The operation was 11 days ago. I am not dead. This morning Jerry and I walked about 3/4 of a mile. Yesterday we walked early but later I was miserable with searing pains in the abdomen for most of the day. I was able to talk to a sympathetic nurse and later to the doctor herself. I was advised to take various remedies and pain medicine. Today I am much better. Gas is the problem. I am astonished at how painful intestinal gas can be. All day I alternately groaned and dozed, exhausted from the stress of the pain. I hope all that is now finished.
The day after I came home from the hospital (someday I’ll write about the hierarchical community of the hospital) I received a telephone call telling me that my first husband, Pete, had died. He was 90 years old and was being treated for cancer so it was not unexpected; but still it was disturbing news. I had not seen him for more than 30 years, but I kept up with his life’s events (and some of its trivia) because he was the father of 3 of my children. The last time I saw him I lived in Bethesda Maryland. He came to my house to pick up our daughter for a visit before she went off to graduate school in England. Instead of coming to my door himself, he sent his young son by his second marriage. I thought the child had come to play with my young son by my second marriage. My ex had to get out of his car and come up the walk to untangle the mistake. I greeted him warmly and gave him a quick hug. He didn’t like it.
Pete was a guy who battled his way through life. He was smart and funny and educated but living made him angry. He had a mind and a memory. He remembered all the stuff he had had to memorize as a kid in high school and could recite long passages of pieces like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. He read everything. He loved opera and we listened to it every Saturday on the radio. When he was studying for his PhD prelims we went out to Evanston, Illinois where my mother, an economics professor, lived, for him to be coached by her. She had a big old house with many rooms. Pete and my mother roamed from room to room working out economic theories, mechanisms and facts. The children, who were small, and I stayed out of their path. My mother said he was the best student she ever had. He liked smart women and never suffered fools gladly. One of my favorite stories about him, told to me by one of our children, was his having a dispute with an airline ticket agent. He demanded that something be done, the agent assured him that “irregardless” of his pressing need it could not be done. Pete finally exploded in a furious tirade and ended by pounding his fist on the counter and shouting, “And besides that, irregardless isn’t even a word.”
So I am slowly healing from the operation and contemplating the hole in the world left by Pete’s death. I would prefer to have him still there, across the continent, fighting the world. I am not in favor of change. Of course, we all have to go and life will be easier for some of those who were struggling to care for him at the end. But they, too, will have to cope with the sudden vacuum and the loss. I am sorry.