This is my house. I call it a lowly bungalow. Sometimes I call it a hovel. But it’s my hovel.
Things go wrong, mostly electrical and plumbing malfunctions: the pump that raises water from the well, the water heater, the septic system. The plumber and I have become good friends. He still charges me a hell of a lot, however. But it’s worth it to live in a house, albeit a lowly bungalow.
For most of our life together, my wife and I lived in apartments and condos, suffering the noise and noisome behavior of neighbors on the other side of the walls or above the ceilings of our shoebox abodes.
You end up sharing your neighbors’ lives: you hear them arguing and yelling and going to the bathroom and you smell their cooking which is often a hideous stench. Not only is there no privacy in apartment living, there is no dignity. You wouldn’t want to be on your death bed amid such unpleasantness.
Six years ago my wife and I moved to the country, into this house, all that I could afford. My wife’s health had suffered a setback and it seemed beneficial to have our own home on a country road without neighbors clomping over our heads or racketing on the other side of the walls.
We lived in this house and fought the demons and the pain of her worsening illness. I was the caregiver and she the courageous and stoic sufferer.
The last three years were rough. She was sick unto death. Ambulances in the night, hospital stays and nursing homes became a regular routine. It was an ordeal for both of us. Tempers became strained.
One day, one week, it was hard to tell as time drifted in and out of a purple haze, she would tell me how lucky she was to have me look after her, and the next day or week or moment in hell she would tell me I treated her like shit. It went on like that.
And then it ended. That last ambulance. The claustrophobic room in Intensive Care. The deathly rhythm of the life support machine.
Every other time in the ICU, she was moved after a few days to the Step Down Unit and then some time later allowed to go home. But this time I came home without her.
And now I live in this house without her. Physically, I live in this house without her. I remember my body leaving that room in the ICU.
But I never left.