The other day I found myself irritated with Wes. The infraction? He was standing at the sink, blocking access to the garbage. He was in the way, and I had something I wanted to throw away. Yes, he was emptying the dishwasher, or putting dishes away, or probably washing something in the sink; but really, I needed to throw away a wrapper, and he was in the way. On some level it was probably good to be irritated because it said we were back to normal. But, another part of me quickly realized the ridiculousness of being irritated as I found myself reflecting on what we went through last summer; the intimacy that came from being in the trenches together as we dealt with my condition. It was us in this little world we had created finding joy, love, and connection wherever we could.
We had what we called “Happy Hour” back then. When I couldn’t do anything but lay face down on the ottoman he would bring me my lemon water and join me. Joining me meant he laid down next to the ottoman, face-up, one leg crossed over the other bent knee. We could look at each other this way. I sipping lemon water from my Starbucks reusable plastic tumbler; he chatting with me. By his side was his Starbuck’s mug with the Paris logo, acquired from one of our trips to our favorite city. Ironically, the coffee being sipped was Peet’s. The conversation didn’t need to be heavy. It may have been as simple as a need to water the plants outside because the weather was hot, a return phone call that should be made, or what groceries needed to be purchased. When my water was done, Happy Hour was over; his coffee was probably cold because it is hard to drink hot coffee lying on your back.
One day we had a picnic in our backyard. Fifteen feet from our back door we spread out a blanket. A plate, crackers and almond butter rounded out our spontaneous picnic. We laid there and talked, making almond butter crackers for one another. He did most of the making. and maybe most of the talking. I don’t remember the conversation, and yet, it is one of our fondest memories from last summer. Today, when we feel like a snack, and reach for the crackers and almond butter, one of us will always comment on that picnic, "Remember when we..." .
During those few weeks that were difficult for me to walk I developed a routine when I needed to go to the bathroom. On the return trip from the bathroom to the family room, I would make a pit stop to the landing of our upstairs. We live in a tri-level house, which means, half way between the family room and our bathroom is a set of stairs, seven steps take you downstairs; seven take you upstairs. I would climb the seven steps and rest face down on the carpet, legs dangling down the stairs. This position was relieving to my back and gave me the rest I needed for the last short leg of the return to the ottoman. Wes would always join me there. I was reminded that we called them our "Team Meetings". Again, the conversation wasn’t deep; it was the connection, the closeness, his caring that felt incredibly intimate. Sometimes nothing might be said…in the quiet, darkness of the middle of the night, he might just lie there letting me know I wasn’t alone.
Today when I look at that spot it is our dog Toby who usually lies there, and occasionally, our other dog Ruby will join him. Dogs or humans, the carpet on the landing at the top of our steps has served an important, therapeutic function for some of us Meyers.
Every night I fell asleep to Wes rubbing the top of my head. He would keep massaging it until he could hear my rhythmic breathing. Whether I was awake or asleep he told me he always said, “I love you, Renee.” before he fell asleep. I heard him more than he realized, and sometimes, I still hear him. “I love you, Wes.” I would respond to myself. I knew if I said it out loud, he would want to keep rubbing my head. I wanted him to be able to go to sleep!
Later on, in the summer, when I was experiencing edema in my right leg, (another post some other time) I would lay across his lap so he could do a lymphatic massage on my leg. We had heard a song in yin yoga we liked by Paul Cardall called, "Life and Death". Whenever he massaged my leg, we would have Paul Cardall’s music on. I could only listen as I was facing away from the TV. Wes was able to watch. Here is the video from that time. Today we hear it and are reminded of last August...another moment of beauty, another moment of light that we found in the darkness of our circumstance.
Synchronistically, every time I sit down to write one of these posts a Paul Cardall song always plays on my Pandora station. (Right now, as I sit editing this post the day after I wrote the previous sentence, Paul Cardall's "Sweet Escape" is playing.)
Intimacy, connection, beauty, light. In an ironic sort of way, I can miss those times we had together. There are so many gifts that have come from my odyssey with cancer, and the intimacy it afforded Wes and I is one. Sadly, it took cancer for me to understand, to feel the depth of his love for me. Happily, cancer has given me this gift of understanding; to feel the love he has for me while I am alive; AND it has cracked opened my heart to be able to feel deeper levels of love in all aspects of my life. I love you, Wes…deeply, joyfully, unconditionally.