My darling, sweet, capable, smart, funny, husband and love of my life died on February 17, 2012. He was young. His heart, his lungs, his muscles, bones and spirit were strong. It was his brain that succumbed to cancer and all other strengths fell in line behind the brutal dictator, Glioblastoma.
In the process of grieving we walk alone. If we are lucky, as I am, we have friends and family in which we find respite along the long isolated road but our particular grief, that is singular to each of us, can be carried by ourselves only.
Throughout the past eight months one of my “happy places” has been home design. When I felt like there was too much to cry for, when I feared I might be swept away by the sorrow I found comfort in brilliant light fixtures, bright colored accents and rugs! Oh my, rugs! I began to allow myself an indulgence that I have done my best not to feel guilty about but any of you who have been with someone for a good chunk of time and have had to enter into interminable negotiations about home design decisions will understand the little giggle that comes with “I could totally paint the living room fuchsia!”
My husband has always been lightly, shall we say, fixated on possessing certain objects or seeing ideas through to completion. It had at times been a little annoying but for a gal whose father left peat moss throughout the living room for months on end as he slowly transplanted ficus trees, having a guy who believed in “getting things done!!” was a comfort. Slowly, at an imperceptible rate, his tendency to fixate escalated to disquieting proportions.
One of his obsessions became the set of stairs that connects our two-car garage to the first floor of our house. It is an awkward entry with little room to move. I should clarify, for me it was awkward. Our adorable, exuberant and you don’t know me well enough yet to stomach my bragging but perhaps, in time you will and will forgive my exuberance, all round awesome daughter, would be at my feet trying to push by me. My arms were inevitably filled with my daughter’s backpack, various bags containing groceries etc and a ridiculously large purse. He’d arrive home alone, empty handed burdened only with a wallet in his back pocket, kick off his work boots and voila, he’d arrived! What could be easier?
Here in lies the rub. The stairs were covered in carpet, white carpet and Roger became bahnannahhhhs about keeping that carpet clean! I tried to explain my plight. The tight space, the groceries, etc. It also didn’t help that most my favorite footwear seems to require both hands to unlace, unbuckle or unzip. Getting up the stairs, and dropping the bags was necessary. Yes, I could have always just worn the clogs that I got while I was pregnant so I wouldn’t have to bend down but let’s face it those shoes look like a pair of baked potatoes and since the age of 18 I’ve been too old for them to look ‘ironic’! One has to draw a line somewhere!
What started with his occasional grumble about not taking off our shoes in the garage, became huffing exhales and all out arguments. I kept saying, “This isn’t about the carpet!” He said, “It absolutely is!!!!!” He was grumpy, controlling and impossible to please. He also started having headaches.
We were nine years into the marriage and fourteen years into our relationship and I just thought, well I guess this is the phase when he falls out of love and into profound annoyance with much of what I do/am. It hurt.
When on Tuesday, August 30th I arrived home in the middle of the day to find him in bed in unspeakable pain we went to the ER. They found “a mass.” Brain surgery four days later. Two and a half weeks after that, diagnosis and devastation.
On the day he died, Roger’s brothers, one brother’s partner and my mother all gathered at our house. My brother’s partner, a fantastic chef, cooked for us and we sat together in Roger’s memory. We ate, we cried and we managed even to laugh. We had the most remarkable conversation that speaks to the kind of light and intimacy that can only break through in such momentous, terrible times. One of the topics we discussed was the fact that one brother had heard at length about the white carpet on the stairs. Two and a half years ago Roger began complaining about it at work.
Within days, I had decided. I was going to build a mudroom. Roger and I had talked a lot about how to resolve the white carpet conundrum. An area in the garage with hangers and cubbies would be great but with two cars, there was no room. Well, there was now only one car and with a loose plan and the help of my daughter, we began.
A couple of weeks later….
I smile every time I use the mudroom. I want him to know that I heard him, that I felt his deep, deep maddening frustration, that I now see how, as his life spun horrifyingly out of control it was just so much easier to concentrate on something concrete and seemingly simple. Carpet.
…And a funny thing also happened; I found a little piece of myself in the process. I felt a small glimmer of happiness in its creation. It was… fun.