“Why don’t you just GO then. I mean, if you’re going to go, when are you going to leave? ”
He looked at me almost gently, with a wry smile. “When you are sleeping.”
This infuriated me. I actually grabbed his shoulders, reeling. “How can you? After all this time? How can you just decide to leave, abruptly, and with no recourse? Can we not even talk about this? Is there no room to work something out – to find a way?”
I became aware of the dream I was in, feeling the pull of the morning. I turned away from waking; I needed a chance to change this outcome. I dreamed that I remembered a similar scenario from the past. In the remembered dream, he did not tell me he was going to go. Suddenly, he was just gone and I searched for him to try to find out why. I could not remember if I ever found him in a previous dream. But in the present dream, here he was, deflecting my anger and being resolute as only he could. My rage refracted from his countenance and threatened to envelop me. I awoke.
In our nearly two decades together we had hardly ever fought, the few times of note were rather early on in our lives together. This was not because either of us lacked a temper; more it was because we had almost effortlessly found a way to be together that did not intrude on each other. Steadfast support, unwavering love, and complete freedom to be an individual. How unexpected it was, really, to find such a kindred spirit and uncommon relationship.
One of our favorite topics of lazy Sunday discussion was growing old together. We explored various things we might undertake when the careers we had bound ourselves to finally freed us to slow down and do what we might to amuse ourselves. Victorian houses, gardens, B&Bs, a bike shop - more fun, even, than children considering what to do when they grow up. It was the fairy tale, continued; the rainbow’s end. It was part of our last Sunday together. We spent a few minutes so occupied by the wood stove once dinner was done and I was packed for my early morning flight to an assignment in Milan.
True to his word, he left while I was sleeping. He was a little restless, I remember, getting up for a Tums or aspirin. I was annoyed, because my alarm was set for 4 AM and I was not able to sleep soundly. Then, again, he got up. But this time I heard the sound of his collapse. In my semi-sleep I wanted to deny it, but I knew at that instant that my life was fundamentally changed. I still carry the details of the next few hours with me. Telephone, ambulance, hospital, snow. By 4 AM I found myself sitting in our living room, shivering, alone.
Very few people have the courage to ask what happened. More, usually those who have lost a spouse, ask how long you grieve, or how long it takes to get over something like that. Some, seeking a path for themselves, ask how to move on. The fact is, you never stop grieving, you never get over the loss of someone who was part of yourself. Over time, you find ways to redefine your life and continue living. You do, in fact, move on. I described the first few months as having no idea where the next step might go, but knowing I had to pick up my foot. Eventually the steps amounted to a path I walked alone. Not bad, but certainly different; a world with fewer rainbows