This day, 3 years ago…
Handsome Husband and I arrived in Cathedral City, California.
We’d come from 3 months in the Phoenix, Arizona area, where we’d visited with 2 of our kids, and we’d adventured along the way in Vegas, and Red Rock Canyon outside of Vegas, where we’d stayed with an Air Force buddy and his wife.
We’d gone to Death Valley…yeah, how fucking ironic is that? and I remember Chuck teasing me as I’d apprehensively and not terribly gracefully, climbed down a rock facing..
…stopped at Edwards AFB to visit another Air Force buddy,
…contemplated WW2 at the Japanese Internment Camp in Manzanar,
and vowed to return to the Salton Sea on a day trip as we meandered along I-10.
I can still recall the heavy scent of orange blossoms as we parked our car at our rented condo. There was a huge orange tree in a tiny grassed area to the right of the stairs. 15 steps led us to our 2nd floor temporary home. I remember that, too, because I counted them as Handsome Husband slowly ascended them. He, who ordinarily carried all of our heavy stuff, carried a small pillow and our camera…all that he could manage and even that exhausted him. I walked behind him in case he fell; he was suddenly tired and frail. It was left to me to trudge the remainder of our belongings up those stairs; he couldn’t, and it broke his heart. I could see the frustration in his eyes as he watched me.
Thus began our final almost 2 months together. We thought his illness came from a systemic fungal infection. We were wrong. The fucking cancer had returned.
Why return to those times, you might ask? Why submit myself to the pain of it again, by remembering, by writing about it yet one more time?
I don’t know that there is any good answer, except to say that it is my history. It is our final history together and that matters to me. There was so much uncertainty in those early days in the condo, but there was also a deepening of the love we had with and for each other. Our sex life was a thing of the past and I distinctly remember thinking back to our beginning times when I told him that I was so much in love with him that I wanted to be with him even if we could no longer make love…which was a strong statement from me, because our love life was passionate from the very beginning. But the remembrance of that early thought was there in my mind, along with everything else that scrambled through it as he and I dealt with his ever-worsening health.
I need to remember these days and weeks as much right now as I need to breathe. That time wasn’t all of our lives together by any means, but it was a defining moment in the hugest way possible. Something was so very wrong, and we set our minds to deal with it as best we could, researching alternative methods of treatment and doing all we could, and loving each other intensely in spite of, because of, and no matter what.
In a meeting that only showed as horribly ironic much later, after his death, we met a woman in the hot tub the first time we ventured into it, who shared with us that she was newly widowed. We asked her gently about her circumstances, but didn’t speak too much about it later. She was the one person we met while in California…the only person we met. And she was a widow…
I write about that time, at this time, 3 years later, because the death of my husband was and is as much my life with him as our previous 23 years, and because, as traumatic as that time was, and as much as it echoes in me still, it was the time I said goodbye to a man who loomed so largely in my life because of how he loved me and how much he loved me and I will never forget it.
I write about these last times he and I had, to honor him and the valor and humor and love that he displayed, right up til the end, and to honor the love I, and our kids, and our friends, and his Air Force buddies, and his AA buddies, brought to that time, for him, and because of him.
I write about those last times because it was our last times together and I miss him unbearably and in a part of me that directs my blood to continue running through my body…I just can’t believe he’s gone…