It was never meant to be easy
It's been five weeks, two days, four hours, and ten minutes since she slipped away. Nothing about her no longer being in pain has lessened the sense of loss I've been feeling. The mere passage of time has yet to provide me with any substantial relief, not to this point at least.
My Kathy's gone. She's no longer here to give me even the luke warm comfort of her despairing smile. It hurt me so much when I'd watch her trying to gather together enough strength to even make that much effort. She suffered and there was nothing that I could do about it.
During the late stages of her illness, it was all about her. Now, I am determined to make the time I have left, about me. They say that this is a normal reaction, brought on because the surviving spouse has denied themselves for so long. I can understand how that could be the case, having given and lost so much.
We had fought the ravages of it together, for a decade, beating it back into submission before it returned a year or so later. After beating it back again, for the second time, we hoped we had prevailed against the disease. When it came back once again, we could only hope that beating it again, that third time, would have proven to be the charm. It didn't work out that way.
It came back with what could be thought of as a vengeance, so hard and fast the next time, that no amount of drugs or aggressive, wildly desperate, treatments could prevent the inevitable from occurring. Her death left my life with a cold empty feeling, one that seemed to tear right through my soul, twisting around, clouding up all my thoughts and memories of our many years together with the pain of losing her.
The hollowness I felt, right after she passed, had left me so numb and withdrawn that I started to miss the deep throbbing anger I'd been feeling when it became so patently obvious that the long trial was finally nearing
the end. That pain was my constant companion and the anger at the finality of death seemed to rob me of that one constant.
I missed it because, while the overwhelming anger had hammered at my senses during my every waking hour, at least then I knew that both of us were still alive. Right after she was gone, the numbness took over what was left of my world, shutting out everything. I had cried what I thought was an ocean of tears over the years and had none left when she finally passed.
It seemed like the anger had deliberately lain in wait, patiently choosing this worst possible time, compounding my grief by attacking any sense of emotional connectedness that might have brought me even the small comfort of the light, laughter, and joy we'd once shared together. It seems so senseless and disjointed looking back at it all. But then that is what they say death brings to the survivors, they are left to reassemble their lives from the shards left of them.
The only thing that kept me going was the memories of her telling me to continue on for us both. We had plans; ones that she never lived to see, for a life after all of the battles had been fought. There is nothing fair in life, and this was just another confirmation of that. No one, as they say, gets out alive; but the ones left alive, are less after the loss.
The rest of them had wanted a grave and a stone. I wanted ashes to place where she wanted to see. She gave in to their stated wishes, opting for the traditional, solely for the benefit of the grandchildren. As she let loose of her own hold on life, she was still thinking about them. She was giving in to their needs, all the time holding my hand, endeavoring to persuade me that this would still be all right.
Kathy, even in the throes of her agonizing pain, wouldn't agree to leave the house for hospice care, until after we put it on the market. She held on longer than anyone had thought she would when she had entered hospice. She still had the unfinished business of making sure that the house was sold. Each day I would bend down to get a kiss from her, and afterwards, that was always the first question out of her mouth.
This was the house the two of us had built together. While she knew I really loved it, she couldn't bear the idea that "our special place" might one day be shared by me and another. She wanted me to find another. She knew I could not and would not do that, holed up in that monument to her, that it would surely become.
Escrow closed on a Tuesday morning. When I told her it had closed, she smiled at me, then slowly closed her eyes, making that little satisfied sighing noise she always had whenever she'd managed to get me to let her
have her way with something she'd reckoned important. Moments later, she breathed her last, forever lost to me. It was just then that I first realized that I'd lost her forever. Forever was a concept we thought we knew all about, when we married.
Since her funeral, I have been staying with our daughter Cindy, her husband
Steve, and the grandkids. It's not a happy time for me, for all of us, not even as I watch the antics of the twins. Those two are into everything that can't escape from them. Their unbridled exuberance accounts for just about all the laughter I have, any longer.
Sam has found out that if he stays out in the yard, his fur is safe from their happy lurches. We got Sam after we started celebrating beating her sickness for the second time. He was every bit as bad as a baby when he was a small puppy.
I can't begin to tell you the many late night walks we took together, or the too many hours I took to spending next to him on the hard wooden floor so he wouldn't howl piteously every night. I had rarely been the one who'd gotten up with the kids at night, back when they were little, but I did it with Sam, continually.
Funny, how when you get older, you become willing to do things that you know you'd never been willing to do when you were younger. Funny also, that while doing these things, you end up smiling all the while.
I have been busy. I've been loading up the motor home for the last few days. Tonight is my last night here. My staying here has cramped the lives of Steve and Cindy for long enough. Besides, I made Kathy a promise to see all the sights she and I had always talked about.
The kids have been after me, worried about me being out there all alone on the road. I point to Sam, telling them that I'll never really be alone.
I get looks from Cindy, looks that tell me she is her Mother's daughter, but she manages to keep her concerns loving and civil. She's still worried about me being away from family. I have a cell phone, and a GPS that
speaks to me in a sweet woman's voice.
"What more could I want?" I tell her, putting on a bit of feigned Scottish brogue.
For our final night together before my next morning departure, we all went out for a family feed. All of us, that is, with the exception of Sam. His turn came when we all got back home when we presented his doggie bag to him.
The kids were happy to be out, and Chucky Cheese is a fine place to have a last family supper. The kids love it and it was busy enough that I didn't have to field any more questions about how, or if I was really certain about leaving so soon. I know their concerns were mostly due to their love, but I also knew it was time.
I had already come to realize that they, as a separate family unit, needed me gone as well. It was just hard for all of us adults, each of us seeing my departure as one more affirmation of Kathy's death. Sam wasn't that keen for the pizza leftovers, but he ate a piece all the
We said our goodbyes and cried one more time together. I wouldn't be saddened to put an end to all of the constant reminders of what we'd all lost. It would be a new transition, but one that we would all be better for ... at least to my way of thinking.
I wanted to be on the road early and was planning to be gone before daybreak. I had always liked to get an early jump, and at that time in the morning it was certain I would be out of the traffic that never seems to stop, these day.
Cindy and Steve were up to say one last goodbye. A hug from Steve, then kisses and hugs from Cindy; and finally, Sam and I were in the motor home and on our way. Traffic getting out of the city was a breeze. By the time I stopped for my relief break we were one hundred and seventy miles away.
They actually had someone there who brewed coffee at the rest stop. I filled my own traveling coffee cup, giving them a couple bucks for the coffee and their trouble. Getting Sam back into the motor home was another issue. Size finally won out, but not before I got a full chorus of his pathetic howling and carrying on for a few minutes.
His going on like that had led to me putting in the CD of the three tenors. I had surprised Kathy. We had flown down to Los Angeles to see them perform. It was a long and wonderful weekend, a good memory, one I now cherished.
Their singing had Sam stopping his own noise long enough to try and figure out exactly where these new companions were hiding. I had found out earlier that when I faded the sound to the speakers he would go back and forth, looking for where the sound was coming from. It was a bit of harmless fun, and it kept the two of us occupied.
Cindy had already called me three times, and was doing that again as I pulled into the rest area to relieve the boredom of the road and the pressure from the coffee. She and I spoke for a few minutes before I made my way into the facilities. After expressing our love for one another I hung up and did what I needed to do.
Sam would have been more than content to run out in the fields and woods that bordered all along the rest area. My thoughts were much more along the lines of lunch. He would have howled for a long while if I had not made my way back to the refrigerator.
As soon as I reached over and got him a dog bone from on top of it, he no longer thought that his being back inside was an issue that needed to be howled over.
A hot cup of soup and a cold cut sandwich, soon to be followed by some cookies for later, served me very well for lunch. It was only a matter of minutes for me to get everything cleaned up and put back where it belonged, before I was ready to get back out on the road.
A knock at the door stopped me from finishing that. I went and pushed it open slowly, Sam standing behind me as I did. There was a young woman standing there when the door opened out. Her light blue eyes were wide, and her dark hair passed her shoulders. She had the face of an angel. She said something that I didn't catch, and started to push herself passed me.
My size would have allowed me to easily prevent her entrance. But for some reason I decided, instead, to let her in. Of course, Sam saw this as an opening, deciding right then and there that he wanted to have a bit more exercise. Quick as a shot, he scooted out, slipping between us.
She passed by me when I started out after Sam that hound would be the death of me and would be dead when I finally caught him. I muttered to myself as I took off after him. I spent the better part of that whole afternoon chasing after him. He was onto something, and would howl as he chased after it.
I was wondering what would be left in the motor home, or even if it would still be there when Sam and I finally returned to it. Whenever I started worrying about that though, Sam would start in howling again, and I would head out after him.
He was at the edge of the woods about three miles down the roadway when I finally caught up with him. I figured between all the moving back and forth, that I had gotten in my daily walk for a little over a week in just that single afternoon.
He was running around the bottom of a large fir tree howling and watching what ever was in that tree. There was something he could see trapped in up there, but I didn't see anything through the branches, when I looked up at it.
The amount of time I had spent chasing after him had me both angry and tired. On top of that, I didn't have the leash. In my haste to get Sam, I'd forgotten that back at the motor home. Sam was intent on staying right there at that tree.
At six feet three inches tall, I am too big to bend over and hold his collar in order to walk him back. The idea of picking him up and carrying him back, as filthy as he now was, somehow, didn't appeal to me right then, either.
I found a felled log near the tree and sat down on it, figuring that he would wind down at some point, and then we could head back. With the chance to rest, I wondered again about the woman back at the motor home. I worried about what she might be doing, but then, I forgot all about that as soon as I
began hearing a rustling sound high up in the tree that Sam was near. That movement had set Sam back to his howling.
"For the love of the gods, please stop him from making that infernal racket," I heard a voice coming from way up in the tree. This voice had a heavy accent. I guessed the speaker to be Irish.
"Who is up there?" I asked.
"I'm up here, as any fool could surely tell, but get that creature to be quiet, or they will find us for sure."
"Who will find us?"
"It won't matter who if he leads them to us," Sam was still howling so I took him by his collar and got him to be quiet.
"Thank the gods for small favors."
"Come down out of that tree," I said.
"I don't think I will," he replied.
I let Sam go, and he went right back to howling and circling around that tree trunk.
"Okay, Okay! You win, I'll come down, but first, have him be quiet."
I took a tight hold on Sam's collar, and he was quiet once again. There was even more branch rustling noises, starting high up in the tree. A few minutes passed, the rustling noise seemed to be getting closer, and then, a
tiny man, one no more than three feet tall, finished working his way down the tree. He jumped the last bit of distance to end up standing right in front of me.
"Why was he chasing you?"
"I don't know but he was."
"Who are you?"
"I'm called Jonas, what might your name be?"
"Why are you worried about someone finding you?" I asked.
"Quick on the pick up, I see, and right to the point as well."
"I can let him loose again, if you decide you would rather not answer my questions."
"No! I took something, and they are bound to notice soon. When they do, they'll be coming after me."
"What did you take?"
"An amulet," he said.
"Well, dig it out for me to see," I replied.
He took something out of his pocket. It was attached to what looked like a silver necklace. The amulet had one series of blue and green stones that worked their way all around it, 'til they ended with a much larger red stone seated right in the center.
"Why did you take it?"
"Why? I took it because I had the opportunity to do so. I wanted to add it to my pot."
"Your pot?" I asked.
"My pot, are you daft? Haven't you noticed yet that I'm a Leprechaun?"
"You're not dressed all in green, and you don't even have a beard," I said in a mocking tone, hoping to match his earlier rudeness.
"Very funny, now if you will just hold him there, I will be on my way," He looked at me and was about to turn.
"I don't think so." I let my arm move forward and Sam moved up closer to Jonas, his teeth coming prominently into view.
"Please, Sir, careful you don't let that creature get any closer to me."
"I was thinking of letting him have you for his dinner."
"What would you take to simply let me go?"
"I'll take your pot, since you're nice enough to be offering." I gave him a bit of my Scottish brogue then.
You would have thought I was killing him from the way he carried on. If he was a Leprechaun I knew from the old folk tales that to was only a ploy on his part. Just as what I was doing was on mine. If he was truly what he claimed to be, he would have more likely chosen to die, rather than agreeing to give me his pot. I thought he could possibly be persuaded to give me the amulet though.
"So do I get the pot, or do you get eaten by my beast?"
"Give me to the beast if that's my choice then. My pot is worth more to me
than me life."
I let Sam go, and Jonas just barely got back up in the tree before Sam managed to get hold of him. Sam went back to howling again, soon after he had the little man treed.
Jonas was pleading for me to stop Sam from doing it. I just held my hand cupped to my ear, shaking my head like I couldn't hear him.
Finally, I walked over and took a hold of Sam's collar again.
"Well, what will it be, your pot, or you spending the rest of the night up
in the tree?"
"Can we come to a compromise?"
"A wee compromise it is then, that you want?" I asked poking some fun at his Irish heritage.
"What would you take that wasn't my pot, to let me go?"
That was what I had been waiting for.
"Drop the amulet, and you can walk away as soon as you do," I replied almost as quick as he said it.
"Oh, aren't you're a crafty one?" he replied.
"Am I?" This reply in a surely and mocking tone.
"You know that if I drop it, I lose any rights to it. It's lost property then, and I wouldn't hold any more claim on it."
"So it's a night in the tree and your pot in the morning? That's if they don't find you before then. Or, you can drop that amulet down here now, and walk away after we leave, with whatever you still have, left." I gave Sam
some wiggle room and he started back to howling again.
There was a plunk, and I looked down at this silver object laying there on the ground, shining brightly at me from the area around the base of the tree. I walked over to. Making certain it was the same amulet he had earlier
shown to me.
"You only get a head start of ten minutes before I let him loose, again, so you better get going."
Jonas climbed down from the tree and scurried away, out of sight. I bent down to pick up the amulet, quickly stuffing it into my front pants pocket.
A minute after that, I started singing to Sam, knowing he'd start howling again, trying to harmonize with me. My hope was that this added noise would be an incentive to Jonas, encouraging him to move away from us at a faster pace.
I picked Sam up right after that first song ended, hurrying away with him in my arms. He was a filthy mess, but there was no getting him back to the motor home quickly, unless I did it.
I was really beat by the time we got back. I vowed right then, that Sam was going on a diet, because twenty-seven pounds of dog was just too much for me to carry.
I went to open the door but it was locked. Then I remembered that woman that I had left alone inside. Funny how twenty-seven pounds of squirming dog would make you forget like that but it did.
I knocked on the door for a good long while, but she didn't come to open it. I went to the front bumper and got my spare set of keys that I kept in the hidey-hole to protect against locking my keys inside. I took the amulet from my pocket, putting it in the hidey-hole.
That done, I went to open up my door to the motor home. I didn't see any sign of the girl anywhere, but I did notice the package of
cookies I had not put away from lunch was empty. Sam took off for the back of the coach, and I followed after him.
The door to my bedroom was closed. When I opened it, there she was, asleep. Her clothes were left in a haphazard pile on the floor, next to the bed. Sam crawled up onto the bed, settling down at the foot of it, promptly falling into a deep sleep. That was the usual place for him to be sleeping, so I didn't worry too much about it.
I went back up to the front and decided that we would be better off heading down the road a ways, just in case. Converting that thought into deed, I fired up the engine, heading off on the highway. Hopefully I was leaving Jonas, and whoever was looking for him, far behind.
I wondered more about the woman sleeping in the back, then. She had to have been frightened to burst her way in. Was there someone after her, also? That and the thousand other questions about why she was here raced through my brain as I drove.
My cell rang about two hours later. This time it was Steve, checking up on my progress. I told him about Sam's afternoon run, leaving out all the unessential details, like having a strange woman asleep in the back. I didn't
mention Jonas or the amulet either. We shared a laugh about Sam's little adventure.
There was one of the discount outlet centers being advertised on billboards as I drove. Thinking that it was already getting late, and already deciding that I didn't know of anywhere better to stay, I punched in the exit
information to the GPS, and waited for the machine's lovely female voice to tell me when we were getting close.
It was nearly 9:00 by the time I had parked in the parking lot. The place
would be closing in a few minutes so there weren't many cars left there. A couple of other motor homes, and a semi tractor and trailer were all that would soon be left.
I parked away from the other vehicles before checking up on sleeping beauty, planning on going to get all of us some fast food at one of the chains nearby. She was sound asleep when I checked on her, with Sam having moved up so that he was now lying right next to her.
I went out, locking the door behind me before heading over to grab some food for our supper. I didn't know if she was going to wake up or sleep all night, but if she smelled the food when I returned, that might do the job.
Sam deserved a burger for all his hard work this afternoon. He could start on his diet tomorrow. Cindy called while I was in the restaurant ordering. I talked to the kids before they were going to sleep for the night.
She asked how my day on the road had gone and then mentioned knowing about my adventure with Sam that Steve had already told her about. We said our goodbyes soon after, so I got in line to place my order. A few minutes later, bag of food in one hand, drinks in another I was headed back to the travel coach.
It didn't take Sam long to wake up when he smelled his burger. Him moving, along with the smell of the food must have gotten her awake about then as well. She came out, once again dressed in the clothes I'd seen on the bedroom floor.
I said hello to her when she came forward to the living/dining room. She replied to me in a language I couldn't understand. It sounded somehow familiar, probably from some point in my past. I stood up and motioned for
her to have a seat with a wave of my hand.
She did so, and, after she was seated, I put some of the food in front of her. That took no explanation and she was tearing into it before I got back in my seat.
I pushed my fries over to her after she had finished hers. I think she enjoyed the shake more than anything. She finished eating, finally, leaning over as she did so to rub her hands on Sam's head.
I was done by then, too. I got up from where I was sitting to put all the papers and trash away. Before I did that, I could tell, mostly from the worried look in her eyes that she needed to use the bathroom facility.
I took her hand and said, "Come with me."
She stood up then, so I was able to guide her back to the bathroom. I opened the door for her and watched carefully as she looked inside. The look on her face told me that she didn't know what any of this was used for.
I sat down on the throne, trying to mimic what she was supposed to do, showing her what to do with the toilet paper then finishing my demonstration by flushing it.
Looking back, that was a strange act on my part. I mean, she was not a child. She'd have had to have used some type of bathroom facility, somewhere.
I got out of the way then, and pushed her inside, closing the door. She
got the idea, because I could hear the stream going and her subsequent flush. She came out soon after, with a much-relieved look on her face.
I needed some relief myself at this point, and knew that a shower would also be good. She could use one herself. The troubling issue was that there was only a limited supply of water that I carried, and I would need to start the water heater up first.
I could always stay at a camp ground the next night, and take care of getting some fresh and dumping out our waste water. Deciding that would be a workable solution, I went over and fired up the water heater. That done, I then took her over to the dining table again, to see if we could communicate what we'd need to be doing.
I wanted to find out her name so I said "Robert" and then pointed to myself.
When I later pointed at her, she didn't say anything. I pointed to myself again and said "Robert".
I pointed to her again. She said "Robert".
I shook my head and laughed while she stared at me. We played the Robert
game for another ten minutes before I finally grew tired of it and gave up for the time being.
I took her with me and found some clothes for her. I thought I had taken all of Kathy's out when I was going through our things but what I managed to find must have slipped past me.
I handed them to "Robert", and we went to the shower. A few minutes of my showing her what to do, then I just left her to it. She sang this delightful melody as she was showering. I could have sworn that I had heard it somewhere else, but it escaped me where.
She came out wrapped in Kathy's old robe and went straight back to the bedroom.
I got Sam, and the two of us went for a shower of our own. I have done that
with him ever since he was a little pup, so it wasn't a battle like it would be with some other dogs. But you had to remember to dry him off good before you opened the door, or else there would be a mess you'd have to take care of.
I sang to him as we showered, and he joined in to accompany me. I doubted whether our music would be as delightful to her, as hers had been to me, but it was what it was.
Sam didn't manage to escape before he was dried off, but he took off like a bullet for the bedroom just as soon as I opened the door. She must have had come out and put all of the trash from the dinner back in the bags it came in, but I didn't see her any where out there.
Back in the bedroom she was sitting on the bed, brushing her hair with a brush that must have been Kathy's too. Once again, she was softly singing that lovely melody. Sam looked up at me as I came to stand in the bedroom doorway. Her eyes had followed his. She managed a very sweet smile, before returning to brushing her hair and singing.
It had been a long day, and I was beat. I grabbed some things from my closet and took one of the pillows before turning around and starting back to the living room to make up one of the couches into a bed. She stood up and walked over, grabbed the pillow and tossed it back on the bed.
"You'll not be sleeping out of this bed on my account," she said with the sweetest Irish accent I'd heard in a very long time.
My mouth was hanging open at that point.
"When did you start to speak English?"
Yeah, it was a stupid question to ask; but at the time, it sounded right.
"When I was two I think," she giggled.
"Why didn't you speak to me before?"
"Oh, I did but you don't seem to understand Gaelic," she giggled again.
I had not been this tongue tied since I was a very young teen. She was having fun with me, all of it at my expense. It was being done is such a cute way, that it was difficult for me to really be angry with her for it.
"Why didn't you speak to me in English back when I was trying to show you
how to use the bathroom? Or when I first wanted you to tell me your name?"
"It was too cute to stop you, then," more giggles.
"And your name is?"
"I am Mave Boru," She said this with a very confident voice, lovely and clear.
I had known my Irish history, even though my own family was Scottish. Kathy, bless her soul, had married a Scotsman even though she was a young Irish lass. Trying to impress the new relations, I had studied up about the culture and heritage of Ireland all those years ago.
We had moved away from them many years ago, so my Irish history and Gaelic were more than a bit rusty. But that was why I had remembered the songs she sang.
If Mave was a Boru, as she claimed, she may well go all the way back to Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland, who fell defending Ireland from the Vikings at the Battle of Clontarf. Strange little factoids like that always sem to pop up when ever I have studied all of my life.
How a descendant of his would have found her way to me would be worth a story well worth discovering.
"So Mave, would you be from the line of Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland?"
The expression on her face let me know that I had surprised her.
"I am," she said.
"And how would it be that you find yourself in the company of a good Scotsman such as I?"
I figured that I could play on my heritage as well as she could hers. Not with the same illustrious background of course, but I didn't know of any of my ancestors who had been hung as horse thieves.
"Had I known you were only a Scot, I might have passed on your offer of hospitality."
"Only a Scot? What kind of offer was it I was supposed to have made? Did I make it when you rushed in past me without any leave being given? Letting loose my poor dog in the process. I had thought, 'til now, that you did it so you could eat all my cookies, then sleep in my bed while I chased after Sam. Then, after all that, I now find that you played on my poor lack of Gaelic, just to watch me squirm for your amusement."
"It is the role we poor Irish are relegated too. Helping out those not fortunate enough to have been born God's own chosen."
"Where did you hide the Blarney stone? I'm sure it must have gone missing. Are you keeping it in your pocket to speak to me so?"
We were having the little tug and jab that our both our peoples had had for centuries.
"I do thank you for your offer of shelter, and for the cookies, bed, and meal. I hope that my only penalty for this will be to wake up with fleas, having spent all that time in bed with your dog."
"I'll have you know that those would be Scottish fleas, and if you we so blessed as to have been allowed to have them, it would only add to your enjoyment of life."
"Sam looks like an American beagle." she giggled.
"He may have been whelped as an American, but he is pure Scot now, through and through."
"Ah yes, I did hear him singing in true Scottish voice," she laughed ... no, giggled, as she made that last statement.
"I am sure he and I can sing some Irish tunes together for you if you like," I smiled at her.
"I think that I will simply let that pass, if it is okay with you. So, now I know your name is Robert, but not much more than that."
"After that little fun you had that should be all I tell you, but I am a Stewart, Robert Stewart," My chest was expanding full of Scottish pride.
"Can I call you Bobby then?"
Kathy had punched a hole in my Scottish pride with the same words so many years before. I simply sat back and remembered the moment of that.
"Robert, are you all right?"
I finally heard her asking that, but only once I was back from my past.
We spend the next three hours discussing Kathy.
I should have asked her about how she ended up with me. I should have asked about the circumstances that brought her to my motor home. I did try, but she deflected every question back to Kathy and I.
It was a cleansing of the soul to speak of all of the good times Kathy and I had shared together in the journey we called life. At one point Mave got up and got some tissues.
Finally, even for a Scotsman, I was talked out. Mave would have none of me going to sleep in the other room and she brought me back to the bed and helped me out of my clothes. Then she dropped her own robe and got in beside me.
I would be lying if I said I would not have like to know her body, but she was having none of that. We simply held each other. My need for being held far outweighed the other need.
Sam got into bed with us at some point and pressed her closer to me. After so long of sleeping with Kathy and then not, it was more than comforting to have Mave in my arms as I slept.
Edited By TeNderLoin