My Friend, Lover, and Wife, ArlenebyPositiveThinker©
We never celebrated Valentine's Day in the way that others did. It was no big deal to us. It was no different than any other day. We didn't need a special day to encourage and remind us to celebrate our love. Happy to have found one another so early in life and thrilled to still be together after all the adversity in our lives, every day was Valentine's Day to us.
We didn't need to exchange a card that had a cookie cutter sentiment written by someone from Hallmark; we lived the real thing. Besides, as far as we were concerned, hearts, candy, and flowers have little to do with the ills, heartaches, and headaches of life. We were more realistic to know that life wasn't as sweet as a chocolate covered cherry and even the most beautiful rose dies. At least for us, life more resembled a hit to the balls or a swift kick in the ass than a gentle caress and a long, wet kiss. Yet, when life knocked one of us down, we had the other to help us back up.
We knew how we felt about one another because we told one another all the time without a lot of fanfare and false bravado. Not too proud and/or embarrassed to share our feelings, we just said how we felt whenever we felt it. We lived our love daily and not yearly on a holiday created by someone who just wants to sell flowers and candy.
Love at first sight we believed, even though we had known one another three years when we first met in '65 and quickly became friends before becoming lovers. I was in love, puppy love, with her best girlfriend, Ilene, and she was in love, puppy love, with my best friend, Jerry. I talked about her friend to her and she talked about my friend to me, much in the same way that Miles Standish asked John Alden to help him win Pocahontas.
We asked one another to intercede on our behalf to help connect with the one we thought we wanted. We should have known better. What did we know? All we knew was that the four of us we were friends, best friends, who trusted one another with all of our secrets. We didn't know that our plan would backfire on us.
We were just teenagers, barely 18-years-old. Then, prophetically her girlfriend rebuffed me on Valentine's Day and my friend rebuffed her on the same day. It shouldn't have been such a shocking surprise when Ilene and Jerry ended up together, but it was. It was devastating to Arlene and me at the time. Only, things happen for a reason and sometimes, without realizing it, when left to fate, they work out better than we had hoped for originally.
It was then that we found ourselves together on a park bench wondering what happened while commiserating our misery. Along the way, getting to know one another better without realizing it and without being nervous about it, as I would have had I been with her girlfriend and she would have been had she been with my friend. We were just talking, yet we were already so comfortable with one another, that the bond that suddenly bloomed was natural and easy. Our talking turned from complaining to laughing and our mood turned from misery to happiness. The immediate spark that ignited the feelings of passion, desire, and love, was strong enough to continue to burn and maintain the warmth we felt for one another for the next four decades.
Always having talked as friends before, this time was different. This time our discussion was deeper and more sensually serious. Because of the hurt we both felt being rejected; we talked more openly about love, relationships, and what we each wanted in a lover and expected from life. We sat on that bench and talked for more than three hours. Later in life, to forever commemorate that special day, I gave her a gold charm bracelet that had a park bench charm attached.
We both believed that it was important to become friends before becoming lovers. Knowing your lover as a friend first removes the proud illusions and false pretenses that you give and may have about the person. Going into it with eyes wide open without the silly games, we weren't as blinded by love of one, after already having seen the foibles of the other.
Even without having that giddy, starry-eyed feeling, there was still plenty of magic remaining when we fell in love with us being friends first. Moreover, being friends already, our blossoming relationship felt deeper and more meaningful, than it would have ordinarily when first beginning a new relationship. Rather than it being a physical attraction with our emotions so close to the surface, it was much deeper than that.
As our friendship grew and our love relationship morphed into a relationship of co-dependency, we were less apt to question and rethink our decision later, especially when we started considering marriage. Once we saw one another standing at the altar, being friends first quickly warmed the cold feet we normally and admittedly had when walking down the aisle.
In our situation, fate, no doubt, played a heavy hand in bringing us together on, of all days, February 14, 1968. In was on that park bench that we fell in love. It started with a first kiss that lasted nearly 40 years of kissing, holding hands, and being in love. Never had I kissed anyone like that before or since. It was magical. It was electric. I heard bells and she confessed that she did, too.
Forty years is a long time. Forty years is a lifetime of memories for most. Only, forty years wasn't enough time for us and not nearly enough time for me. Where did that time go? Sometimes seeming so unbearably long when we were going through tough times, now looking back, our time together streaked by faster than a rocket heading for the stars.
As it so happened, I needed her more than she needed me and I can see that now. Even though on the surface I was the big, strong guy with muscles, she was stronger inside where it counted and when it was needed. Decisive and levelheaded, she was smarter than me, too.
Tragically, our love affair ended abruptly when she suddenly took ill and died. Just as I was glad she didn't linger and suffer, I was sad that she was gone so fast and without me having the chance to say good-bye.
"Good-bye," but I can't just say good-bye.
I've thought about what I would have said had I had more notice of her departure from this Earth and had I had more time, only I come up blank. There are no words to explain what she meant to me, just as there are no words to explain how I feel now that she's gone. Instead of thinking about something prophetically appropriate, I just get sad and start crying.
How can I possibly say good-bye to the woman I've shared so much of my life? How can I say good-bye to the mother of my children? Good-bye is so final. Good-bye is forever. How can I say good-bye to her? Saying good-bye to her is like saying good-bye to me. I didn't want to say good-bye, but I had no choice in the matter and it was a mute point anyway. Out of my control to make her stay, she's gone.
When she died, God took the real essence of what we were together and what we meant to one another and left me, the empty shell of a weak man, who is now alone, angry, depressed, and tired, too tired to care about anything else other than the misery that I feel with the loss of her. I don't want to live without her, but I must. We have two kids. It's funny how they'll always be kids and I'll always think of them as toddlers roaming the house and getting in trouble. It doesn't matter that they are both married and have children of their own. They'll always be babies to me.
What would I have said that I didn't say to her in forty years? Feeling sorry for myself instead of fully understanding what she was going through and what she was feeling, I probably would have said nothing. I probably would have held her hand and cried, as I do now when thinking about her. Instead of thinking of so many things that I could have said and wished I said to sooth her in her time of need; I remember all the things she said to me. She was wise in her advice, just as she was calm and non-judgmental in her delivery of it. She made her good ideas and common sense values seem like mine, thereby allowing me to adopt them without argument and without feeling controlled by her, which in fact, obviously, I was and needed to be.
Her voice and her quiet strength is now my conscience. Yet, in hindsight, there was so much that I needed to say that I didn't say in the forty years I knew her, but I never thought of any of those things while she was still alive. It took her to die for me to take notice and it took her to die for me to think about what it was that I would have said, should have said, and needed to say to put me at peace now. Taking what we had for granted, I guess I thought we were going to live forever. She was feeling good one day and dead the next. Just as life is funny like that, death is final like that, too.
Now, that she's gone and now that I've had the time to think, I'd tell her that I'm sorry for all the times I lied to her. I couldn't lie to her anyway. She saw right through me. I'd tell her I'm sorry for all the times I hurt her. I hurt thinking about all those times I made her cry. I'd tell her I'm sorry for all the times I cheated on her.
Looking to eat out whenever the opportunity presented itself, I was such a fool not to realize that I was out looking to eat fast food when I had a full course meal, a banquet, and a feast at home. I'd tell her I'm sorry for thinking that I was better than her. She allowed me to think that I was and I should have known better, as I do know now.
I'd tell her I'm sorry for wasting her life with the sad excuse of mine. She lived her life how I should have lived mine with love, forgiveness, and compassion. I'd tell her I'm sorry that I was so weak that I needed the empty and bitter fool's strength found in alcohol. She found her strength from within and from God. She didn't need any other stimulants than that.
I'd tell her I'm sorry that I was an unhappy and a mean drunk. Unlike me, she didn't need to drink to be happy or to find peace when numb or false courage from the bottle. I'd tell her I'm sorry and I'd ask her to forgive me.
Only, I wouldn't even have to ask her forgiveness. She harbored no malice or resentment against me. She loved me. For better or for worse is what she believed. For better or for worse is how she lived. Without regrets and without cheating, she played those cards that were dealt to her. She made lemon meringue pie from lemons, scrambled eggs from broken eggs, and chocolate pudding from spilt milk. When I saw the bad in people, when I saw the bad in every situation, she only saw the good. She saw the glass as half full, even after I drank it all.
In that regard, I got the best of her and she got the worst of me. She truly loved me. I can see that now that she's gone and now I'm still here to suffer the struggles of life without her by my side helping and supporting me, as always she did. It serves me right. I should have seen it coming, but I didn't. I was too busy thinking of myself.
I never considered her not being here with me. I never thought of a life without her until she was no longer there. The things I took for granted and the people I didn't appreciate, life is filled with challenges and I didn't even know that I was being challenged, until I was singled out and confronted by my personal tragedy with the death of her.
Oh, woe is me; I know I'm full of self-pity; I'm good at that. Pity gave me plenty of reason to drink, but not the strength to stop. She could handle anything, even the death of me. I know that, but I couldn't handle the death of her. I wasn't as strong a person as she was. I was weak and the death of her feels so much like the death of me. Even though I'm breathing, I may as well be lying beneath six feet of dirt with her.
The doctors said she was fine and well enough to come home. They said she was in remission, the closest thing to being cured today. What did they know? They don't know anything. They lied to us because they needed her bed for someone else who had insurance and who could afford to pay their inflated costs for around the clock care and inflated costs that charged $200 for an aspirin.
She died in her sleep of a blood clot to her brain the first night she was home. Maybe, had she still been in the hospital and under doctor's care, they would have detected it and it may not have happened at all. It was somehow symbolic that she died on Valentine's Day, the same day we first kissed. My life, my love, and my heart died that day, too. Just as it fatefully began so quickly, it abruptly ended. A bittersweet romance that lasted nearly forty years, I should be thankful and rejoice and celebrate her life. I should take comfort in the fact that we had one another for such a long length of time, instead of feeling sorry for myself, as I do.
Yet, I know I said it before, but it is worth repeating. Forty years wasn't enough time for us and not nearly enough time for me. She's gone, just like that. Here one day and gone the next. Truly, I thought she'd be okay. They assured me that the surgery went well and her cancer was in remission. Only, they lied to me. They knew, surely they knew, that she wasn't ready to come home, just yet. If only she stayed another day. If only they cared for her just for one more day.
I still can't believe it. I still can't fathom the fact that she's gone...forever. Everything stopped when she died. Nothing is the same. This house is different without her touch. It's too quiet without her laughter. Everything feels empty. Much like the static that you hear when everything is so quiet, too quiet, that's my life now. Now the tortuous ticking of the clock is the stark and constant reminder how quickly time passes and how I can never recapture that second that just ticked.
Even the cat and the dog are mourning her loss. They just hang out together, never leaving the other alone. Animals know. They go out together and come in together and rest in the same sunny spot on the couch. Never together before and always avoiding one another, they are always together now. As if they somehow know that if they separate, like me and Arlene did when she went in the hospital, one or the other would be gone, too.
Tick, tick, tick, it's just crazy when I think about all the time I wasted. If I knew my life would be like this now without her in it, I would have lived it differently cherishing every moment I had with her, as if it was the last, but I didn't know. I would have held her tighter. I would have been a better man and a better husband. How could I have known? I'm such a stupid man. I've wasted my life on alcohol and on friends who really didn't give a care about me, just about how much money I had in my pocket to buy them their drinks at the bar.
My friends, those that I have still have after ridding myself of the drunks; want me to sue the doctors for misdiagnosing her and lying to us. My family wants me to sue the hospital for sending her home too soon. Everyone wants me to sue the insurance company for not approving more coverage for the medical care she obviously needed.
Pre-existing conditions, experimental medicine, and arbitrary caps put on our inadequate medical coverage that cost too much to begin with, they had every excuse not to give her the care that she needed for her to live longer. They'd rather that she and everyone around her suffer than to have their profit margin and their resulting bottom lines suffer. They don't understand until it happens to them and until it happens to someone they love.
What comes around goes around and I don't want to sue anyone. I don't want that bad Karma coming back at me and/or my family. Their money is dirty and I don't want any of it. I don't want to ruin the memory of her with lawsuits, lawyers, and courtroom trials. What dignity I didn't give her in life, I can now give her in death.
Had they met her, they may have reconsidered her long-term care. Had they spent as much time as I spent with her, they may have realized how important she was to me, to our children, and to everyone who knew her. Even though she was my wife, my partner, and my best friend, she wasn't a person to them. She was just a number and now she's gone.
"Wake up, sleepy head," I said entering the bedroom. "Happy Valentine's Day. C'mon, get up. It's after ten. I cooked you the only thing I know how to cook, toast," I said with a chuckle. "I'm sorry I burnt it a little, but I scrapped off the burnt part before applying the butter and strawberry preserves, your favorite."
I made a red heart with the jelly. I knew I'd get a smooch when she saw that. Only, I wondered why she didn't chuckle back. She was quick witted and always said something to make me laugh. She couldn't still be sleeping. Was she mad at me? What did I say now? I was always saying something without thinking first. I was always blurting out something stupid. Sometimes, I was so insensitive and I'm sorry for that, now. I wish I could tell her that I'm sorry for whatever it was I said, only, I don't remember what it was I said.
"Hey, Arlene. C'mon, sleepy head. Wake up? Are you mad at me? What did I do now? What did I say wrong? C'mon, it's Valentine's Day. Happy Valentine's Day. Get up."
I remember she looked like she was sleeping. She looked at peace. Only, she looked pale and she was cold to the touch. I couldn't awaken her this time. I had made her breakfast, coffee and toast, and delivered it to her, when she still hadn't come downstairs at the stroke of 10am.
A woman who never slept past 7am, it never occurred to me that she was dead. I figured she was exhausted from her hospital stay and from all the early appointments, medical treatment, and endless blood tests that she had undergone over the past few months. I was happy to allow her the time to sleep. I was just thrilled she was home, especially on this special of all days.
She was home now and we could resume our talks, continue our arguments over what are recognized Scrabble words, and laugh while trying to help one another with clues to the daily crossword puzzle. I was just so happy to have her home. I never knew how much I missed her until she wasn't there and until she was in the hospital and I was home alone and sad and depressed.
Now, she's gone and gone for good. She left me behind. She assured me that she wouldn't. Not that I expected her to take me with her, but with the way that I abused my body, I expected I'd be the one who went first.
With the death of her, except for the cat and the dog, I have no one to watch television with and comment on about the old movies that we watched together while cuddling on the sofa under the blanket. Sometimes, she'd let me get frisky with her and I'd stick my big hand in her bathrobe or housecoat and play with her big tits before she tired of my game and slapped my hand away. She remembered all the names of the movies and all the names of the actors. I'd just remember that I know it's a movie that I liked, especially after remembering when she told me which one it was that I liked. She knew me better than I knew her.
She was the one who caught me up on all the neighborhood gossip. I don't talk to the neighbors much any more. I hardly go out, except to work and back. I'm diabetic with a bad heart and the cold air gives me horrible chest pain.
In the way she got along with all the neighbors and opened our house to friends and relatives, I don't have that resource, now. I don't have her. She's gone and my references are gone with the death of her. I spent much of my life pickling my brain with copious amounts of Jack Daniels with Budweiser chasers. She was my memory. Yeah, she was my librarian. She was the key to unlocking my past and the keeper of my life. I'm lost without her.
What am I to do now? She's irreplaceable. There's no one else like her. Losing her is like losing a part of me. All my history is gone. Now, I'm only left with my convoluted memories. She had all the good memories. She was the good cop and I was the bad. For some reason, I only remember the bad times. She was the positive one and I was the negative one. She was my Yin and I was her Yang.