While I was caring for Diane, I spent six years gradually disconnecting from the world. More and more of our time passed inside the house, the daily life of a caregiver and his charge. As her life narrowed, so mine did also. At the end, she lived in one room, confined to a hospital bed, unaware of the world outside, unresponsive to her family and friends nearby. Then, she was finally free.
In the months after, I began rebuilding a life out of idolation. First Lauren and I held a memorial service for Diane. Contrary to her dismal prediction that no one but her daughters would show up for her funeral, about fifty people came: people she forgot she knew, who didn’t forget her; old friends from Philadelphia and Medford Lakes; her nieces from California and Illinois. Her sisters didn’t attend: Cheryl was incapacitated by dementia, and Pat couldn’t overcome her fear of flying. Jennifer had already gone ahead.
After the memorial, Lauren and I busied ourselves planning the trip we would take across the country to scatter Diane’s ashes at Mirror Lake. That journey is detailed elsewhere.
When we returned, I knew I wanted to write a book. I sat down and begin writing, finishing the first draft in December. By then I knew I needed to build a new life, reaching out to groups and people in the community to form new friendships and ties, and over the next year, I did. I found friends, and community, and love.
Then it all changed.
Over a month has passed since we began the lockdown. My daily life includes contact with Lauren and her husband Kevin, my dog Heidi, and three cats who allow us to share their house. We venture out carefully, wearing masks as the law requires now. By chance, we had two boxes of N95 masks on hand from years ago when a bird flu pandemic seemed possible.
I see Kathy once or twice a week, from a safe distance. We walk together, she on the pavement of her quiet street, me on the sidewalk with a grass strip between us. Now we see each other through our masks, darkly. We long for the day we shall see face to face.