A NEW YEAR
December 19, 2010
Tonight is the Macayo holiday party—a catered affair on Camelback Mountain which Michael and I have attended for the past twelve years. I plan to shop at Nordstrom’s for a special dress for the occasion. This is a night I’m looking forward to. It seems odd that a widow should be excited about a get together and even stranger that I should feel expectations about this party. It’s a feeling I’ve missed for the past few months. Anticipation and hope, like a teenager looking forward to growing up and wanting to experience all that life has to offer. I concentrate on the feeling of butterflies in my stomach as I wonder about the rest of my life and what lies ahead for me.
I find a tight-fitting dress in an iridescent color that changes shades depending on the surrounding lighting. It’s a tan, silver, or gold shimmer with a V-neck and a dainty bow placed strategically on the center of my waist to accentuate my flat abdomen. The saleslady assists me with the zipper, steps back and smiles. “You look beautiful in that dress. It fits your body perfectly.” I look at myself in the mirror and turn to one side and then the other, hearing the gentle rustle of the dress as I twirl around like I’m a school girl dressing up for prom.
I can’t help thinking about the past few months, staying home with Michael, caring for him, nursing him day and night, loving him, and all the while grieving as I continued to lose fragments of our life; the way he slept with his mouth open to a perfect circle, letting out a gentle whistling noise with each inhale. His weakness spread from his shoulders, down his arms to his hands, then his thighs to the bottom of his swollen feet. The body of my loved one seemed to disintegrate as his disease progressed.
I purchase the dress and pick out silver fluorescent two-inch heels that seem to have that same elusive color effect as the dress. I haven’t worn high heels in years because they hurt my feet, but tonight I don’t care.
A black shawl and dark opaque tights complete the outfit. I catch myself humming as I leave the crowded store and carry out my bundles to the car. I can’t remember the last time I hummed or even listened to music.
That winter afternoon quickly melted into darkness. My mind zigzagged back and forth, as if in a private debate on whether or not I was ready for the holiday party—for any party, for any enjoyment. The discussion went on until I finally put an end to it, went into my closet, unveiled the newly pressed dress, heels, and shawl and laid them neatly on the bed. Looking at the ensemble, trying to figure out the real color of my outfit, watching as the shades of brown and silver melted together, wondering if anything was what we originally thought it was.
I nap for two hours, which has now become a commodity, something to celebrate—something that rarely occurred while my husband was ill. During the two-year period of his illness, our bedtime changed from midnight to two or three in the morning. His nighttime routine was similar to hospital care; the shift wasn’t complete without doing every necessary comfort and ordered care.
I remember my youngest daughter coming over to our home to assist in his care one Saturday night. She sat on the couch next to him playing board games while I took a much needed warm bath; shaving my legs, washing and conditioning my hair, exfoliating dead skin from my face, all the things I once took for granted. All the things he couldn’t accomplish for himself, all of the self-hygiene women perform routinely on a day-to-day basis. But I didn’t want to think about any of that now. I had to get ready for the party and try to be on time.
I take time to blow-dry and smooth out my hair before using Velcro rollers. Everything has to be perfect, as if it was a first date with someone special. Suddenly, I remembered my first date with Michael—a blind date. We met at the Stone Cold Creamery at 20th Street and Camelback. I checked him out first, just to make sure, as I knew the make and color of his car. When we met and I looked into his eyes, I had a similar feeling of anticipation. Before we finished our ice cream, I felt as if I was melting as we walked alongside each other. I remember his remark as we drove through the city that evening. “I feel as if I could drive for hours, even though I have a busy day at work tomorrow.” I never forgot that moment and how I felt the same. I could have stayed with him forever. This is how our love affair began.
I slipped into my dress. It felt tight and I needed someone to pull-up the zipper. There was no “Michael” to surprise with a spectacular debut of my outfit. There was no husband to zip me up—no husband to fasten the tiny clasp of my diamond pendant. No one there to tell me how pretty I look.
My girlfriend, Carolyn, came to the house to pick me up. She zipped me up for the extravaganza. “Hold your stomach in,” she commanded as I sucked in a mouthful of air. In front of the mirror, I twirled around, watching my skirt rise ever so slightly. I slipped on my two-inch heels and leaned down to buckle them. Smiling, I thought about Michael, hoping he caught a glimpse of his princess, hoping that he was watching me from above and smiling all the while.