Today marks 869 days since Maggie’s Angel Day. Being that specific implies more preoccupation than is truly representative of my mental state. But being that specific makes me think about how far I’ve come and how far I’ve still to go. (I’ll save you the math: 869 days is roughly 124 weeks, 29 months or just nearly 2 ½ years. From official diagnosis to her Angel Day, 850 days passed. So as of today, 20 more days have passed since her Angel Day than the length of her “official” illness.)
For nearly 2 ½ years I’ve let a bouquet of roses sit on the counter on her side of the bathroom. To me, those dried flowers were just part of the room. I can’t even say I really noticed them every day. Beside the vase that held the dried roses sat her driver’s license, placed there the day I stopped carrying it around in my pocket several hundred days ago. Several hundred days – it’s uncomfortable to call that out but it’s very real. It’s my life.
So, without fanfare or grand circumstance, I made a change. No lighting struck. No drums rolled. No sad music played. It was just me, the puppies and my staid emotions as I carried the dried bouquet of roses to the back of our my house. I grabbed the bunch by the stems, crunched them together as the brittle peddles disintegrated, and tossed them onto the compost pile. It was done.
How is it that I’ve been ok with a bouquet of roses that has been sitting in the same spot for years? My psychologist, the one I’ve seen weekly since Maggie became very ill, calls this state of inertia “business as usual.” In my professional life, I’ve never stood for business as usual. Yet, in my personal life, I had a bouquet of roses sitting on the counter in my bathroom for years – more than 850 days. From now on, business as usual is now the business of change.
What started in the bathroom has been spreading. A few days ago, the business of change overthrew a pile of crushed dreams in the corner of the kitchen that has gathered much dust. Stacks of receipts from closed bank accounts, letters from the court, change of relationship forms, and unused death certificates have lied where they fell after completing their last call of duty. Now, untouched for probably more than a year, these papers have become a pile of pins and needles that I occasionally ran my hand through but mostly avoided. As of today, that pile is gone and its contents appropriately sorted and filed in the filing cabinet under “Crap That Sucks.”
While I was meddling in that area of the kitchen, I took down five pictures of Maggie that I had taped up to the tile years ago. In some of the pictures, she was cuddling Nurse Jolie’s new-born daughter Anya making loving baby faces I’d never get to see as she held our own new-born children. Another picture was a favorite that she had given me to keep in my briefcase as I traveled. Her glowing smile reminded me of happier, more-innocent days. All those pictures are packed away now and that wall looks bare.
It’s an odd feeling, doing this. Yes, I feel sad but I also feel a sense of cleansing or of refreshing. I don’t feel like I’m betraying Maggie and that’s the best thing. I really thought I’d be struggling with that but that specific feeling is conspicuously absent and its absence is, well, welcome. In fact, I feel less like I’m putting away and more like I’m making room.