What I Am Not Supposed to Say

Twenty-four years ago, three months before my mother died, I put my grandmother into a nursing home. It was the one of the two things she never wanted. The other was to have cancer.  Instead, it was my mother, her daughter, who would die of it. My grandmother died simply, of old age.

After leaving my grandmother at what was, I assured myself, a nice home, I went to my sister’s house. I had no sooner arrived, no sooner taken two steps onto her lawn, when I fell to my hands and knees, sobbing. “I want her back,” I said. “I want her back.”

For months now, I have been, to my surprise, comfortable living on my own. No longer scared, as I always would be when he was away traveling, of sleeping in the house alone. No longer confined to bed, if I woke in the night. If I must have insomnia at 3 a.m., I told myself, at least I can make tea. Nor have I felt particularly lonely. Now it is the cat that nestles into the hollow of my back at night.

But suddenly, on a recent day – which, admittedly, was our 32nd wedding anniversary, the last anniversary, most likely, I would spend as married woman – suddenly that day, the house felt empty. Missing that burst of energy that always accompanied him whenever he came home.

“I want him back. I want him back.” I fell to my hands and knees again, rocking back and forth, keening, even as, underneath, I knew that this was not a choice I was being offered.

“I want him back. I want him back.” I wanted to rip, split, tear into myself, refuse this awful knowledge.

“I want him back. I want him back.” Please, dear God, don’t make me give him up.

This is not the change I asked for.

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