Different Times

As I went about my usual Wednesday morning routine—showering, shaving, preparing trash to take to the curb for pickup, making my first cup of coffee, etc., etc.—it occurred to me that this Wednesday is no different that most Wednesdays. Except my wife is no longer here. Yet that has been true for most Wednesdays, most days of every week, since July 15. I adjusted my routines to account for my wife’s hospitalizations and her times in rehab facilities. During the times I was able to visit, my routine included a trip to visit with her. When she was in isolation due to COVID-19, I spoke to her by phone, or tried to, and/or visited through a window when I could.

So this Wednesday is very different from past Wednesdays. And the past five months were radical departures from virtually all the months that preceded them. Every day going forward will be dramatically different; my life has changed in ways beyond my comprehension. My wife’s death last Saturday launched the remainder of my life in a direction I do not yet understand and do not want to. But I have no choice. At some point, I will have to come to grips with my new reality. That point is not here yet, though. I am unable to think of the future. It has been only three days. Three of the longest days, I think, I have ever experienced.

Several times each day, I catch myself wanting to tell my wife something. It’s natural; it’s to be expected. I can no longer make a mental note to mention something to my wife; at least I can no longer act on that mental note. I know that. And I know that desire to say something to her will diminish over time. Though I’ve never before lost a spouse, I’ve lost a sibling; I recall the experience. This, though, is different. And I know that, too. I just don’t yet know how the differences will affect me.

My ruminations sound so clinical, as if they are devoid of emotion. They are not. I am just thinking about how my life has changed. The most important person in my life, the irreplaceable anchor and guide, is gone. Millions, billions, of people have experienced what I am experiencing, but this experience is unique to me. I’m rambling. I’ll stop.

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Friends and neighbors continue to express their condolences and their concern in many ways. Notes, messages, telephone conversations, and properly distanced and masked doorway visits have shown me the compassion that resides in so many people. A friend from church delivered a marvelous, comforting, and nutritious dinner last night, with enough for another meal as well. A neighbor I know only in passing, a woman who used to play cards with my wife, brought a dish of sliced cinnamon cake. Oh, I failed to mention before that I have two nice servings of lasagna in my freezer, courtesy of another friend who, day before yesterday, also brought cheese cookies. I am in no danger of starving.

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Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. My family’s tradition has always been to enjoy tamales and chile con queso on Christmas Eve. The best tamales, in my memory, are those made in the kitchens of Mexican and Mexican-American families. The tamale-making process is overseen by little old Mexican grandmothers (who, now, are probably considerably younger than I am). They teach the proper ways to make the masa, prepare the corn husks, slowly cook and shred the spiced meat (pork is best, in my view). Then, they demonstrate the proper techniques for smearing the masa onto the corn husks, ladling and spreading the meat filling, and folding the tamales. Sadly, I did not go out in search of homemade tamales. I could buy manufactured tamales, I suppose, but they are not the same as crafted tamales. Tamales made with love and skill and a deep appreciation of the culture from which they emerged.

Oh, well. I have some of the makings of tamales. All I have to do is buy the rest. And make my own. Maybe another time. I’m not in the mood right now. But maybe I’ll stop at the sign on Highway 7; the sign that offers tamales for sale for $20 a dozen (extremely expensive, in my opinion). Or maybe I’ll delay. Who knows? I don’t.

 

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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