You came home at 6 p.m. You never did that, staying late at the hospital lab where you worked to research some blood test you couldn’t test when the lab work was done during the day. But that night, you did. I felt your fear and knew it came from the whiff of mortality.
I’d gone into surgery for a standard procedure and it went wrong, so wrong I almost died. You brought me home from the hospital when they finally released me and all the way home in the car, I watched you chew the inside of your cheek with anxiety.
The next day, you had to go to work, ironically in the same hospital I’d just left.
“Call me if you need me,” you said, as I lay in the bed while you sat on the edge.
“I will. Don’t worry.”
But you didn’t stand up. You took my hand. “Call me, okay.”
“Yes. I promise.”
You took the phone off the bedside table and put it on the bed next to my hand. You left me with water and a slice of toast, a sandwich for lunch, some juice, tea cooling in a mug. We kissed and you left.
I slept, went to the bathroom, drank the tea and nibbled some of the sandwich, went back to bed. Turned on the radio to listen to the daily chamber concert on CBC radio, but fell asleep, struggled out of bed around four, and tottered downstairs with a book. Fell asleep on the couch before the end of the first paragraph.
“Hi, I’m home.”
“What time is it?”
“Yeah. What do you want for dinner?”
My husband, the Ph.D. in chemistry, was no cook, and I wasn’t up to it.
He looked relieved. “Pizza?”
I’m not a big fan, but I needed to eat and struggled down two slices. Went back to bed and listened to him clattering about with the dishes in the kitchen, the sound of the TV turning on, the creak of the recliner rocker he sat in to watch TV.
He came home every night at six for almost a month. Tired of take-out, I got back into fixing dinner as soon as I could. When he saw that I was getting back to normal, he worked a little later, to six thirty or seven, then seven thirty or eight, eventually going back to his nine or ten routine.
Five months later, he dropped dead at my feet, the whiff of mortality full blown.