I belong to several facebook groups where people sell used stuff. I really don’t know why, because I never buy anything. The other day, however, I saw two beautiful chairs that would go perfectly in front of my fireplace, at a very reasonable price, and I decided to contact the owner. Turns out she had a Portuguese last name, and I asked about it. She said it was from when she was married, and I felt I should leave it alone, and that was that.
Two Sundays ago, she texted me her address and I drove 20 minutes to get there. When I turned into the housing complex I was dumbfounded. You would not believe the size of these magnificent mansions, the enormous manicured gardens, and the pristine fences and gates. She waved from the front door and signaled for me to go up the driveway to the garage door. When I got there, a smiling short young woman opened the garage door and extended her hand in a warm welcome. I commented that she had a gorgeous house; she thanked me but said it was her parents’ house, she had moved there recently with her kids, 4 and 10 years old. In my mind, I thought the divorce had been hard and she was still dealing with all the mess of the aftermath. As we walked down the stairs, to a basement bigger than my entire house, she said “Yes, I just moved here with my kids. My husband died two years ago and I had to sell my house, it was too big.” I was very surprised… actually, to be honest, I was shocked. She said he was Portuguese, from a small village in northern Portugal, where they used to go frequently, they were very happy. One day, he left in the morning and went to work, and he had a heart attack and died. He was 37 years old. In that moment, I saw in her smiling face the pain of losing her perfect mate. She never stopped smiling or talking. We talked about how much she loves Portugal and that she still takes her kids there, and how they speak Portuguese. There was a resilience to her voice that hit me in that space where you grasp for air but you can’t inflate your lungs. I really wanted to hug her, but it felt inappropriate, so I patted her on the shoulder and said I was very sorry. We moved the chairs, I loaded them in the car, paid, we said goodbye and she disappeared behind the closing garage door. I left, feeling a little dazed, and I went the wrong way. I was wholly overtaken by an intense sense of dread… I was so disturbed I cried half the way home thinking about what would happen to my wife and my little girl, left behind alone to fend for themselves if I were gone. That thought has been terrorizing me. I am writing this because I cannot seem to be able to shake it off and I am hoping that verbalizing and putting it out there in the universe will cleanse me of this unsettling uneasiness.
I live like I am immortal, and I think lots of you do to. It feels real, but it is not realistic. My fathers’ death last year really brought home the finite aspect of life. We do not live forever and, if we want to be there for each other as long as possible, we need to take better care of yourselves, as the hideous back pain that is always with me makes agonizingly clear.