Read part one here.
I thought of Di, her long brown hair that waved just so at the bottom. I thought of how funny she was, how she always knew the right quip to make, whether someone was being rude or kind or just nosy. She put people at ease, she hugged and kissed the boys with abandon no matter how old or smelly or grumpy they got. She thought things through and smiled widely and wanted to see Italy more than anything in the world. I thought of all the things I hadn’t given her. All the places I hadn’t taken her.
But mostly I thought of the woman I loved so achingly much. I didn’t want to lose her. I didn’t want her memory or her mind to go away. I wanted her to remember our life together. To remember when the boys’ took their first steps and when they started school and when they tried to sneak out of the house at night when they were teenagers. I didn’t want Alzheimer’s to take her tenacity and persistence and laughter.
I thought then that our life was about to break into one million pieces. I thought it was all over, all our joy and happiness. In the middle of it all, when Di couldn’t remember how to get to the grocery store and when she was screaming at me for stealing from her, someone told me that my life would always be different now. It would never be the same. But it would be beautiful again one day. Beautiful in a different way. I didn’t believe them of course. A life without Di couldn’t be anything but dark and empty. Grief doesn’t allow for the future.
Now we’re back at the beginning. It’s been six years since Di left this world for a happier, better place. I imagine she’s dancing around in Italy right now, running and laughing while indulging in wine and cheese and gelato. Thinking of her like this makes me happy.
That person that told me life would be beautiful again, just in a different way? Well, reluctantly I admit that they were right. The boys come home for almost every holiday. Holidays were Di’s favorite time of year, she didn’t even care which holiday it was, so we get together to celebrate her. They bring their wives and children and sometimes even their dogs. They spread through that farmhouse and fill it with loud voices and sticky light switches and endless laughter. We always talk about her, we talk about her before the Alzheimer’s and after. We remember the things she loved the most and the way she paved the way for all of us in this world.
And then we talk about other things. Jobs and kids starting school. Discipline and political angst. We talk about moving and starting over and falling in and out of love. This is how it always is, isn’t it? We keep moving and keep breathing and the things we think will crush us, somehow get smaller and smaller.
So would I do it all over again? Had you asked me that question after the Alzheimer’s diagnosis and the assisted living home and the dark, dark nights, I might have said no. I might have said that nothing was worth this kind of pain. But now? In a heartbeat. Not a single moment of pain, not the most horrific of things could make me take back the kisses on her front porch when we were 22. Not any memory loss or deathbed pleas could make me take back the first nights in the hospital after each boy was born, pink and tiny and perfect. She is part of me, with me every day in a way I will never be able to replace. She’s still my joy and life is still beautiful, in a different way, without her here.
So yes, I’d do it all again. Because ours was a typical and yet so very special kind of love.