Many of you readers have asked me how Daddy-o is doing, and it fills my heart with so much gratitude and love that he’s on your minds. Frankly, he’s on mine, too. I know he’s trying to stay busy and being very brave through this whole business, but it hurts. When you’ve been married to someone for over 50 years, the sudden void feels mighty and crushing at times. Okay, a lot of the time.
Daddy and I talk about it, but it doesn’t make it go away.
We find that we miss her at different times of day. He misses her in the morning, when he used to creep down the stairs early in the morning and fetch her a glass of juice to drink before she got out of bed. She suffered crazy low blood sugar in the mornings and was notorious for jumping out of bed and promptly fainting, so the last few years, he’d been heading her off at the pass with some juice. She’d sip it, they’d talk about the day ahead or whatever was in the news, and after ten minutes or so, then get moving. Those first mornings without that little ritual were rough.
I miss her between 4 and 4:30 in the afternoon, when I’d make my daily phone call to check in. For over twenty years, I’ve automatically reached for the phone at that time of day. When I was younger, it was to talk about my day of teaching, what my high school students were up to, what plans I had for the weekend. After I was first married/a new mother, I called to lament a day filled with dirty diapers and spit up and crayons stuck up the nose and “Jesus, I can’t hear the theme song from Max and Ruby one more time.” As the girls grew, the conversation was more focused on what they were doing, what they were learning, what kind of people they were becoming. Sometimes there was hand-wringing, most times there was laughter, but always there was that connection…that openness of heart and words.
Now I call Daddy at that time of day, and it’s different, but it’s good. Whenever I used to call, if Daddy answered the phone, we’d chat for a bit but as soon as he could, he’d pass the phone to Mama, assuming that I was calling for her. And I guess I was. My father isn’t a man of many words. I must say, though, he’s getting pretty good at it. It’s actually pretty adorable–I can tell that he’s reading the news and tucking little bits and pieces of his day away, so when I call, we have things to talk about. If I’m honest, I’m doing that, too. I could just bitch and moan to Mama over the phone for hours, but I’d like to do a little better by my father right now.
The time he misses her most, though–and God, I hate this–is when he sits down to eat a meal. At an empty table.
An empty table is a very lonely thing.
It’s not something you ever plan on happening to you. Until it does.
He isn’t fixing a ton of meals for himself, although he’s proud that he’s learning to master the Art of Microwave and assemble a proper salad, and I’m proud of him for that, too. He usually eats one meal a day–his main meal, usually lunch–at a restaurant. He’s quickly become everyone’s favorite customer. He’s got quite a way with the ladies, my Daddy-o. I’ve never seen so many waitresses scramble to fill a water glass in my life. When I’m lucky enough to join him, it makes me happy that he’s out of the house and at least eating in a place that bustles with human activity. Even when he dines out alone, he says it’s okay. He doesn’t feel so alone, because it’s noisy. There’s a lot going on.
It’s those Goddamn solitary salads and ham sandwiches at an empty kitchen table that get him. They get me, too.
Meals are meant for conviviality; the table is a place to gather at the end of the day, with people you love. A homecoming. A back-together-Hey-how-was-your-day kind of thing. I don’t like the idea of him sitting alone.
If I had my way, Daddy-o would pack up his things and stay here for a while, where it’s crazy and raucous and there’s always a kid or an animal underfoot, but he’s stubborn. I try to bring up the topic of moving closer, but he’s stubborn about that, too.
He likes his house and he likes his routine and he’s German, dangit, so convincing him to change is an uphill affair. I’m trying to find a balance between pushing him and honoring his wishes. It’s awkward for all of us. We have no idea what we’re doing; all we know is that we’re hurting. And that we have to muddle through.