Thursday, August 11, 2016

#SOL16: Potential Energy

(M.A. Reilly, 2015)


You would think after the passing of many months, I would not lose hold of the plot. Rob is dead. There I said it. Wrote it down. Put it in print. Sent it out over this field of digital impulse and energy so I can hold what I most want to be untrue. My husband is gone. With such attention, surely I would hold on to this truth. But most days, I do not.

Most days the awareness that Rob has died sneaks up on me. Subtle, like the quick shift from wife to widow. Like yesterday I was driving home from a New York college where I am taking a weeklong course. I had been very occupied for 8 hours making handmade papers and using these and some found papers to craft a series of collages. On the way home I stopped for a red light and the thought of showing Rob the work quickly surfaced followed as quickly the realization that I could not. This sudden truth felt like emotional whiplash. Rob was not waiting at home for me. I would not come in  through the garage as I had done for the last 14 years and find him at his desk downstairs, tinkering in one of the many notebooks he kept.

Even now as I write this, his desk is still covered with the work he was doing last summer. The notes he stuck to a large board remain. His chair sits ready for him, angled just as he left it. Even the fingerless gloves he kept for those days when the cold ached him are by his keyboard. All of this remains. All remains but Rob and the truth of that still stuns me.

Readiness is a farce. No amount of preparation will yield what I most want or soften what I know and feel.


For the last several weeks, I have been dreading the one year anniversary of when we learned Rob had cancer. August 20th. I have been dreading this day because it will make Rob's death more final. Dying is never a singular act for the survivor. Every late afternoon Rob dies. Each morning I resurrect him. I do this without mindful intention. I do this because my mind seems to know what pain my heart can bear.

For now and the next week I can still look back to the year before when we had no knowledge of the awful disease that was wrapping itself around Rob's spine and infiltrating his vital organs. These days were the last days of innocence when we moved through life never expecting that Rob would not see spring.

Tonight I cannot recall any of the words from our last conversation. I cannot even recall when that conversation occurred. Well before Rob's final breath, he had moved into a light coma state. Even during the early morning hours of the day he died, he called out as his lungs filled, panicked by the struggle to breathe and I quickly called the Hospice nurse who talked me through how to clear the mucous from Rob's airway. For the next 14 hours, I would sit beside him, rest my head on his bed, try to inhale him as his body unwound like the spent spring of a clock uncoiling.

I imagine if Rob could have narrated those ending moments he would have talked to me about the transformation of potential energy to kinetic and somehow this offered explanation would have sounded so much more like a story you have always hungered for but never named. My husband adored explaining the ins and outs of science and literature; music and life.  I can imagine if he were here I might ask him to tell me the story of the dark side of the moon. And without any rehearsal, he would launch into a tale about gravitation and angular momentum and somewhere in this tale there would be a line or two he recited from that old Pynchon story, Entropy.

I miss the man who could cull together Meatball Mulligan's lease-breaking party, thermodynamic theory, Henri Lefebvre's production of space and the breakdown of capitalism all the while sipping some tea.  Some days the mystery gets revealed--or at least an outer layer.  Entropy tells us that everything will slow down one day.


  1. It's amazing how in sync we are.
    On this first adventure in a new city the ache is so great. Following the rituals of good friends makes his absence even stronger.
    This is tough as I get ready for August 21

    1. I know that ache. I found it helps me to share what I am feeling and crying it out does as well. What a burden this all is. But I wouldn't have traded the love and joy and life I had with Rob. Imagine you feel the same.

      We will surely find balance.