Their Shared Weight

Patricia woke up at 4 am like she normally did when Craig was alive. She rolled over and reached for her alarm, but it hadn’t gone off today.  It hadn’t gone off today or the day before or the day before that.  It hadn’t gone off at 4 in the morning for almost a week now.

She turned off the alarm the day after Craig died, but she has still woken up at 4 out of habit.  She rolled back over and tried to go back to sleep for at least a couple of more hours.  She couldn’t.  She got up and went to the kitchen to start the coffee.

She moved between her bed and the one Craig was confined to the last two years in the dark.  Her brothers were coming by this weekend with a rented truck to take the extra bed, the ventilator, the motorized wheelchair, and all the other things that were necessary to keep Craig alive.

Patricia did not go back to work until next week, but she still had things to do around the house.  Mostly start packing up all of Craig’s equipment and clothes.

She sat drinking her coffee watching the sun slowly emerge from behind the trees to the East of her house.  She thought about the first time she and Craig came to the house with the realtor and many of those trees were barely 4 feet tall.  Now some of them were as high tall as the gutters on the side of the house.

She thought about the day after that first fall he had.  They were out in the car port getting ready to go grocery shopping.  His left leg just gave out and he crumpled to the concrete.  That was four years ago.

“In sickness and in health, till death do us part.”  She thought about saying those words when she was 22.  It was abstract.  They were almost just words, but she learned they weren’t just words. First, he was with her through the miscarriage and then the benign lump they found on her breast 10 years ago.  It was the right and only thing either could do, stay and fight together.

That didn’t mean she wasn’t still exhausted from the last four years.

She drank from his coffee cup.  He didn’t use it the last two years.  He couldn’t control his hands or his mouth enough.  She and the day nurse who helped four days a week had to do that for him.  They had to bathe him.  They had to change his catheter and his bed pan.

Near the end there had been a significantly hard day.  She was helping him out of the tub for one of the last times and he looked at her.  Somehow he gathered to strength to control his arms and rested his hand on hers to get her to stop tucking him into the chair and looked at her.  He tried to say something, but the words couldn’t form and he started crying.  She kissed his forehead and helped him back into his bed.  After he went to sleep, she came in to the kitchen and cried.  From sadness, from exhaustion, from the weight of this thing that had happened to both of them.

Patricia had lost track of the time, but the sun was now peaking over the horizon and her coffee had gotten cold.  She hadn’t cried since the day Craig died.  She didn’t even cry at the funeral.  The weight had lifted.  It was a weight she willingly took, but it was gone now.  The leaves dappled the light from the first morning rays of the sun across her face as she looked out the window.  She closed her eyes and felt Craig standing beside her, his hand on the small of her back.  He was tall and strong.  They were both free of the weight now.

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