There are no parades. No uniformed men and women marching in the sleet or rain. No pounding of feet to the rhythm of pipes and drums.
There is only silence as I lay a bouquet at the graveside, or later as my hands linger on rosary beads, knees bend to pray at the bedside where I once calmed and bathed and comforted Chris.
It is Chris’ birthday, A time he celebrated with family and friends, Poochie on his lap, the kids teasing him about being an old man now, his friends laughing with him, his hazel eyes taking everything in. Salad on the plates, roast in the oven, children and grandchildren milling about. He always insisted there be more than enough food, a hangup from a childhood spent in a Displaced Persons Camp where there was never ever enough.
Today I struggle with waterless faucets at the graveside, cutting my finger with the box cutter I have brought to cut the red roses and white lilies down to size for the vases the cemetery provides. My tears mingle with the rain.
I am soaking wet and it feels good to be sodden and alone as if it is a physical expression of my grief.
And ahead looms the thirteenth, the anniversary of his passing. It is not a day the nation will mourn with me, the day I kissed him one last time and stood helpless as he suffocated in cardiac arrest. Watched the agency worker drag him to the floor. Perform CPR. Shout at Chris to breathe.
As I place the flowers in the insert, I push the memory of his dying aside, try to concentrate on us in the late ’80s slow dancing in the White Eagle Hall on New Year’s Eve. He always held me too tight, so I felt slightly off balance on the dance floor. It was pleasant emotionally. Physically discomfiting.
But it was nothing to how off-kilter my life is without him.
I drive home from the cemetery the stereo blasting his favourite jive song: Give me that old time Rock ‘n roll. He could really cut up a dance floor.
Later, restless and weary, I drive through the dark and the downpour, past the house we once lived in. I am torn with guilt by the fact that I still pulsate with life, that life resonates through me even now that he is gone.
My favorite Garth Brooks song: The Dance is playing. I remember being at the Queen E. Theatre in Vancouver. It was 1990, I think. Brooks was the opening act for the Judds that year and Chris and I first heard this song at their concert. No one even knew who Garth Brooks was, but he was a star that night. He brought the house down. Made the Judds seem like an afterthought.
I drive by our old house, memories rolling through my head like frames in an old home movie. Rain splatters against the windshield; the heavens weep with me.
There are days when to be honest I feel slightly uncomfortable about always having a dead man in my head. One who glares disapproval or smiles tenderly or protests violently against his inability to reach out and hold me, grab me and shake me, take my hand, sit beside me, kiss me. Be my resolve. When he furiously fights the fact that he is now merely a shadow, a mere memory of love shared.
This Caregiver’s Journal began in August of 2014. Although the first blog article was actually written on New Year’s Day, 2015, the rest are in chronological order from August 5th, 2014. What is written here has gone before.