* * * * * *
You know what I remember most about Mass General?
The gift shop.
For some inexplicable reason, the Mass General gift shop is one of the coolest little (well, not so little, even) stores I’ve ever seen. In addition to the regular hospital gift shop fare (mylar balloons and Tylenol), they had house stuff and games and decorative items and jewelry and hair trinkets and all sorts of neato things.
I remember being sad about the plates or placemats or lampshades or something like that. Sad because they were so funky and cute and would have been perfect for a funky little apartment in a city somewhere. I would never have that, and it made me wistful.
But I had bigger issues. There was a greater good.
* * * * * *
Finally she was well enough to go back to New Hampshire. She was stable enough, even with all the tubes and everything, to stay in the hospital there and not be too great a strain on their resources.
So after a few days (weeks?) of being in Connecticut and showing the house to prospective buyers, we made the trek back to New Hampshire.
There was nothing good. There was no way to make it okay in my head. I didn’t have any experience with this sort of thing. Everything wasn’t, actually, going to be okay.
I half started regretting selling the house. I sort of wanted something safe and stable now. I needed something comforting. I was grateful for my rock of a husband, who kept taking my moodiness, my unhappiness in stride and pushed on through anyway. He was willing to do what it took to make it work.
My mother was not really any better. Still on a lot of morphine, still not totally aware of what was going on. And the lucid moments were worse. She’d complain, she’d be in pain, she’d need constant care and tending and yet nothing made her feel better.
It was officially summer and it was officially, grossly hot. Humid. Disgusting.
[People say they leave the Northeast because of the winter weather. Not for me. If I never have to live with the Northeast’s suffocating blanket of impossible humidity again, that’d be swell.]
Staying in my parents’ house was not a joyous thing. The house was old and crumbling and dirty. My parents’ dogs were old and incontinent and my father did not have it in him to be housekeeper. None of the rest of us did, either. I didn’t want to clean the house – my mom’s house. My mom’s stuff. My mom’s responsibility. Fucking hell.
Where is she? She should be doing this. I have my own God damned house to keep spotless so that asshole strangers can roam through it. I can’t deal with this mess, too.
Everything! Go back to how you are supposed to be! Right now!
God, so much crying. So much to be unhappy about. My whole world was shifting. How could I not have a mother? You've got to be kidding me.
* * * * * *
David and I fought in New Hampshire. I don’t even know about what. Everything? Nothing?
Dave had to get back to Connecticut to look for work or do some consulting or something (I was able to do my work wherever I was), and I was going to stay another week. We agreed it would be a good idea, and maybe I should do some thinking about us. The house-selling didn’t seem to do the trick overnight. I was still really unhappy. I couldn’t tell why, but was pretty sure I was taking my anxiety over my mother out on my husband. It happens.
I know the night before he returned to Connecticut had been tearful. I drank a lot. It was too hot. David found some washcloths and dipped them in cool water and patted me down with them. He rested one over my eyes and a couple over my wrists. I remember the dampness from the washcloth mixing with my warm tears and making me feel better.
That was the last night I’d ever spend in bed with my husband, and I had no idea.
* * * * * *
Was it a day later? Two? Three? I’d spent the day at the hospital and the evening at the bar. The day had been very bad. My mom was as uncomfortable and fussy as I had ever seen her, and I literally felt my heart break as I continued to watch her from the shore.
Later that night, David called. Or I called him. We were on the phone and almost immediately and accusingly he asked if I had spent any time thinking about us. I said no, I hadn’t, my heart and mind had been otherwise occupied.
And for once, rather than understand, he got angry. I was shocked at his insensitivity. Where did it come from?
And then he told me it was over.
Just like that.
I told him no.
He said yes.
I said no.
I cried, screamed, and sat dumbstruck and in complete shock and disbelief and sobbed and screamed and sobbed some more and kept saying no.
This was not. No. It could not be. No. This man, this rock, this guy who just…No. He never ever ever suggested ever ever in a million years that he might go. That he was considering leaving. No.
I begged and pleaded with him for a couple hours until he shut me off. I stayed up until I heaved myself to sleep. I woke up early and sat in my parents’ empty living room.
All I could hear myself saying in my head, over and over, was:
My mother is dying and my husband left me over the phone. No. This cannot be happening. Just, no.