The truth is…I didn’t even notice that it was June 30th until lunchtime today, when someone made an offhand comment about it being the last day of June. The last day of June was the last day of my old life, the last day that had an hour in it when the man I loved wasn’t dying of leukemia. June 30, 2004 was the last day I woke up next to Richard without having cancer lying between us.
His diagnosis was official at about 4:00 p.m. on June 30, 2004. The truth is, I used to mark the hours each June 30 anniversary. In the morning, I would remember with chagrin the way I went off to work in my cancer pants (not knowing, of course, that they caused cancer). At lunch, I regretted the timing of that day, that I wasn’t with Richard every minute. I took a long break from my Microsoft Access class so that I could run home then deliver him to the eye doctor for an exam. June 30, 2004 was the day we were so worried that he might lose his vision. I was so busy working and trying to have a normal day that I couldn’t come back again to get him to the hematologist–he took a cab. When an eye doctor looks at a CBC and tells you to go straight to a hematologist, it’s bad. We were still calling Dr. Marrano the hematologist, not the oncologist. The truth is I feel like a shit because he stood in our driveway and stepped into a cab and he already knew in his heart what the answer was going to be. All the while I stood in front of a class of people, maintaining the illusion that I was in charge of something, anything.
The truth is that I used to mark those hours as they went by, but today I forgot.
There were times today when I thought back over the ten years that have passed since that day. Tonight when I stepped out on the deck, I thought of that evening. I stepped out on the deck that night to talk to Richard’s doctor friend Erik. I read him the numbers from the CBC. He sucked his breath at the hemoglobin and hematocrit. He whispered “Shit” as I read the numbers. He told me not to let Richard brush his teeth before his transfusion the next morning. My eye fell on the corner of the maple table in the den and I remembered how we sat there at as he told his parents over the phone.
The truth is, this is the same bed. The same window. The same frog chorus outside. The wobbly ceiling fan. The river brown paint on the walls that I thought he would like. The same floor where his feet stepped. The room where he died. The room where I continue to live. The room where my babies and I passed all those hours in the nights that have spun out since June 30, 2004.
The truth is…I may have forgotten because it’s been 10 years. Or maybe I had happier things to occupy my mind today. I took my daughter to the river park to learn how to pedal her bike with confidence on the long flat stretches of sidewalk. I took my son to the pool so that he could hold tight to my thumbs as he grows more comfortable with the feeling of floating. At the hour when 10 years ago we were getting The News, I took a nap.
The truth is, today is a day in a different life. I feel guilty sometimes that I’ve lived on. I’ve become a mother. I’ve found another love. I’ve planted marigolds on the deck. I’ve bought a new refrigerator. I’ve got a different car, a different job, a different path around the grocery store. I cheer for Brasil in the World Cup now because my kids have green passports in addition to their blue ones. It’s a new world. This world. Not that one anymore.
The real truth is, June 30th was a shitty day that year. A few of them since then were darkened by that habit of looking back, of retracing steps I never wanted to take in the first go round. Maybe it’s been long enough that I can honor the love I shared with Richard by remembering the happy days, not the horrible ones. I don’t have to go back through it every year to pay some penance for all the lovely June 30ths since then.
Thank you, Alice Bradley, for this advice: “When you are feeling stuck, start writing with ‘The truth is…'” I needed to get this off my mind and into words.