed by loving him, and being loved by him, for 24 years. 23 of those years we were married. The full 24 years were years of passion and happiness for both of us.
What cannot be numbered are the times my 1 heart has shattered and shredded and died, only to start beating again so that it can repeat the process, each beat of that heart relentlessly pounding out my new dance rhythm. Gone. Gone. Gone.