I glanced often at a holiday picture on the bedroom dresser. Our faces seemed lost in time; no regrets, plenty of good fun – all behind us. Sometimes now, when someone looked at Tony they would see that “the lights were on, but nobody was home”.
Like most couples our wedding day had been celebrated with happy guests supporting us. Being “second-time-arounders” was acknowledged as good fortune that we had found a new partner to honor and cherish. Friends were distant observers now, and there was nobody to ask for help.
I understood this clearly, there was an underlying and unspoken message that Tony was “my problem”, and mine alone. Every year the lines of communications dwindled further, now threadlike.
Tony’s lunch didn’t appeal to him, though usually one of his favorites. He wanted to eat from a tray in front of the TV today, instead of sitting at the table. Predictably, there was a collision of water glass and plate, which soaked the bun and dampened any measurable enthusiasm. I collected the upset and brought coconut pie to assuage Tony’s annoyance.
My Kleenex scrunched out of sight, I shook my tears in the kitchen sink. Coincidentally, it was time for the Canadians to skate.
The music was too touching, the swan song and final Olympic appearance of Tessa Virtue and Scott Moier. Their devotion to each other and dedication to the program were tangible – spectators and commentators caught up in the enchantment of the performance. After so many years striving together, this appearance was a culmination of all the elements together, and farewell.
It felt almost unbearable to watch—haunting, profound, deeply personal, and expressive of both joy and heartfelt sorrow. To me, it seemed like the skaters relived nearly every step of their journey together. The parallels stabbed; I had to swallow hard and pretend my tears were just a reaction to both the presentation and interrupted sleep the night before. My heart ached – for me, for Tony and for all we once shared.
Choking resentment suddenly welled up in my throat – “I’m going to get dressed and take the dog out for his walk,” I said. A few sharp breaths of wintery air would clear my thoughts and I would return to the house with renewed commitment. Stay calm, don’t argue, and keep the peace was the usual uninspiring reminder inside my head…
The date was Family Day in the province. People everywhere celebrated a time for recreation and fun together. Perhaps a little car ride over to the park to watch tobogganing and snow-saucers careening down the slope would be amusing. On the other hand, maybe a swim at the pool and a soak in the hot tub. Today though, it might be over-crowded with excited youngsters. I loved children – but there weren’t any around now. Tony’s ten grandchildren were grown, and all far away – if you considered a 2-hour distance as being a journey.
Phone conversations now with Tony’s family were perfunctory, and included no contentious topics or serious discussion. “How’s the weather there/everyone ok/the kids have really busy schedules, and work is busy too/ talk soon” and a goodbye click; obligations fulfilled from the other end till next time. Coming to terms with their father’s progressive dementia was no easy challenge for his family. Diverting focus was the alternate choice. Tony just didn’t fit anymore, anywhere. His social skills confounded; plus he couldn’t carry a conversation.