The great thing about S. was that she loved the bum no matter what. He sometimes didn’t treat her as well as he should have (moods, stress, personal problems, and so forth), and even when they were apart for periods of times over the years, as when he rented a cabin in northern New Hampshire after the death of his son and lived there alone for many months, they’d talk on the phone every day and she was understanding and continued to stick by him (she flew up to Boston one holiday weekend and he picked her up at the airport and they drove three hours to the cabin).
And she never cared what he looked like, always accepted him as he was. She got him through all the bad times — hell, before S., he had a girlfriend in California who got so mad at him she threw his suitcase off the balcony of her sixth floor apartment — it busted wide open when it hit the ground, clothes went flying; another girlfriend before S. broke up with him on a bitterly cold New Years Eve outside Bloomingdales department store; and so on and so forth. But not S., never S. The foundation of their relationship was built on rock, unlike the relationship with the California girl that was built on sand, and the relationship with the Bloomie’s girl that was built on quicksand.
His one consolation after S. died was that he had looked after her during the last few years. She went through hell, four long stays in hospitals and nursing homes. He would help her shower, dress, walk, provide the meals, many other things to do with day-to-day living. He was a good caregiver, like his brother was to his own wife for several years when she came close to death a couple of times.
A few weeks before S. was taken to the hospital for the last time she said to him, I am so lucky to have you look after me, you’ve been good to me. And he said, And I’ll do it until the day I die. Being six years older he believed he would go first. But it wasn’t to be.
At the end, when she was on life support, he held her still-warm hand in his and talked to her about the good times, their visit to Australia and Europe and so many other wonderful times, and it’s possible, he was told, that she could hear him; and then her hand fell from his… the nurse removed the breathing tube…
It’s been a bad day, like all the days since she died, and now he goes to bed after several beers, rum, wine, brandy, and finally, Xanax.