Feb. 23, 2017

Cute Little Old Couples

Butch talked a lot about our growing old together.  We always observed rickety old couples and imagined ourselves in their place.  We once dressed as an old couple for Halloween.  We had big plans for our 50th anniversary celebration, which we missed by just 6 years.  ­­­­We started dating at 17 and we expected to celebrate 80 together. 

His favorite joke was about a little old couple who went to a restaurant for their 75th anniversary.  Their meals were served but only the husband began eating his.  The wife waited patiently, watching her husband eat his meal while hers grew cold.  The waitress was incensed that the wife would be required to wait and eat after her husband.  She went to the table and asked if the wife needed anything else or if there was a problem with the food.  The wife assured her that everything was fine but did not begin eating.  The waitress went back to the table and told the woman that it was terrible that she was required to wait like that.  These were enlightened times and she should not be treated that way.  The wife smiled sweetly and said, “Oh Honey, it’s not like that.  It’s just that it is his turn to use the teeth first.” 

Butch was always a jock and an outdoorsman.  He hiked miles when he hunted, more for the adventure than anything else.  He rode his bike 50 miles without breaking a sweat.  He walked 20,000 paces per day at work. Just months before his fatal heart attack, he had his semi-annual stress test.  After 15 minutes on the machine, without even reaching a stressful heart rate, they told him, “That’s enough, Mr. Field, you can get off now.”  He rarely drank and stopped smoking after only a few years of the habit when he was young.  I, on the other hand, could best be described as support staff.  I bought gadets and gear for him to support all his activities.  I drove him and his equipment around for miles.  I waited on the beach at Fort Funston, watching the sunrise, while he and 10,000 others rode from the Presidio to Golden Gate Park on their bicycles. 

Yet he was the one with heart disease while the women in my family typically live into their 80s and 90s.  His having survived the three previous heart attacks contributed to the notion that he could outrun such a life-threatening condition.  All of us expected him to come back from this.  And all of that has made it so hard to accept that he is really gone.  We had plans.  He was Hercules and surely invincible.  He could do anything.  I feel so cheated when see sweet little old couples together.  I was so sure we would be one of them.  But the heart disease didn’t care.

Becoming us without them means first letting go of the story we thought we would be writing with them beside us.  It means not only dealing with this day without them here, but erasing all the videos we had in our mind about how tomorrow was going to unfold for us.  It doesn’t feel like a blank canvas that we must now design from scratch.  It is like a beautiful landscape that graced a prominent wall in our home that now has large gaping holes torn from it where once there were flowers and cool water and verdant meadows.  It’s hard to imagine something lovely will ever hang in its place. Each of us has a different landscape on our wall and will do different work to see beauty again.  But what we have in common will be far greater that our differences.  We will need a great deal of support and a steady supply of love to get through the process.  We can do this in the company of others, but never alone. 

At least, I won’t have to take turns with the teeth………