My wife, Janice, died two years ago, and that’s mostly what I think about. There’s a picture of us on the wall maybe eighteen inches to my right and a little print of her passport photo in the corner of my keyboard. I use a photo of her as an icon on my computer desktop. There’s another photo of her on the kitchen table and twenty-seven more in the living room, in addition to a self-portrait from many years ago.
What would this grief have been like, say, two hundred years ago. I would have no photographs of Janice and, unless we were well-to-do, no images of her at all. Would that be better? I tend to think that having no images of each other is a more natural state somehow. If the last time I saw her face was when she died in 2012, rather than a few seconds ago, would I even remember what she looked like? Beats me, and I’m not about to get rid of pictures of her to find out, although I’m thinking about storing some.
I have sound files, too, which I enjoy. She had a good voice, smooth and musical; so does her brother, Jeff Perry. (We had some good talks near the end about difficult subjects, and I like remembering what those were like. We had been through a lot already, especially her. Aside from the open wound in her chest the last two years of her life, before she was diagnosed I had been enough of a cad for her to go live somewhere else for several months. I’m retarded.
It turned out that I used to hold some anger at Janice, mostly because she wasn’t how I figured she ought to be without me actually saying much of anything useful for her. It was good to learn what life was like not living with her. She didn’t go far or stay long, and once we went two weeks without talking.
While she lived with Erin and Jeff, we still saw a lot of each other, except only when we both wanted to. After the novelty of not living with her wore off, I found that I still wanted to see her. I liked going out there to see my wife, especially riding the S curves along the creek. When she got sick to her stomach that night, she called me. I might have been an asshole, but I was a reliable asshole. I was honored to come over and hold her head and clean up.
Later, I was glad to hold her head and hand when she tried chemotherapy. I found a thrift-store ottoman for her to sit on while she retched into the toilet, and now it’s something else I can’t get rid of.
I recently listened for the first time to Janice and me talking in the fall of 2011 about my former lover. Boy, we came a long way. Very loving and honest. May you be so blessed.
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