Nine months and three days ago my spouse left the building. He didn’t walk out. He didn’t leave for someone else. I could have dealt with that. In my past life, I DID deal with that. No, this departure had nothing to do with free will, romantic foible or selfish intention. It didn’t even have anything to do with the big C’s relentless march that hounded him. It had everything to do with that celestial calendar we never get to see.
They say the days of our lives are numbered. Well, isn’t that helpful. We have no idea what those numbers are ‑ or when they are up. All we can do is to try our level best to live within the unpredictability of that invisible calendar. As I remember many odd moments, actions of the last two years before he died, I can’t help but wonder if my husband instinctively knew his expiration date would come earlier than expected.
Most of his living large was in the days and years before we met. My guy regaled me with remembered moments of achievement, of professional escapades and successes, of starring roles in community theater shows. By the time we met, the scope of his business and his medical forecast had changed dramatically. Still, he was a vital force of nature. He never lost his penchant for the road less traveled even if he often got totally lost along the way. Hey, it’s true what they say about men and maps.
Seriously, I wonder so often now if he ever had an inkling that his numbered days were closing in. Was that why he was impatient with books that didn’t impact, news reporting that wasn’t expansive, days that didn’t include drives to nowhere or business that was no longer in its prime? Even within the confines of cancer treatment’s side effects, he never lost his enthusiasm for discovery, for living with possibility – until the shocking night he ran out of days, of hours. And I ran out of time — with him.
These days, I’m back to living by the calendar, my things-to-do list, dates with friends, babysitting. But that rigid keeper of time rings hollow at points, too. Within my daily calendar I’m starting to glimpse something that almost feels normal, however small a thread. I’m finding moments that I smile, laugh without being swallowed in tears and I don’t know how I feel about it. That damn calendar could say my guy was gone 20 minutes or 20 days, 9 hours or 9 months and the fact would still feel remote, impossible. It doesn’t compute.
There were things we planned, places we talked about seeing ‘next year’. Well, this IS that next year and I’m the only hand left clapping here. I’m the one left to mark the days on the calendar both for us – for what has passed, and what is to come. For all the days in these last months that I’ve walked in quicksand, the calendar still holds grandchild birthdays, cool autumn days to come, warm times with friends. Do I have the guts to embrace life’s fickle, sometimes tragic unpredictability now that I’ve seen the epic fallout up close and way too personally? When I saw my brother’s numbers abruptly end at only 19 years old? When I held a dying husband in my arms, pleading with that unforgiving calendar for another hour, another day?
I certainly can’t predict how I’ll feel next month when I have no idea how I’ll feel tomorrow or in two hours. I can’t foretell if I am in this world for years to come or my numbered days will also be few. But today, tonight I’d rather hold out hope for what tomorrow might offer than the numbered days I’m here on this planet.
There isn’t a day I don’t remember the man who walked through this life with me for what seems like only a minute in time is no longer next to me. There isn’t a second I don’t miss him or his love for me, that I don’t wish with all my heart he was sleeping, eating, laughing or even arguing with me. But if my days are also indeed numbered, I can’t sleepwalk through the ones still allotted to me. Maybe, as Marcus Aurelius once said, I need to ‘use them to throw open the windows of your soul to the sun’.
My nickname wasn’t Mary Sunshine for nothing.