I’m about to break a promise…sort of, which I made to my wife a few months ago. She asked me to refrain from writing about her, and us, for internet publication. But I knew what she meant by that. She didn’t want our personal conflicts out “there”, which hardly exist, anyway. And what little of that there is will remain private. But while she’s in Germany visiting family, I’m going to do something I think would please her.
I am going to tell you why I love my wife…so completely, I would shatter if she died.
I know. I shouldn’t be thinking about death, that she will someday leave me. Or that I will leave her. But I am. I’ve reached the age where loved ones are dying around me. And I’m watching the people left behind, of which I am one. And we older ones, who are feeling the loss, are now hearing the proverbial ticking clock.
As I said, my wife is in Germany. She’s visiting her family. She makes the trip twice a year, three weeks each time. And while she’s away, I revert to the way I was before we met – a man living alone with time to think and no distractions. And I keep the house the way I want it. Just like I want it. No arguments about what goes where or how hot and cold the rooms should be. And yet, with all this freedom, I’m missing all the things that bug me about the kindest, most generous and compassionate friend I’ve ever had. And will ever have – my wife.
So I miss the dish rags she keeps in the sink, which I’m sure are bacteria hotels waiting to infect me. I miss her shoes scattered near the bed which I collect before our house keeper comes to clean. I miss the way she interrupts me after she’s asked me how my day has been, because a thought burst into her mind which she can’t wait to share. I miss the times she tells me my hair is too long and that I’d look younger if it were cut back to an inch. I miss her concern about her weight, and now mine. I miss her shopping for me, even though I constantly tell her, “Please! I don’t need anything.” And she counters with, “Your shirts looks shabby.”
I miss her spontaneous decisions to “tidy” my office and desk drawers, which drives me into rage when I can’t find my things and I consider divorce. I miss her war with cell phones and how she tortures them by dropping those devices into toilet bowls when she bends to flush, or inadvertently puts them through our washer’s spin cycle inside the pockets of her jeans.
I miss hunting for our cordless phones which she leaves hidden in the house under towels or pillows or yesterday’s mail.
But I also miss the good stuff: my clean underwear and socks finding their way back to my drawers because she put them there, her show-and-tell stories where she gets so excited she can’t finish a sentence, her frustration over the state of our country and her fear that we’ll lose more of it’s freedom. And I miss her beading hobby and the necklace gifts she makes for friends, and her infinite desire turn me “preppy” and wear bland, V-neck sweaters and beige chinos, and oxford shoes.
I miss her inability to read my sarcasm as humor, even after thirty-six years. I miss her nightly reminders to lock up the house and turn on the alarm. “It’s the husband’s job,” she tells me, as well as taking out the garbage, watering the lawn, grilling outside and writing her business letters.
I miss the way she acts like my nurse when my body’s in pain, because she IS a nurse, registered in three countries. I miss her constant counseling, “Stop writing about sex. People will think you’re repressed.”
I miss her gentle reminders to reduce judgments and to accept people the way they are. I miss her weekly shopping sprees, and my question that follows them, “Do we really need that?” And I miss her answer. “It’s not for us. These are presents.”
I miss her panicked call to me when she can’t get her Mac Book to log on to The Huff Post. I miss serving her breakfast in bed each morning before work, even though I HATE sleeping on toast crumbs!
I miss when she hogs the mattress space on the elfin antique bed we’ve been sharing since 1975. And I miss her smile when I come home from work. And the hug. And the kiss.
I miss shuffling her cards for solitaire because she never learned how, nor does she want to, because my mixing she says, improves her score.
I miss holding her hand in bed while watching a DVD film. And I miss the way she always falls asleep at the third act climax.
But most of all, I miss HER.
Right now, she’s away. And yes, in a week she’s coming home. But there will be a time when she won’t, when she can’t, when her body finally betrays her, as mine will too. That day one of us will have to leave first. And thinking about that makes me sad.
My wife has been sick with one malady or another all through her life. She was a war baby in Europe, and grew up hungry while playing in the bombed out wreckage of apartments and churches. Her father was a Lutheran minister who was imprisoned by the Nazis for speaking out against Germany’s inhumanity against the Jews, against the world. After months in jail he was sent to the front and served as a non-combat communications officer. At the end of the war, when Germany surrendered, he had to trek back to Berlin from Italy, on foot, alone. Germany’s capital had been fire bombed and it took him weeks to find his wife and two daughters. Following the war the family struggled to survive on Care packages from the US. Maybe some were sent from my parents. Or yours.
Twenty-five years later my wife came to America, and again we united. I say again, because from the moment we met, we knew we had been friends before. So it seemed only appropriate that with the passing of three weeks, we decided to wed.
Now, many years later, my wife lives her days dealing with medical conditions. Not every waking moment, but enough so that we can’t forget she needs continued treatment and doctor’s supervision. Sometimes that gets depressing. And when it does, she predicts she will leave first. Perhaps sooner than later. And she reminds me that I must prepare for that, and live each day to its fullest while we still have each other.
But I can’t prepare for that. Life without her would not be life at all. I will crumble.
So we have shared another vow, and just recently. Whoever leaves first will wait for the other. And then somewhere, someplace else, our breakfasts in bed will continue.
THAT is one promise, I will never break.