|A Window in Arles (M.A. Reilly, 2016)|
Now that I am home from France, I feel a bit off centered, out of balance. There's no drama associated with this feeling, no spectacular happening, or even something unusual I could point to that would explain the feeling. And isn't that at the center of balance and not? There's little explanation, save what it is. For there's just this nagging understanding that my life doesn't feel quite right.
Years ago, Rob introduced me to Godfrey Reggio's 1982 film, The word, Koyaanisqatsi, is from the Hopi language and it means unbalanced life. And though the film artfully presents the imbalances among humans, the environment, and the impact of technologies--the unbalance I feel is of a more intimate nature and yet is nonetheless unsteady. Things in my life aren't smooth. Living takes more energy than I recall needing in former years. Losing Rob means shifting from understanding our life to making my life. Nostalgia is an easy place to hide, even though remembering feels as bad as it does good.
Next month marks the one year anniversary when Rob and I found out that he had cancer. The shock of that diagnosis remains with me for neither of us imagined that the pain he had was a sign he had cancer. He had just a sharp pain across his lower right chest for a few weeks. He had no weight loss, no fatigue, no weakness, no dizziness, no other pains. He was only 60 and aches and pains came along with growing a bit older. For the most part, he was himself with the exception of the nagging pain. He thought he pulled a muscle exercising and I agreed. We even laughed about our new exercise program and getting older. Who could ever imagine that just a few months later he would no longer be able to walk and 6 weeks beyond that we would learn he was dying? Such scale defies comprehension.
|Rob walking down 120th Street in Manhattan|
worried. I remember calming myself by thinking, He's here. You can touch him. Stay in the moment.
All of that changed within a week when Rob went in the hospital for a one-hour biopsy, and eight hours later was transported to intensive care. I remember thinking then that life as we knew it was no more. I wish I understood then that almost nothing the doctors would tell us during the next five months would be true, save the final diagnosis that Rob's cancer had progressed and the diagnosis was terminal. On September 17 we would learn that Rob's cancer was stage 4 lung cancer--the cancer that claims the most lives each year. A week beyond that on the day he was scheduled for his first chemotherapy treatment we would learn that Rob had acquired a staph infection from surgery he underwent the week before to implant a port for treatment. From that point to his death, life was more nightmare than dream.
After Rob's death, life feels unfamiliar a good portion of the time. I still anticipate him, feel happy as I return home forgetting momentarily he won't be there. Devon and I are developing interests. Last night he grilled steaks for us and made a brandy-pepper sauce he had liked while in Paris. My son is a constant reminder of how life goes on and the list of new things he has done since Rob's death stretches the length of my arm.
The closing line of The Great Gatsby is one I can say aloud without need of the text. Nick, our faithful narrator tells us,
"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”The meaning of that line has never held still--changing across the 40 years I have known this book. Now though, the mourning comes through and it is so pertinent, so much a part of my breath. Each step forward is oddly a step back into the past, where nostalgia waits. I measure each new day with eyes clouded by memory.