There’s an undercurrent to everything I write here. Whether you’ve caught it or not, I’m not sure, but it’s certainly there. Sure, this blog is a legacy to Andrea and the kids of what an amazing woman their Mom was. I sat, days and days on end, looking out at nothing from the couch in a home we were about to lose and somehow the memories of those early, brilliant, halcyon days with her started flooding through my exhausted, bleary mind.
But it confounds me how those memories are so vivid and the number of memories beyond the first years aren’t as great. I understand that whole reality of marriage. I know everyone’s analysis that love goes from infatuation to lust to intensity to familiarity and if you’re lucky it stops at that and doesn’t move to indifference. I’m not saying we’d moved into that territory. Life with Andrea was never boring. It was intense, crazy, even ridiculous at times, but never boring.
I am not at all above admitting the obvious here, though. I feel horribly guilty for the fact that I took that amazing woman for granted. I knew all about her background, loved her madly, but took her for granted. In days gone by I’d say my work got in the way, we had 4 kids, all of it. But they aren’t good enough excuses. I should have told her that I DID still get butterflies in my stomach as I got closer to home each night. I shouldn’t have waited until she got upset or cried about her liver problems causing weight gain to tell her how beautiful she was, regardless. I should have told her anyway. I shouldn’t have hovered with my hand over the phone when she called wondering if it was a happy or angry call but answered anyway, telling her how much I loved her.
The old saying goes “You don’t miss your water ’till the well runs dry.” I certainly fit that. I loved her, but did I love her enough by that point? Did I tell her how my world stopped turning, the pieces sitting on the crust of the earth floating out of control due to the lack of her centrifugal force keeping us all in line. I know now that I loved her that much, but did she know?
When the hospital said visiting hours are over I should have told them to screw themselves and slept in the chair next to her bed.
Before the mass of comments and email, I understand that guilt and regret are all part of those steps of grieving. This isn’t a step, it’s been sitting here growing since she went into the hospital. It started as panic. When she was sick, that was one thing, you get that crazy guilt, the hope that it’s OK. She wasn’t feeling well, I looked at her and asked her if she wanted me to spend the night down on the couch with her. She did, so I did.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been in the spot I was in, maybe you have. When Andrea first went in, they took her from the emergency room up to the ICU, but they never told me where she was. I sat in the waiting room, watching some awful movie on my phone, and after nearly two hours I didn’t know what they’d done with her. When I asked, nobody knew. I started to worry . . . no, I started to panic. When they finally told me she was in the ICU, I looked for her all over, finally getting to the doors and they wouldn’t let me in. First they didn’t know where she was then they kept me away from her.
When I got to her she was sleeping. She slept a lot.
It wasn’t two days and she couldn’t talk, a tube in her throat, the machines helping her to breathe because the infections had filled her lungs with so much fluid she couldn’t do it.
Maybe you’ve been in this kind of awful situation, but I can describe it. When she first went on the respirator I could literally feel my world starting to swirl. I didn’t have any peripheral vision. Everything started to go through a white haze. I got light-headed, feeling things swirl out of control. That night…the entire next day…I wouldn’t shut up. I was so freaked out, so panicked and lost that I couldn’t put my thoughts together. My phone kept ringing, the texts kept coming, and my work kept calling about stupid shit that had no importance at all in the schema of the world we’d entered.
I was at the point of pleading to her. I talked normally, held it together, but in my mind, and the morning she died, I was shouting at her. “Don’t leave me. You have to stay. I can’t do this alone.” Worse, I just wanted ten more seconds. Ten little moments to just say I really do love you. I didn’t tell you enough, you tell me you don’t deserve it, but I truly love you. I sat there, the blood rushing to my head, the whole world turning white, the vision tunneling, and I just kept thinking I needed to tell her how much I owed her. I didn’t want the last thing she heard to be some nurse talking to her, right before she went into arrest. I wanted her to have her last few moments be with me, the memories of my voice, the press of my lips, the touch of my fingers on her hair.
But she didn’t hear it. Not in any way that I can be sure she knew. She moved, and the doctors said she knew I was there, but they don’t know. There were just as many reflexive movements in her day as there were ones when she looked on us.
They’d been working on her for more than half an hour by the time I finally got in to see her. Half an hour. Do you have any idea how awful it is to know that she may have gone . . . left me for good and wondered why I wasn’t there? Her biggest fear – being left alone – and I wasn’t there when she needed me the most. I didn’t get to tell her how much I loved her.
I knew right then and there that I should have told her more. All the horrible things, the bad moments, the arguments, they all flooded back in. I wanted so desperately for her to come back to me so I could just tell her that I still loved her like that beautiful, amazing girl I’d met twenty-odd years ago. When I say I broke down, it’s not just pure grief or pain. It’s because I just freaked out from the fact I just couldn’t hold her hand and have that last conversation with her.
She was important in so many ways to me. She reached into my heart and pulled me – the real person, the Dave that was there when I was 5-6 years old and singing along with LP’s in my parents’ house – out into the daylight again. I don’t know what hid me in that dark, lonely place, but she didn’t care. She didn’t see the goofy, angry, lonely kid. She saw me. She kissed me and hugged me and lifted me out of the shadows. What did I give her? Love? Companionship? Really, what is that compared to getting your life back.
Yes, guilt is there. It has been for a long time. Time is really the key.
I thought I had the time. I really did. Like I said before, ten more waking seconds, that’s all I’d need. It’s not what she deserves, but it’s enough to at least say what I wanted.
She wasn’t just the love of my life, she knew me, what I was and what I could become. She was always there, the rock solid foundation of all our lives.
Now I can see just how thirsty I really am. The well’s run dry.
(For those of you who think I own nothing recorded after 1985, this is a Derek Trucks song with the oh so appropriate adage in the lyrics.)