Category: Grief

The dead room

‘An aged man is but a paltry thing, a tattered coat upon a stick.’ — W.B. Yeats

An elderly man lives alone in a bungalow in Upstate New York.

An old friend halfway across the world sends him an email, acknowledging the elderly man’s wife’s birthday in two days. His wife died four days before Christmas of a brain hemorrhage. They had been together for thirty-four years. The elderly man has no surviving immediate family.

The old friend ends the email with this one word: grim.

The elderly man (feeling. — shame on him! — particularly sorry for himself that day) replies:

I am aware. And on that day, just like every other day, I will be alone in this hovel without her. No one will phone and no one will ‘drop in’ since I have no friends here. My wife was my whole life. I will sit in a chair in a room outside the ‘dead’ room with this image of her sitting in her armchair in the former living room:



Guns & Ammo

Every night, four beers, three or four gins, bottle of wine, brandy at bedtime, topped off with a Xanax. That’s a lot of alcohol, man. You can’t get used to life without your wife. I understand that. She was your trusted friend and soulmate for thirty-four years. You could rely on her to stand by you no matter how messed up you were. Even when you were apart for periods of time you could always talk to her on the phone. And now you can’t even do that, you long to hear her voice, you sit in her armchair in the living room (now the deadroom), her ashes in a burgundy metal urn in a glassed-in section of the bookcase, and you talk to her photo on the mantel. You feel you can’t live another day in this house you both shared — you can no longer afford it for one thing. You’ve been looking for a cheap apartment but it’s so hard to find one that’s not a dump, besides which you can barely muster the energy or the will to get out of bed in the morning, let alone look for an apartment. You spent months looking for this house for your ailing wife and yourself, all the while staying in expensive weekly-rate motels, so you felt very lucky to find it, and you believed the two of you would live here until you died — which as sick as your wife was, you still thought you would die first, being six years older. The fact that you’ve got tens of thousands in unpaid medical bills (ambulances, hospitals, nursing homes, meds…) is a major complication. You say your hope now is on sale for $275 at the local Guns & Ammo. I trust that was your idea of dark humor. I will call you when I get back next week. Don’t do anything crazy now!

Your voice

For thirty years you were my support and my strength. I would rely on you in the most mundane of matters. In a grocery store, I would call you on the mobile phone and ask you something stupid like, The rice you wanted, there’s ten thousand varieties here, white rice, brown rice, Thai rice, Roma rice, bomba rice, jasmine rice, long grain rice, medium grain, short grain, and so on and so forth, and you would tell me which rice you wanted and I would proceed with the shopping.

When we were apart, for whatever reason — you in Michigan looking after your elderly mother, or me alone in a cabin in New Hampshire trying to come to grips with my son’s suicide — we talked on the phone every night, and I longed to hear your voice, and be encouraged by your strength, and heartened by the beliefs in your soul.

And now I don’t have that and will never have that again, and I don’t know how the hell to go on without it.