Sometimes, when you least expect it, sadness and grief overcome you. I think this happens when someone you love dies. I am finding out the hard way that this also happens when someone you love has a disease that steals them from you bit by bit.
A few days ago I needed to go to the base for something. Jim is retired Air Force, so we still have base privileges. I was by myself, in between meetings for work. It was a beautiful day, there were good tunes on my radio and I had no complaints.
It has been a few years since I have gone on the base and I wasn’t sure where I was going. I made it through the base gate just fine. Made it to the building I needed to with no problems. But as I was driving away, something hit me. An invisible phenomenon hit me hard and hit me fast. Out of nowhere. I couldn’t control the tears or stop the upheaval that had materialized inside of me. This unprovoked inner turmoil wasn’t even triggered by a song. I became completely enveloped in a sadness that comes from a subconscious I usually keep tucked away. The years of living on a base with Jim, seeing him in his uniform, watching him take so much pride in his job, his service to our country, his pure absorption of all things military and my complete lack of adherence to just about anything military were all swarming through my mind. Flashes of Jim, young, handsome, stoic, so sure of himself and so able were seriatim through my mind. It cut me into mush. I got short of breath. I was taken by surprise with this sudden burst of emotion. Emotion I was unable to contain.
Those unvolunteered flashbacks caused me to think of Jim. My Jim. The Jim I met, fell in love with, started a family with and thought I would grow old with. The Jim that people respected and looked up to. The Jim that took charge at work. The Jim who coordinated care for millions of dollars worth of equipment. And now it is his care that needs some coordinating. And that care will be augmented with each year we stumble through. I could see so clearly his smile and youth. His clear eyes and complete confidence as he walked through my memories.
While these flashbacks ran through my brain, it hit me how young and innocent and full of the future we were. Like most married couples, we expected to have a family, work hard, struggle for a few years with finances and teenage angst, then have our golden years to come back full circle and enjoy each other and the memories we could cherish. All we had to do was work hard at our marriage, our family and our life together.
It was another reminder that I will have those memories. Jim will not. I will remember him and our love and our early years together and our dreams of travel and grandkids and the comforting feeling of home whenever I was in his presence.
Intermingled with the images of Jim were pains of regret. Regret in my lack of interest in his military life. My inability to appreciate his extreme structure and just how successful and good he was at being a soldier. Why couldn’t I take it all in and see the bigger picture? I questioned all the rules and regulations too much. I resented the fact he was always traveling and we couldn’t choose where to live. I should have relaxed and let our life unfold and enjoy it while I could.
I recognize the fact that none of us are guaranteed a day. None of us know when our time is up. But one of the things that separates humans from any other animal on earth is our ability to remember our past, plan for our future and dream of things to come.
Ouch. I am a dreamer. I am a realist and I am a dreamer. I dream of many things. One of the things I dream is Jim and I, old, cherishing our family and retelling our stories of the kids and friends through the years. What I can’t remember, he will be able to recall with certainty. Why are those things being stripped from Jim when he is such a remarkable and great man?
Yes, it hurts. It is emotional draining. It is hard to imagine. And yet, it is here. With me 24/7, unrelenting and uncompromising.
By now my mascara was running and I was overwhelmed with grief. Knowing the man I was picturing in my mind and the visions from our past would always be in our past simply hurt. Hurt and bittersweet. The love and the times I can recall are wonderful times. But it hurts to know the dreams we shared and the fact they will not becoming true. That makes our love story and my memories bittersweet.
As I kept driving, I simply re-focused on my upcoming meeting and in a flash, my inner turmoil and tears evaporated. If I could only make all of my problems disappear as quickly and easily.