The cold nights are long. Cocktail hour begins at four o’clock. Just me and the cat. As it has been for two years and eleven months. Nothing has changed.
Like Billy Pilgrim, I have become unstuck in time. Billy kept going back to the 1945 allied fire-bombing of the German city of Dresden in World War II. My flashbacks are to a room in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital in Poughkeepsie, New York.
A grossly self-centered and wanton analogy, one might say, comparing the slaughter of 25,000 people to the death of a wife.
I totally agree. But the Dresden horror was before my cognitive time, hence it is an abstract in my mind, something I read about but never experienced, as Kurt Vonnegut did, and wrote about in Slaughterhouse Five.
Death is relative, and singularly felt, whether it’s the death of thousands or the death of one. The thousands were unknown to me, and although I sense the hideous tragedy and the huge sorrow, the feeling is still an abstract. The death of my wife was real.
I think people can only really and truly feel a death that they witness or which personally rips their heart. All others remain sad and tragic stories. But when the monitor flatlined in that room in the ICU on December 21st, 2018, it was real.
Over the past thirty-five months the reality slowly became surreal and then unreal, but the flashbacks to the reality continue and hit without notice. BAM! Back in the ICU. No Step Down Unit this time.
In each of the previous seven hospitalizations over the last three-year period of her illness, my wife would get well enough to be moved from Intensive Care to the Step Down Unit, a wonderfully named part of the hospital that meant she was a step closer to being released. Closer to going back home with her husband.
But not that last time. That last time I went home without her, and the cold nights are long. But not as cold and dark as the eternity that claimed my wife.