It’s the little things
Originally posted on Medium.com by Carole P. Roman
|Photo found on shutterstock.com|
Just when you think you’re going to be okay, you find an ashtray with a half-smoked cigar buried in his workplace in the basement.
We cleaned out the cellar today. It was one of those things we put off for six months. I rushed with his stuff in the house. I couldn’t look another minute at anything related to his COPD. The medicines, oxygen, and walker were the first to go. I shoved them out the door, along with the clothes he wore after he gave up living- those oversized jogging pants instead of sexy jeans he used to wear.
His shoes were the hardest to pack up. He valued a good leather shoe and had more of them than Carrie Bradshaw. In fact, he was the one who introduced me to designer footwear and started a life-long obsession over forty years ago.
He was reduced to non-skid sneakers, clunky and ugly, clumsy and unrefined.
He was so elegant when we were young, handsome, and smart. He knew about really cool things and had a thirst to learn his entire life. Together, we made everything in our lives, from our home to how we lived, better. He was a believer in experiencing everything the world had to offer, learning the best of everybody’s culture. He loved trying new foods or going on exploratory rides where we would look at homes and imagine other people’s lives then guess what they did for a living.
He was so much fun, my husband. His eyes would light up with excitement or mischief. Make no mistake, he was a trouble-maker of epic proportions. He’d find a chink in someone’s armor and then go for it, just to watch a person squirm. He loved discovering what was important to them, and then find a challenge to see how they would defend it. While it wasn’t a favorite memory when it comes to my spouse, I discovered a lot about both him and myself with the outcomes of those encounters. I learned what was important enough for me to go balls to the wall, and more than that, he found our boundaries.
He did prepare me for this time. We talked about it literally to death, and while I think I’ve done okay, it boggles me that the stump of a dried out cigar can send me right back to that place. I want to run upstairs and hide under the covers to pretend the last twelve years didn’t happen.
I should hate that damn cigar. It was lung cancer that started the whole thing, after all. But somehow I don’t. When we found it, my heart did a little flip, and my voice quavered. My eyes filled, and while I was able to clear my throat and turn my face away, that cigar reminded me how much I miss him. He enjoyed the rich chocolate taste, sitting outside, inhaling the flavor of his smoke as it wreathed around his face. The cigar represented his freedom or the last vestiges of it as his life and health disintegrated around him.
We did refuse to buy them, at first, but he found ways around us. For a man who didn’t know what Facebook or Gmail was, he learned to order online.
The fact that he beat cancer twelve years ago, but was sidelined with COPD angered him. I think in the end, he didn’t care anymore and wanted to find pleasure where he could. He was afraid of the end, not dying, the other end. That horrible place where he might linger and could no longer exist without the aid of a machine.
When we’d talk about smoking, he’d shrug and say, it really didn’t matter anymore. The damage was done, and that was the one enjoyment he had left.
I think that cigar became part of his identity. Just a whiff of smoke paralyzes me now. Walking into the lottery store with its giant humidor in the rear leaves me forlorn and empty.
Who would think that a burnt stub of tobacco could reduce a person to pieces? But it does.