|Rob and Max at the old house.|
All day I have been revisiting old haunts. This was not my intention, but this was an outcome. This morning I brought in my car for service and as I took out the insurance card I found the post it Rob had written on that was still on the envelope. He did this every year--letting me know it was time to replace the old card with the new one. I realized some time later that he wrote the simple missive days before he would learn he had lung cancer. Not even a year has passed since we changed the cards.
On the way to have the car serviced, I passed the movie theater where we had Dev's 8th birthday party and remembered that Rob and I sat in the darkened theater holding hands. We were seated several rows behind Devon and his friends as they watched a movie I no longer can recall. Later there was chocolate cake, shaped like Scooby Doo, that the children and the theater owner ate.
I met some new friends for lunch at the diner Rob had breakfast more mornings than not. The last time we were at the diner together was back in the end of August, a few days before Rob would have face the first of five surgeries. And though this afternoon I listened as the others talked and laughed, I was feeling mostly hollow, thinking how we were seated on the wrong side of the diner. Rob, Dev and I always sat on the booth-side and Michele, the waitress, served us.
In the afternoon, Dev went to the doctor. A week ago I was there and when the nurse showed me into the last examination room on the left, I hesitated before passing through the door. The last time I was in that room was the day we learned Rob had cancer. I can still see him leaning against the exam table. We could not know what the next five months would bring.
All week I have found remembrances of Rob in the most ordinary of places--places where we were together. And though these places remain--they are also changed somewhat through the passage of time. How we name a thing is how we know it. I am thinking about this because I was listening to the end of the Brian Lehrer Show today. I heard Tracy Smith read a poem by Sybil from Short Hills. She says, "Once there was a world before words" and I am thinking of Rob again and how often we discussed whether something can be without first naming it and this understanding catches my heart by surprise and as Seamus Heaney would say, blows it open.
I have been naming. Naming new. Naming for a world before words. It's like that Molly Peacock poem where she writes:
...Not to carry
all this in the body’s frame is not to see
how the heart and arms were formed on its behalf.
I can’t put the burden down. It’s what formed
the house I became as the glass ball stormed.
Every step is laced with some memory of Rob, informed by who he was and what he loved. I am walking down the street and the scent of curry curves around me, reminding me of the time when I cooked vegetables with curry and Rob and I ate it from a large blue bowl in the empty living room while seated on overturned boxes we had yet to unpack. We had just moved into a house we were renovating and Rob wanted me to call for take out. We had left a townhouse, less then 1/2 mile from the Goerge Washington Bridge and Manhattan and moved an hour north to the country where there was no takeout, no Devon, and so I scrounged through bags and found some carrots, broccoli, onions, rice and curry and 30 minutes later we were eating from the same bowl and we could not know that 24 years later I would be walking down a Main Street in a town neither of had ever been to, alone, thinking of my husband who left this earth far too early.