I made a whole pot of coffee like usual this morning although I knew there would be only me. It's strange how a ritual settles us, normalizes our motions. My husband got the news yesterday that his grandfather had had a stroke, this one being more serious than the last couple. Papa, as my husband has always called him, is responding by the squeezing of hands, though his eyes remain closed. Upon hearing the news, I handed my husband the keys to the reliable car, set up the GPS on the center console, and put bottled water in the front seat for him to make the trip to Virginia. He stopped at a Wal-Mart on the way to buy lumbar support for his long-trip-aching-back. One of the nurses at the hospital was kind enough to make a call to a nearby hotel to get him a discounted room rate...can you imagine?
I unplugged the percolator after my customary cup-and-a-half, and noted the still-fullness of it as I carried it across the kitchen to its usual spot by the stove. I dressed my son for school, not insisting on a button-up shirt for him like usual. I let him choose his own, like my husband would have if he'd been here. I imagined what it would be like if my husband were no longer around...if this momentary lapse of his presence would turn into forever. It reminded me of when my mom died, and suddenly, there was just this absence. Coming home from the hospital on the day she died, there were still her slippers by the front door, her coat and hat hanging up, and a half-done word puzzle in an open Reader's Digest lying on the table right where she left it. If she had known that she was going to die in that hospital, would she have finished that word-puzzle, I wondered at the time. (I'll always wonder.) Long after, well even now, I get the sudden urge to pick up the phone and call her for a split second until I realize I can no longer do it. When I'm alone, I still talk to her sometimes, just in case she can hear. I ask for help a lot on matters that she would have known something about in her lifetime. Gardening, men, money. "Will I ever get back to Italy?" I ask her. I have the comfort of knowing that my husband is coming back tonight.
I took my son to school in my husband's truck, which used to be my truck, and before that, my mother's. She was always a "truck" kind of woman, and driving it now makes me feel close to her. My son love riding around in it because it symbolizes days out with just him and his dad, driving up to the mountains or to Chuck E. Cheese's to play skee-ball all afternoon. When I arrive back home, the dogs are elated as always. A comfort. They surround me at the door, whining and shaking their entire bodies in welcome. Can you imagine being this happy to see anyone after only fifteen minutes of being apart? I make myself a ham sandwich and give them the last bite as a just reward.
Now...now. That brings us up to the minute. I sit in my blog chair beside the fireplace, and it's quiet in the house. The dogs have found their spots to nap, and the only sounds are their soft breathing and the almost inaudible hum of my computer. If I give pause and listen, I can even make out the sound of the library clock above my mantle, ticking away the minutes.