Sunday, May 2, 2010

I Still Miss Someone

Oh, no I never got over those blue eyes
I see them every where
I miss those arms that held me
When all the love was there

I wonder if she's sorry
For leavin' what we'd begun
There's someone for me somewhere
And I still miss someone
-Johnny Cash

This is the hackneyed, banal way our lives (as we knew it) ended.

The loud knocking at the door, the sober faced cop.

"Are you the wife of Paul Dube?"
Me, swallowing, "Yes".
"The Paul Dube running the Granby Road Race today?"
This time I only nod, quiet fear beginning to take root.
"Ma'am, your husband has fallen. You'll need to go to the hospital."
"My God," I said, "is he okay?" And only this, as inadequate reassurance, "Hartford Hospital Ma'am, drive carefully, please."

What kind of mad optimism had me believe that a broken leg-surely all my healthy, athletic husband might have suffered-would lead itself to a revival within our home? That a deft blow of humility would cause a cease fire to the fighting between us? But driving to the hospital, a burgeoning hope had begun in me that God had found a way to intervene on our behalf.

We had been away that weekend, the kids and I, safely ensconced in the arms of my family. This is what I said to my husband, the night before he ran. "When this is over (his hunting for self, his navigating his own way), you'll have some making up to do!" Threatening, ugly. Hurting people hurt people. So waking the next morning, remorseful, what did I want more than anything? To cheer him on at that damn race.

In the name of full disclosure, I'm not the wildly confident sort. I've been in love twice in my life and neither one turned out so well, in the end. Paul had been a big surprise, oddly timed but so welcomed. And having waited impatiently for love to come, I was greedy for his attention, perpetually wanting more. In the beginning of our coupling, when affection was generously offered and given, all was well. But as love cooled some, Paul withdrew, taking with him the security of his promised devotion. I grew frantic, he felt threatened. He retreated, I invaded. And on and on and on it went.

So the morning of that race, after a two hour ride home, teeming with self talk and affirmations, I opted to attend my Y event instead. It was my leaning into independence, constructing some necessary emotional space. "It's time to take care of yourself!" I intoned with conviction.

And herein lies the self-accusation I sit with tonight, one year to the date of that wretched run. What if we had been there? Had we lined the streets, shoulder to shoulder against that encroaching evil, would our light have been enough to save him? As he ran, what would the image of his family have meant? Would the tangible reminder of all he had with us been enough to pull him back? Would we have tamed that irrepressible beast that bullied him to achieve and accomplish and push, at all costs?

Have you heard stories of people, one leg earthbound, one leg in the next place, recount a moment of floating above themselves? How they have listened to conversations they had no natural ability to hear? When I am angry (and yes, I am regularly angry now), I almost hope he was privy to that day in the ER. Pray he saw my face when the doctor told me she wasn't sure how much brain damage he had suffered. I want him to have been present to our kneeling prayers, us four, pleading his case before God. Hope he saw his brother breaking down at each tube that willed decay out of his body and the ones that crammed life back in. A road race? Surely there are more noble ways to die...

When death is hypothetical, every type of romantic idea is entertained. The posthumous arrival of anniversary flowers. Vivid dreams of answered questions. Signs, signs, everywhere! But the reality of death, at least as I've experienced it, is this: death is, above all else, deafeningly silent.

I miss him with a longing I am inept to describe here. I miss his voice. I miss his deep laugh. I miss his touch-the hand on my back, reassuring kind. I miss the 'We'll be down in the minute! We're talking about your Christmas presents!" kind, too. I miss every facet of our lives together. The emptiness he left behind is crushing.

Marriage is the stage upon which we act out our deepest fears. We choose (consciously or unconsciously) a cast of familiar characters who might redeem our childhood hurts. We carry into marriage unspoken expectations and grow weary when the partner we've chosen fails to heal us. Much of what we do, or how we do it, we cannot name at all, prone as we are to numbly stroll through life. The courage it takes to unearth the origin of these feelings and behaviors is treacherous business. Some of us, quite understandably, simply give up. But for those who choose to stay the course, we may find that more than understanding someone else, we finally unpack our own baggage, find our own selves. Only then, when we see clearly the extent of our own frailty and shortcomings, can we view with forgiveness the child of God who is our partner. With forgiveness comes freedom.

Ultimately, we got it right. I put aside who I wanted Paul to be to allow who he was to be enough. For eight weeks in that hospital room, I loved him purely, gratefully accepting what he could give in a way I wasn't able to before. And in return? He did as much as he was able: mouthing "I love you", resting his eyes on me until I turned away from the intensity of his stare. For a man who spent much of his life observing, I am certain he was able to see me through the eyes of ethereal understanding.

It isn't redemption. Eight weeks simply does not suffice. But like everything else, what's given must be accepted and made enough, if we are to survive at all.