The Widow’s Corner

November 25, 2010

It’s Thanksgiving day. I’m slow to wake, not wanting to think about the recent death of my husband, wanting to drift into a deeper sleep and dream about what was, what might have been. I think about sleeping for another hour, or two or three. Opening my eyes, I gaze at the familiar space in my bedroom. The faux wall in front of me is covered with photos. I study the pictures in which my husband stands next to me. We’re both grinning and posing for photographs shot during a vacation in Bainbridge, Washington. I close my eyes and picture the place: a grassy area surrounded with colorful miniature cottages shaded by Douglas-fir and western red cedar trees wrapped in English ivy. My mood in the picture is upbeat, as I wrap my arms around my husband’s muscular torso, feeling his protruding belly touch my abdomen ever so gently.  That was before the cancer took hold of him, before it spread to his bones, spine, and organs. That was before it took every ounce of nourishment from his body, before it drained the energy out of him, before he gave up and decided it was time to die.

For three months prior to his passing, he was unable to hug me, dance with me, or sleep next to me. He spent his daytime hours in a wheelchair with lymphedema in both legs, not able to move or stand without assistance. At night his body lay still in a lift chair, one hand on the controls and the other hand resting on the padded armrest, next to the lamp with a three-way switch, next to a book his oldest son had given him, next to his cellphone and a bell he used for emergencies.

I inhale his smell as I hug his empty pillow next to me. My tears soak the soft cotton pillowcase and I bury my head in the sweetness of his scent.

November 27, 2010

It’s Saturday, the third day of this long, treacherous holiday weekend. Each day I count the remaining days left until my work week begins. This morning I stay in bed listening to the radio, closing my eyes, keeping the tears at bay, hoping to drift off again into a deep sleep.  At 9:00 a.m., I force myself out of bed, feeling like a robot as I perform my morning rituals. I exercise to the soundtrack of Brassed Off, a movie my husband and I watched ten years ago. During his illness, I’d work out to the melodic sounds of trumpets and trombones; kicking my legs up in the air, twisting my body into difficult positions, lunging to the right and to the left—each exercise executed in precise movements, a workout my husband wasn’t able to perform during the four months preceding his death. This aerobic routine is the exact one I practiced while he was declining —while his body was wasting away in the next room. A song entitled “A Sad Old Day” begins ten minutes into the CD. It’s a trombone instrumental played in a scene when a father’s illness takes over and he succumbs to his cancer. I’ve listened to this track for months, thinking of Michael’s prognosis, knowing I was about to lose him to this disease. Now I can’t bear to hear this song, knowing he’s no longer listening in the next room, knowing my husband has vanished forever leaving me with an intimate understanding of the finality of death.  

November 28, 2010

I count the days of this holiday weekend; three days passed and one day to go. Each day I survive is a victory. I note each task I complete, as if I’m working my way through a giant project. I set my goals higher each day. Today I completed a 30-minute workout, fed the dog and took her for a two-mile walk, prepared myself oatmeal and toast, completed a load of laundry, and wrote several paragraphs in my journal—something I haven’t been able to accomplish during the last couple of months while caring for my husband.

The cell phones, his and mine, aren’t ringing, but instead are quiet, like they were before the cancer came into our lives, before it took over and changed every part of our family dynamics, before the final loss occurred. Certain family members are also eerily silent, but I don’t focus on the negatives, instead I use my limited energy to get myself through the day. Many of my decisions are based on what Michael would have wanted. I find myself gazing up into the sky, trying to find an opening in one of the clouds, trying to find my husband, or a piece of him floating in the cotton candy overhead. I’m wishing I could join him and look down at the cold world. I miss my best friend. 

To be continued…

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About TRatner

Terry Ratner is a freelance writer, registered nurse, and writing instructor in Phoenix, Arizona. In June of 2004, she graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction from Antioch University, Los Angeles. Writing has always served a purpose in her life, but it wasn't until her son died in a motorcycle accident in March, 1999, that she began to publish her works. What's unique about Terry is the way she balances the life of a nurse with the life of a writer. "Nursing allows me to give back to the community and then write about those experiences." Ratner teaches creative writing in a variety of settings from community colleges to a school for homeless children (Thomas J. Pappas) to wellness communities throughout the Valley of the Sun. In 2004, Terry launched an Arts and Healing program for children undergoing dialysis at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. She has published numerous personal essays, cover stories, interviews, and book reviews for a variety of national and regional publications. Her manuscript, a work in progress, features a series of twelve essays, ten of which are introduced with black and white photos, dealing with issues of family and identity.
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One Response to The Widow’s Corner

  1. LV says:

    Heartbreaking, powerful, honest and writen from the heart… blessings to you as you heal. I know that writing will help you get through this.

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