The Persistent Past

Wednesday night after a busy day, starting with my going to town for regular blood work while neighbor Wendy stayed with Carol. While I was out, the podiatrist visited to cut Carol’s toenails, and then after I returned Hanna arrived for her weekly visit.

 Carol is still in her chair, and I will need to move her to the bed in a a little while, so I will just get something started.

I sleep on the couch near Carol’s bed.  Every morning I go upstairs to shower and change my clothes for the day.  I have been doing this for quite some time ever since Carol was no longer able to climb the stairs and we were both sleeping on the couch before I ordered the hospital bed for her.

As routine as this trip upstairs has become, my sensibilities are still shocked, like a splash of cold water in my face, as the reality of the fact that never again will we share that bedroom while it remains exactly as it was before.  Carol’s robe, which she no longer wears, is still on the hook on the door to the peculiar little closet that has been carved out of a corner of the room.  Next to her dresser, neatly sitting on the floor, are her winter boots, and next to the bed, her slippers, pink like the robe for which it was bought as part of a set.

I could go on and catalogue other item from our previous lives together in that room, but the point simply is that the room looks exactly as it used  to.


The bathroom the same. I have not removed her towel from the towel rack, or the economy size load of her Q tips from the shared closet that served as our medicine chest, or the glass bottle, sitting on a shelf across from the sink, blown by her former boyfriend, a relic of a failed relationship that we rarely discussed.

The entire upstairs is like a museum.  To remove any object would be, it seems to me, a desecration.

A start.  The well is dry for now.

Tuesday night after a day that began with some good news.  An editor at a university press whom I queried a couple of days ago about Carol’s story collection wrote to say she would take a look at it.  These days even getting one foot in the door is difficult.  I have no doubt the collection is well worth publishing, and hope this editor agrees.

Besides acting as Carol’s agent, I’ve been spending more time pursuing my own writing career, sending out queries for my unpublished work and also writing columns for my new once a month–soon to be twice a month–responsibility.  This is healthy for me.    I loved teaching, got satisfaction as an administrator, but at the core I saw myself as a writer who did other things to pay the bills.

In my last writing session I was riffing on my two bedrooms: the one Carol and I used to share, and the makeshift sleeping arrangement now in the living room.  Going into our former marital bedroom for fresh clothes draws me back to what is lost.  That motion is constant like the tide on a beach working its way up the sand before withdrawing again, the back and forth repeated endlessly.

That might work for the tide, but it’s not a comfortable way to live.  I need to feel something that represents movement away from that dip into the past upstairs and the return to the present downstairs  every day.  The same back and forth holds true for the times I work in my office next door to our bedroom where my new desktop beckons although I do most of my writing and other computer work on my laptop while sitting in my armchair across from Carol’s bed.

My life as a writer provides that forward thrust away from the untenable past.  True, it is an element from that past but continuing it now is like walking away from that beach, perhaps after spending time in the ocean waves.  You can’t stay in those waves.  You either let them drown you, or your break away from them.

Focusing on writing, both producing and marketing is a way for me to free myself from the clutches of the pull between the present and the very intense connection to the past.

I don’t at all regret or resent assuming my caregiving responsibilities and intend willingly to continue them as long as my strength permits me.

But I do not want to lose myself in them.

Sunday night approaching midnight.  In the absence of Masterpiece Theater for my usual television viewing I watched a football game.  Having played some football myself, and having been a lifelong fan, I can watch any game that is competitive enough to hold my interest.

Yesterday evening as we ate supper, the radio, as usual, was tuned to the Interlochen station.  As is inevitable this time of year, that station’s programming was immersed in the holiday season.  However, the program that came on as we ate offered an interesting variation by presenting an hour of Hanukkah themed music, even though that holiday had already come and gone.  What made hearing that music yesterday at dinner a little odder was the fact that during the afternoon I had retrieved the miniature artificial Christmas tree, strung wit blue lights, that we have had for at least twenty years.  I can pin its age to that minimum with assurance because one of its ornaments, fashioned by our daughter, is dated 1998.

Our piano sits at the intersection of our dining room and living room.  The radio had been on one side of the instrument closest to the living room.  I moved it  to the side of the piano farthest away from the living room so I could place the tree on its spot.  I plugged in the lights and after lunch wheeled Carol over to the tree so she could see it, and she responded with an appreciative smile.

So, last night at supper, the radio playing Hanukkah themed klezmer music was on one side of the piano while the little Christmas tree with its blue lights was on the other.

A perplexing, almost jarring juxtaposition of the two traditions to which neither of us adhered with much intensity.

And a not unpleasant intrusion of the past, an idea, perhaps, worth exploring in more significant ways looking toward the future.

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