When the end of time comes, tears will follow

Readers often ask how hard it is to find something to talk about every week.

Not hard at all, really.

Today I have much to talk about; it just breaks my heart to do so. You see, my husband, Walt, died last Sunday. March 16. He’d been living at the Tompkins Health Center turned Simpson Health Center for more than three years. He’d gone there after a hip replacement surgery, and never came home again. The surgery anesthesia worked against his Parkinson’s disease and dementia set in. Lewy Body Dementia, I’ve been told. That label didn’t change things; dementia is dementia. Still, he had lucid moments and would unexpectedly say something about conversations from weeks before, so I know there was more going on in his head than he could get out. Parkinson’s takes away the ability to formulate sentences and in the end takes away the ability to swallow. He was almost at that point.

Less than a week before he died, he broke his leg, but nobody has any idea how it happened. He never fell. The bone just broke, and the doctors agreed with my decision not to put him through another surgery. I felt guilty, of course I felt guilty, for not giving him medical care, but sometimes the best care is minimal care.

Although he didn’t complain about pain, he received morphine several times a day. Maybe that’s why he didn’t complain.

Walt’s been gone from home for so long, I thought I had steeled myself well for this. You know that didn’t happen. After a good first cry, guilt came hand-in-hand with relief. Relief that he no longer struggled to talk, relief he was free.

The Rev. Matthew Martens, our minister at Grace Lutheran, came by after Walt died to offer whatever help I wanted. While he stood there looking at Walt, he said Walt was such a good-natured man, kind and considerate. He was. Most of the time. But my good-natured, kind, considerate man could act like a cantankerous old fart, and I said so.

Then we laughed. And the healing began.

I own a Kirby vacuum and every time I used it, I wanted to shake Walt till his eyeballs wiggled. On our 20th anniversary, I had talked him into a trip to Hawaii. He didn’t really want to go.

About this time one of our daughter’s friends took a job selling Kirbys and wanted to give me his pitch. He got points, he said, for at least showing the vacuum, so I invited him to do so. He pitched for more than an hour while Walt sat at the other end of the room reading the paper. When Mike got done, I thanked him for vacuuming my carpet, and he packed up to leave.

“We’ll take it,” Walt said.

More than $1,400 for a vacuum with all sorts of bells and whistles. He bought it all.

A week later I started planning our Hawaii trip. Walt shook his head and said, “We can’t go. You just bought a vacuum.”

I hate that vacuum.

So long friends, until the next time when we’re together.

Sandy Mickelson, retired lifestyle editor of The Messenger, may be reached at mcsalt@frontiernet.net.