I retired several years earlier than I had planned, but I didn't begrudge my wife the almost year I spent with her. The first part of that year I simply had to drive her in for her treatments. There was a lot of time spent sitting in the reception room waiting for the doctors. Later I spent my time waiting in the same places for her treatments to end. Alice didn't like me sitting in the doctors examining rooms with her. Alice didn't think I should complain about things in my cop voice. She probably was correct to think it effected her treatment in a negative way.
I actually had no long tern effect on her at all. I couldn't have prolonged her life another hour. It was sad but true, they really had done all they could have for her. She spent all but her last week at home. That week she went into the Christ Hospice run by a group funded by the local churches and donations from the families of the love ones who ended their lives there departed. The hospice was nice. It should have been the gifts, insurance, and religious donations made for a nice budget. I shouldn't say anything bad about the employees there. I was never tempted to use my old cop voice with them.
The day after Alice passed through the veil of tears was a busy one. I hadn't left her side those last days, so I went home and crashed.
Since Alice had written her final wishes so my involvement on that day was to give our daughter the message when she arrived. "If you need any help call me. I'm going home to sleep all day." I said in a failing voice, then I disappear for the day. I woke almost twelve hours, to the minute, since Alice left me. I realized I didn't have a plan for the rest of my life.
I was empty when I took the shower, then two of Alice's sleeping pills. There were only two, or I might have taken whatever number was in the bottle.
I drifted back to consciousness. I awoke to answer the ringing land line. "Hello," I said into the phone.
"Tom it's Marta, I was so sorry when the church group leader called. Is there anything I can do."
"No Marta there is nothing anyone can do, but I do appreciate the offer. Sarah is taking care of me," I said. The truth was I didn't expect to hear from Sarah other than to settle Alice's estate.
After Marta finally hung up, I went into the shower again. I had been skipping showers the last week, so that day it was my plan to return to daily showers.
We had bought one of those single cup coffee makers a few months before. It had been the easiest method for us those last few weeks. I had a cup of coffee and would have made toast had I not found mold on the bread.
So instead of fixing breakfast I drank the coffee while contemplating emptying the refrigerator. During that contemplation I remembered I could rent a metal dumpster for a week. Since I couldn't imagine how I could get through the day without a project, I called the city to schedule a dumpster delivery
"Sarah, how you doing?" I asked when she answered her cell.
"I'm fine what do you want?" she asked in her no nonsense cold voice.
"Where is your mother and have you finished that part of her list?" I asked.
"Did you read her note," Sarah asked.
"I didn't read that part in detail," I informed her.
"Markam And Son transported her for a direct cremation. She had prepaid for the service. They will hold the urn for one of us to pick up," she explained. "Probably be a couple of days."
"Okay, I'm going to start cleaning out the house this afternoon. If there is anything you want come flag it tonight please."
"You aren't wasting any time," Sarah said.
"I'm trying not to go mad. If you want me insane, I will sit here and wait for you to come visit," I said it in my tough guy voice. "Oh that's right you almost never visited your mother. I don't expect you to ever visit me. I have work to do goodbye."
I went out to breakfast while I waited for the morning to pass. The trash container was due by 3pm.
I couldn't face the staff at the local restaurant where we had breakfast most mornings toward the end, so I drove to the fast food joint for biscuits and coffee take out. Then I took it to the lake to consume. I spent an hour over a ten minute meal. I watched the city's rowing team race their scull back and forth down the lake as I ate.
The drive back to the house was miserable. I sat in the short driveway staring at the two story three bedroom two bath house. It was a lot bigger than I would ever need again.
There was a one car garage without a car. It was filled with work benches and tools. They would probably all have to go as well as the antique furniture of limited value. We had bought the furniture buying what we liked when it was just old furniture, so I would be surprised if any of it had any real value.
The plan I formulated was to trash all the paper and junk. It should take me a couple of days to remove it. If the dumpster was full I would send it back before the week was up. When the house was more or less empty, I planned to have an estate sale.
I would tell Sarah only after I emptied the trash from the house. Alice had wanted her to sell the house, but she allowed me to get rid of everything else.
The dumpster came just after noon, so I began with the kitchen. I emptied all the food from the kitchen cabinets and the refrigerator. I moved all the cans from the cabinets to the rear pantry on the enclose back porch. Like every place else in the house it needed washing or painting.
I cleaned the table then placed all Alice's dishes on it. There wasn't room of course. So I filled the kitchen chairs and the kitchen step ladder with things.
By the end of the day everything was out on display for Sarah to view in the downstairs rooms. When she came that evening she would just tour the upstairs and her mothers bedroom in search of treasure.
Sarah came after I returned from my drive to pick up a pizza. I ate the small pizza and tossed the box in the dumpster before she arrived.
She searched through the house before she loaded her car for the drive home. "Tom where are you going?" she asked.
"Don't worry I won't be living with you honey," I said in my cold voice. It was how we had communicated since she was a teenager.
"You know Ralph and I would be happy to have you," she said.
"No you wouldn't and I don't blame you one bit. For some reason since you was thirteen we were like the two Koreas but with slightly better manners," I said
There were tears in her eyes when she left. "You always make me so sad," she said as she left.
"I don't try to do that. It's just how you react," I got the last word. It was one of the few times since I married her mother.
I got the estate sale in for the next weekend's newspaper classifieds and Alice's four year old low mileage car onto the Craig's list the second day after her death. By the time the dumpster was picked up the house had an empty feel about it. I stayed mostly in my bedroom and the kitchen.
The day before the estate sale Sarah called to offer her help with the sale. "Sure honey I would be glad to have you. Is Ralph coming as well?"
"No he is taking the kids to the club to swim," she said.
"Okay it will probably mostly be over by noon. So maybe you can join them," I suggested.
"Maybe, we will just have to see how it goes," she replied.
Sarah brought coffee and breakfast, so her coming was a good thing. The looky loos came at 7am. The coffee was gone when the local antique store pickers arrived. They found a few things that had some value. I let Sarah deal with them. I was willing to give them real deals, she wasn't.
By the end of the day most of the furnishing and my tools were gone. I man even came by to put a deposit on Alice's car. I considered the weekend a success but it was also sad.
At the end of the day a truck from a thrift store came buy to take all the left overs. Sarah had given me the money before she left.
On the way to the car she said, "Mom said to give you her ashes. She said you would know what to do with them."
I just nodded through the tears. I took the urn. Since I had made the decision it was just a matter of doing it then returning to the empty house.
"Tom I hate to sound like I'm rushing you but when do you plan to vacate the house?" Sarah asked.
We were standing by her car when she asked. "I have nothing holding me here after tonight." I said.
"Where will you go?" she asked.
"I'm going to take a temporary gig for a guy I know at the Department of Justice. I'll be a nomad for a couple of months at least," I explained.
"Then we have to go to dinner before you leave," she demanded.
"Absolutely," I lied.
After she left I waited until almost midnight then drove to the park by the lake. It closed at midnight but climbing the fence was doable even for a well past sixty year old man. I walked to the floating dog there I pour her ashes over the city water supply lake.
"Well you loved this place and I love that you have a kind of immortality," I said as I replaced the cover to the urn. I also threw it into the lake even though I think it cost five hundred bucks.
The sun was streaming through the uncurtained window at 8am when I finally got moving. I had been awake since 6am, I just couldn't make the body work so early. I had never noticed how the house looked so early. The small two story place seemed cavernous without the furniture. For the last couple of days I had slept on the floor.
.... There is more of this story ...