Grief stabs me at unusual times.
Just the other day, I was in the neighborhood Ralphs, which I’ve been visiting for more than 20 years since we moved to town. The store is closing this summer because it’s a low-volume store, and already it’s taken on a fog of sadness. I don’t shop here often anymore because I’ve found other stores that sell cheaper, and that’s why it’s closing. I cut through the frozen pizza aisle when it hit. Tom and I used to visit this aisle often on weekend nights after a movie. We’d get a frozen pizza and a chilled bottle of champagne and watch late-night TV. And I realize that we’ll never do that again.
Tom is still alive, but a year ago he suffered a debilitating stroke that put him in a nursing home. He is paralyzed on his right side and can’t walk, talk, read or eat — he’s fed through a stomach tube. We can communicate by yes and no answers. He can operate the TV remote control and that’s about it. This man I’ve been with since 1984 is not himself anymore, and I don’t think he’s happy about it, either. Sometimes I see the spark of his old self, when he grins after I crack a private joke. Sometimes he barely knows me. I want to share so many things with him, but his attention wavers after a few minutes, so we can’t share movies or TV shows, although every evening we watch “Jeopardy!” and sometimes he looks amazed when I pop up with an obscure fact.
I want my husband back, but that’s not going to happen. I want more from my life, but I will never let Tom go. I wish I could do more for him. This is the “in sickness” part of the wedding vows, and I’m here to stay.