The entire year that Michael was sick I missed the well Michael. I missed the person with so much energy and so much life. The guy who came home and said the exact same thing at the same time every day. He would get into the basement and on the bottom step he would yell up, “Hello!” Gina and I could time it and do “Hello!” in unison it was so dependable. If I was upstairs he would say, “Hello Dear-o, what’s going on?” Then he would say, “Wait. I have to take a shower.” and off he’d go. It was the same thing every single day.

When he was sick I missed the guy that the rest of the family depended on to be there. Pick me up here, drive me there, help me with this, work your mechanical magic on that. He was always there, cheerful and dependable and even when he complained it was a winky complaining. Sometimes I would say, “I don’t know why you’re putting up a fuss, we both know you’re going to do it.” And he would roll his eyes.

I missed the guy who thought my snarkiness was hilarious. When we first met we were at a party and I said, “Doesn’t this make you want to stick hot irons in your eyes?” and he almost spit his drink all over. He said, “Most people would be politely nice about the whole thing.” Not me. And he never stopped loving that. If I was on the phone with a friend having a relationship issue and I would say things like, “Oh I’d just bounce him right down the stairs.” I would hear Michael in the background laughing and repeating what I said. “Right down the stairs…”

I missed him in the office next to me. Sometimes we’d play video games, the same video games, and show each other little tricks. When he would show me, it was a trick. When I showed him, it was a cheat.

I missed him at the train station and bus station. I still have so much trouble seeing the other cars picking people up. Michael was always there 45 minutes early. And always greet me with a cheery hello.

Everything and anything he had ever done, I missed while he was sick.

The thing I didn’t understand is that I would miss the sick him as well. For a strong, independent guy he was so helpless and so dependent on the people who once had depended so much on him. When he was still walking I left him in the car to run in and get a prescription. When I came out he was there with a look of terror on his face. I said, “Oh honey, what’s wrong?” and he said “I get anxious when I don’t see you.” I felt so bad in the moment that he, who was never afraid of anything, was afraid.

I think the brain tumors slowly took over his desire to be independent. I know that the well Michael would not have wanted to be in a bed for 8 months. He couldn’t do it for 8 hours. Sometimes the kids would ask if he was depessed. I don’t think he could get there. He never seemed depressed to me and I knew him better than anyone.

He would be in the kitchen in the wheelchair, eating his morning breakfast. Because of the tumors he couldn’t hold his head upright but his eyes would shoot up to follow me around the room and he would give me a half smile. I would kiss him on the head.

I sat with him and he laughed sometimes when I told stories. Other times he was non-responsive. But I lived for the laugh and for the days he could talk above a whisper and for times he said he loved me.

I never thought I’d miss that. I thought I would be so consumed by missing the well Michael that I wouldn’t have given the person who was succumbing to illness a second thought.

But Michael was always dignified. Always friendly. Always kind and caring. The caregivers and hospice workers said he never once complained. He was sweet and good natured and it shone through.

I miss the well Michael so much, but I find myself missing the man who met adversity and serious illness with such quiet grace. The smile, the wink when he couldn’t talk, the holding onto my hand, tight, so very tight. Right before he died he had gripped my hand so very tightly.

When he was sick it reminded me of the well person who was no longer here. And in missing the well Michael while the sick Michael was here, I didn’t fully appreciate how wonderful it was to be in the presence of someone going through such horror in such a dignified way. And I got to love him…to be there for him…to let him know I “had his back” as he said on so many occasions. And I miss the me that was with him…so doting and so kind and so attentive. I miss the me that suddenly existed in the face of Michael’s illness.

And I miss Michael. The well Michael, the sick Michael, the me-in-relation to Michael. I miss it all.

Advertisements