Another rainy fall day. Turning colors on trees becoming more vibrant and worth a drive up the Peninsula to witness, but rain has dampened the leaf peepers’ enthusiasm today so I made an uneventful crossing to our mailbox, only to retrieve one thin piece of bulk mail, which I tossed into our waste bin on my way back into the house. Carol was fidgeting and thinking she was falling because her legs were dangling off the sofa. I repositioned her, and she is now lapsing into her afternoon drowse. I’ll take the opportunity to see what thoughts are looking for a way out of my mind..
My morning routine involves first seeing to Carol’s hygienic needs, then emptying the dishwasher, which I am trying to train myself to do the evening before, feeding and letting the dog out, and then preparing Carol’s breakfast, usually melon chunks or a banana, toast, a breakfast sausage, and her juice. When she is settled down from all of that, including encouraging her to swallow her morning meds, I go upstairs to shower and dress for the day.
That trip upstairs always brings a wave of sadness, nothing intense because it is replicated daily, but strong enough to remind me of how different my life, or should I say, our lives, have become. Entering our upstairs I cross the border into another country. Even the dog, who nearly always positions herself in my vicinity, seems to recognize that I am leaving our common living space and contents herself with settling on the first landing if she ventures up the steps at all. Only when I spend a decent interval in my office does the dog decide to figure out what has happened to me.
Granted all of that, our upstairs still forcibly reminds me of the then of our lives rather than the now. In our bedroom are our two dressers, and our two clothing closets. Because of the configuration of this room in our old farmhouse, there is not space for two night tables. The one we have, an antique little cabinet we purchased from the shop half way to town, sits between the bed and the doorway. Before I installed our set of cordless instruments, we only had one plug into a jack phone upstairs located in my office in the adjacent room. Since I was the usual phone answerer—probably because of my many years of having a phone on my work office desk—even before Carol’s deterioration, I positioned myself on the side of the bed nearest the doorway so when the phone rang, I would roll out of bed and stumble into my office to answer it. When we got the cordless phone, I put it on he nightstand next to my side of the bed.
For years it was thus, with Carol on the other side of the bed. We both liked to read at night, so I used the night stand to hold whatever book I was working through. Because there was no corresponding night stand on the other side of the bed, I put a short shelf over the headboard to hold Carol’s books. However, at the beginning of her difficulties, she began to experience trouble navigating from that side of the bed, around it, and then out the doorway, across the hall, to the bathroom.
As a result, we switched sides. I still answered the phone when necessary by reaching across her, but she piled her reading material on the night stand. Still sitting there is an issue of Scientific American, which every day as I sit on the bed putting on my socks reminds me again of the scope and variety of her interests, frankly a good deal wider than mine, although mine perhaps run a little deeper.
When I exit the shower, I take from the rack my towel. Her towel, now long unused, remains hanging on the rack. When I reach into the storage space a previous owner fashioned into a closet by installing shelves and folding doors in front of them, I see that my items are housed only on the top shelf while hers occupy the others. In the shower itself is the corner caddy on which standing upside down still is the bottle of her hair conditioner.
Its companion bottle containing the shampoo is now on a shelf in the downstairs bathroom near the couch in the living room. She had always taken very good care of her luxuriously thick hair, one of her most appealing features. The combination shampoo/conditioner set was of especially good quality, which I would order online as necessary.
That the two bottles are now divided upstairs and down, the latter being administered occasionally by one aide, the former not at all, underscores the then and now that we are living through.
Two bottles, one in each of the worlds, past and present.
The constant tug back and forth, the past muscling itself into our present.
For now, I would not have it any other way.