When your life is suddenly emptied of children, you discover things you once knew, like quiet and simplicity and space, or that you never knew, like the way you and your husband, brought to tears in the kitchen while listening to a story, turn away instead of toward the arms of the person with whom you chose to share a life.
How had we never come upon this before, this mutual turning away? Shouldn’t it have been revealed over the course of thirty-something years, or at least in the decade before children?
I certainly knew that he turned away from me–think of the year my mother died during which I wrote the poem about the wallpaper and my wrist and the color red while the new baby nursed in the crook of my arm, and he went ahead and enrolled in that Masters Program after I’d asked him to wait. `
We have slept apart since the late August afternoon when we took that same baby to college. Most every night for more than a month now (after never before). Mainly because I’ve been sick. And Menopause. And the string of unusually sticky September nights. And the way he sometimes wakes to pee, not once, but twice, the floors creaking, me waking, at 4 or 3 or 2, up for the day no matter how much night remained.
Today was a bad day, a new regimen of treatment making me feel worse to feel better, and the heavy cloud cover with no promise of redemption of sun in the forecast; and when he arrived home late from work, he fixed himself some dinner and brought it to the couch where I had given up trying to write into that year with the wallpaper and was instead watching a documentary about Joan Didion who wrote into just about everything.
Her words brought us to tears from time to time and there it was again!—this turning away—this hiding our grief?—and yet didn’t we cry at the same places, and weren’t our hearts moved in the same way, and isn’t it unbearable to think that one day, he may be slumped in my arms, or I, in his, like her husband (and then daughter), forever. gone.
Little by little, in the empty spaces, we are finding what we once knew. Our two-ness.
It’s sprouting up like spring seedlings, promising something that is almost too painful to receive. This turning toward one another again, like this turning toward self again. In love.