Friday, August 5, 2011

Till Death Do We Part

Clarissa's feet and back hurt.  It had been a long twelve hour shift at the hospice.  I'll check on Mr. Humphrey and then go home.  The thought didn't bring her any comfort.  She and her husband had been functioning somewhere between I-tolerate-you and I-don't-even-want-to-look-at-you land and Clarissa didn't know how to change it.

It had started with the decision to build a new house.  Clarissa wanted a house large enough to accommodate all the kids and grand kids when they came to visit.  Tom thought that since all the kids rarely came at the same time, building a large house was irresponsible.  He was concerned about stretching their anticipated retirement income over the rest of their lives.  He worried constantly that they would run out of money before they ran out of life.

Clarissa couldn't remember the last time they spoke even civilly to each other, much less lovingly.  The ill feelings had progressed to every day things and had now grown to the point of including past sins.  Clarissa was beginning to believe that maybe it hadn't really started with the house.  Maybe the house had just brought out what they had buried for so long.

They had never had a great marriage.  It was probably better than most, but still not as good as it could have been.  Neither of them 'completed' the other.  They were polar opposites and Tom's temper made discussing a matter impossible.  If they disagreed on anything, it went Tom's way or Clarissa heard about it for years.  She had learned early in their marriage that there wasn't much worth the price of demanding something go her way.

Once a year, Tom and his high school buddies got together to reminisce.  Tom had always insisted that Clarissa attend the weekend with him.  Clarissa had never been accepted by this group and was miserable the entire weekend.  Four years ago, Tom had told her, "I know you don't like to go visit my buddies, so you don't have to go this year."  Clarissa was ecstatic.  She wasn't the only wife not to attend.  Some had never come.  So Clarissa stayed home that one time.  Tom had not stopped complaining about her absence to this date.  She decided that no matter how miserable she was for the weekend, it was less than she would be for the next year if she didn't attend.

Summoning a smile she didn't feel, she headed to Mr. Humphrey's room.  After all, it wasn't his fault that she was unhappy.  He was just an elderly man in hospice care with very little time left on earth.

"Mr. Humphrey, is there anything I can do for you before I leave?"

"No.  I think I'm fine."  He answered weakly.

"Well, I just wanted to check on you.  I know you miss me when I'm gone."

"You're right.  You're my favorite girlfriend.  Have been since I got here.  You take better care of me than anyone else.  I'm glad you came in so I can tell goodbye."  He fidgeted in his bed.

"Are you sure you are alright?  You seem a little antsy tonight."

"I'll be fine.  I'm just excited.  I'm going to see my wife tonight."

"Your wife?  I thought your wife passed away years ago."

"She did and I've missed her every day since then.  But I'm going to see her tonight."

"Now, Mr. Humphrey.  You don't know that for sure."

"Yes, I do.  I'm tired of living with this pain.  The pain of this body and the pain of living without her.  And I've made up my mind.  Before the sun comes up tomorrow, I'll see her again.  I'm so excited that I think I'll skip my pain pill tonight.  You are going home too.  Are you excited to see your husband?"

"Mr. Humphrey, I see my husband every night."

"That wasn't what I asked you.  Are you excited to see him tonight?"

"I don't think it works that way when you see each other every night."

"Oh, really?  I was always excited to see my wife when I got off work.  I knew she would be there for me when no one else would.  I looked forward to seeing her for the last couple of hours I worked.  Some days that was the only thing that got me through those hours."

"How long were you married?"

"We were married for 41 years, but we were soul mates from the day we met in high school.  Neither of us was complete without the other."

"Didn't you ever have difficult times?"

"Oh, we had many difficult times, but each time made us stronger.  We always figured that we would get somewhere faster if we both went in the same direction.  When she died and I could go anyway I wanted, I found that I wanted to go the way she would go if she were here.  I went to the same grocery store that she had, even though I hated it when she was alive.  I even drove across town to her favorite barbeque place and I don't eat barbeque.  When she was alive, she would spend hours on the phone with her friend, Abigail.  I'd gripe about that--called it a waste of time.  After she died, I spent hours on the phone with Abigail.  I did everything I could be to close to my sweetheart."

"How did you handle disagreements?"

"Carefully.  Very carefully and prayerfully.  She could make me so mad.  She was a little spoiled and could get a little testy if things didn't go her way.  After she died, I realized that even the worst times with her were better than the best times without her."

"Did you ever consider divorcing her?"

"Yes, you are."  Clarissa laughed.

"Yeah, well I have my moments. I had a bit of a temper in my younger days.  I said that I stood for my convictions.  My mother said I was bull headed.  I guess I was.  But my wife loved me anyway.  She saw things in me that no one else saw.  I guess that is kind of what God did when He sent His son to die for a bunch of no count sinners."

"Thank you, Mr. Humphrey.  I really needed to hear that.  I think I'll go see my husband.  I'll see you tomorrow."

"No, Honey.  You won't see me tomorrow.  It looks like we are both going to see our lovers tonight.  Enjoy tonight and every night you have left with him.  They won't last forever."

Clarissa drove home with a heavy heart and a determination to be a better wife.  She pondered Mr. Humphrey's words.  Which would be worse?  A small house that was crowded when the kids came home, or a large house all alone most of the time?
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