Becoming a widow leaves me with an extraordinary amount of time.
The Before Time
I knew taking care of Dan was a full-time job: dialysis occupied four hours, four days a week, or a bit more. While the treatment itself, according to the computer in the Cycler, lasted two hours and five minutes, there was set up, preparation of the patient, occasional trouble-shooting during treatment, rinseback, removing of needles and bandaging, then clean-up. Then there was making batches on Wednesday and Sunday evenings as well as inventorying and ordering supplies, and packaging blood and urine samples and running them to the FedEx desk at the nearby Walgreens once a month.
Between general frailty and the threat of Covid, I took over the grocery shopping in 2020. As Dan weakened, I took over the cooking as cheffing left him too exhausted to eat. It was a rare week that there wasn’t a medical appointment of some kind. And, of course, the household necessaries: dishes, laundry, this and that.
I tried to get into the garden on Wednesday and Friday mornings, two of the three non-dialysis days. Sunday morning remained a marathon of newspapers, crossword puzzles and CBS Sunday Morning, Meet the Press and a bit of MSNBC. That much was self-indulgent.
The Now Time
Now, however, my time is my own. There are tasks to be sure, telephone calls, meetings with the attorney, this and that. There is still grocery shopping, laundry and changing the sheets on Sunday morning.
Days, however, are stretching out, languorously. I find myself channel surfing, flipping through Facebook and Twitter, finding myself short of the concentration it takes to read.
I have, therefore, created a new schedule.
When the alarm goes off at six am, earlier if I am awake, I roll out of bed, brush my teeth and pee, and slide into my dirty overalls that hang in the garage and head into the garden. The air is cool, the woodpeckers hammering on trees, the breeze passing secrets to the trees. Eastern box turtles—they are all named “Tintoretto” after the unsung and unseen fifth of the Ninja turtles–are visiting more frequently than usual. Or maybe they were always there in the cool and quiet of the early morning.
The Garden is Perennial
There is much gardening to do. Weeds. So many weeds.
Green ash and persimmon trees taken down last fall seem determined to stay and are sending up shoots everywhere, despite the salting intended to accelerate the process of decay. A dose of week killer will turn the shoots black but soon enough bright green growth reappears. Excavating the roots and hacking them into removable chunks with the power saw seems to be the only efficacious response. The green wood of the roots and the stony earth surrounding them is also causing me to blow through blades with unseemly speed.
The Remains of the Day
An hour or two later it is time to shower and dress, boil a pot of tea and settle down to the newspapers and breakfast. Sometimes that lasts a while; sometimes it doesn’t. Next up are the tasks that seem urgent that day, nearly all of them having to do with Dan, his estate, the celebration of his life. A friend with a used bookstore is helping me start to empty our many, many shelves.
I pause for lunch. I find something for dinner. Then I fire up the chair yoga app I found, something suitable for an ancient, arthritic, inflexible body such as mine. Or sometimes I just take a walk instead.
Bedtime remains at ten. Just as I have not reset the alarm, I do not change the moment I retire.
All that time alone with myself, so aware of myself. Myself and all that time.