As each day goes by I sob with less frequency. Yesterday I only sobbed three times. Actually they were more like gentle cries - none of the big moaning sounds that were present just a few days ago and often made me wonder if I was disturbing the neighbors.
I am getting beyond the sorrow of Tad's death and slowly entering into the murky painful waters of his absence.
The first phase was more like a mild version of PTSD. For days I had flashbacks of his last few minutes, of him being carted out. I replayed those last 90 minutes of panic, then anger, then calm. Yesterday at the dentist's office I saw someone gag on one of those plastic sucking things they use to hose out fluids and suddenly felt a jolt as I remembered Tad coughing in my arms. At the doctor's office (yesterday was my big self-care health day) I saw an elderly man in a wheelchair struggle to get to the lab and remembered getting Tad onto the plane bound for Seattle.
The second wave of emotions is more of a longing ache, a gentle yearning. I find myself asking him out loud: "Tad where did I put my keys?" or "Tad help me understand why the cat is making that funny noise. What does she want?" or just looking at a photo of him and thinking "God I love you!".
With the ache also comes an element of relief. On my way back to his house in Santa Cruz after a full day in San Francisco I stopped to buy some take-away food in Silicon Valley at a market I know from Tad's Stanford days. I took a taste of the chicken Tikka Masala and had to have some. I found a spicy mandarin chutney to go with it. As I walked to the car I was aware that had Tad been there he would have turned his nose up and I probably wouldn't have bought it.
Perhaps this was co-dependency on my part. Perhaps I should have just eaten what I wanted whenever I wanted while he was still on the planet. But the more I thought about it the more it felt like the healthy concessions we make in order to nurture loving relationship. For us, marriage (or in our case non-marriage) was about knowing when to stick to our guns and when to find middle ground or simply let go entirely.
In the middle of my doctor-dentist day in San Francisco I suddenly felt absolutely and utterly exhausted. I felt like I hadn't slept in weeks. My dentist who is used to bubbly Greg couldn't get a word out of me.
It seems that right now the gentle slow pace of small-town Santa Cruz is more appropriate for my emotional and physical state.
My biggest struggle however is to not let my sadness be drowned out by fears about the future (the oldest neurosis in human history I do believe!).
In essence Tad's house is a sweet rental that is owned by a cooperative. All of the neighbors are homeowners and Tad was their tenant (imagine 90 landlords!!). Among Tad's many accomplishments is he managed to domesticate me! Over the years I agreed to get a vegetable plot through the city, a ginormous flat screen TV for the tiny living room, a water fountain for the precious flower-filled yard. As our love for one another deepened - then complicated by disease, caregiving and fear of death -- I spent more and more time in domestic Santa Cruz and less time in urban San Francisco. I literally go out back, lean over a picket fence and chat in the evenings with Ana, the sweet neighbor behind us.
Now that all the framework is still here but he is not I find myself in a terrible conundrum that haunts my sleep: how can I walk away from this beautiful nest we created? how can I put this carefully-designed, color-coordinated, heartfully-cherished household into a twelve by twelve storage unit until I have a better place for it all?
In an ideal world I would love to have both places. I would love to continue sharing my time between the urban stimulation of San Francisco and the sweet seaside sleepiness of Santa Cruz.
When I share this with friends the reply is systematic: Now is not the time to make big decisions. But at $1000 per month (or $33 per day) I feel like time is running out. Or rather, money is running out.
Part of me tells myself that this is just a game my brain is engaging in to play tricks on me. I've seen friends lose a parent and suddenly all they can talk about is money - far more than what is necessary. I can tell accounting is the best coping skill they can summon.
So is this whole thing a story I tell myself? Is this just another way for me to combat fear? Fear of the void? Fear of letting go completely? Fear of my own death perhaps?
I once heard a prayer I believe attributed to Rumi that reads something like this: "God help me to see that the snake I fear is simply a coil of rope and the treasure I seek is the necklace already hanging around my neck."
I woke in the middle of last night in a moment of calm and had the following thought: "Who doesn't dream of dying in his own bed while his beloved holds him tight whispering love to him through every pore of his body?"
I know I do.