All the kids have told me they dream about Michael all the time.

I haven’t had a dream about him until last night.

In my dream he was in the hospital bed and someone called me to tell me he had died

I rushed into the room and they were making plans to wash him and send him to the funeral home. Except he was sitting up in bed. When he saw me he said, “Don’t let them do this to me hon.” And I said I wouldn’t and I was yelling at everyone to get out and leave him alone. I was pushing the hospital bed with him in it and saying, “We’re going home, hon, we’re going home.” I woke up in a puddle of tears and felt as if my heart was re-shattered. Like it had just happened.

From the very beginning of our relationship, I was the advocate for Michael in so many ways. The crazy ex’s that kept calling, the court appearances regarding child support and custody etc etc. He was afraid that if he set some of those boundaries he would lose his kids. I said, “Don’t worry. I would never let that happen.” After the first few victories he felt very confident that with my help he could conquer a lot of things. I remember when we traveled with all the kids to California and we were trying to get to our rental car (which was parked in the outer regions of the airport), one of the older kids questioned if we knew where we were going. Michael who had traveled with me frequently by that time, said, “Believe me, Mom knows what she’s doing.”

He always had that kind of faith in me. He would say, “Work your magic” when something needed the kind of attention I could give it. Sometimes it was to help with something legal (even before I was a lawyer), other times it was to fix his computer, other times it was to say, “Honey, call those people back.” because he would give everyone the benefit of the doubt – that they were calling back. I never believe that anyone is calling back. We seemed to even each other out in that way.

Now for what I couldn’t do. I couldn’t seem to drive in tight places. I have some depth perception issue. And Michael was reverse driving, tight space king. When I met him, his neighbors used to marvel how he backed his huge bass boat up his narrow driveway from the narrow street with cars parked on both sides. Not only did he do it, but he did it in one fell swoop. He never hesitated, he never had to come back down and renegotiate it. He just stopped a few feet from the driveway with his big truck and his big boat, eyed the mirrors and away he went. One of his neighbors said to me, “He does that all the time but it never ceases to amaze me.”

When we lived in California we did not have a huge garage like we had in Massachusetts. There was no room for error. I was either going to stop at the right spot or plow through the guest bathroom. So, Michael tied a string with a tennis ball at the end and he said to me, “When the tennis ball hits the windshield, STOP.”

Okay, so I never plowed through the guest bathroom because the tennis ball was there, but I was always hitting something.

One time I backed into his brand new truck while he was sitting in it with some of the kids. I was in my car with the rest of the kids and we were going to a restaurant I thought he was moving out of the driveway and when he stopped I sorta ran into him. He looked in his rear view mirror and then got out of the truck and looked at me like, “Really? You really just backed into my truck?” But he didn’t say anything. He shook his head and gave me a half smile like “aiyiyi” and got back into his truck. We went to the restaurant, had a great time, came home and not a word was ever said.

When we lived in Texas I parked underneath my work building in downtown Dallas and the ramp was very narrow. Often I hit the poles on the way in or out. I told him I couldn’t help but hit those “white, crunchy things.” And he said “Crunchy?” and I said, “That’s the sound they make when I hit them.” So one night I came home with a dent on one side where no dent was that morning. Michael saw it and said, “Those white crunchy things chasing you again?” I said yep and walked in the house. Not once, not ever did Michael, who could back up an 18 wheeler on a window sill, say anything to me about my hitting things with the car.

One night I had to ask. I had to ask why he never said anything to me about things like that. And he said, “You could drive my car off a cliff or set it on fire, and I wouldn’t care. You mean more to me and what you bring to my life than some stupid car.” (and Michael was a car person). Another time I was working on something for him (fixing his computer or writing a letter he needed written) and he said, “See? This is why I don’t say anything when you hit things with the car. You fix things that are a lot harder to fix than the car.” And I often spent hours trying to fix what he broke on the computer. And he would just look at me sheepishly..like oops.

And I felt what I couldn’t fix, he could fix. Like the garage door, or the refrigerator, or the garbage disposal or the a/c vent that was making a racket. And like the backing up, he was pretty smooth about fixing things. Just went to it and fixed it. Not a lot of figuring it out. He could just do it. He always had the proper tools, the right diagnosis and the perfect fix. Always. And I depended on him for that.

Michael used to say we were the team. Not “a team” but THE team. “We’re the team” he used to say.

When he got sick I worked my assertive (some might say aggressive) charm on the hospital workers and just about everyone else. As I’ve written on here, I went to bat for him over and over again.

I sometimes feel guilt that I didn’t do enough for him that last weekend. I did call hospice. The weekend nurse was out to the house. But I didn’t ask if we should increase the Decadron. He was on such a low dosage and I know it helps with the fluid in the brain. When he was dying they were saying he was filling up with fluid. But that’s what dying people do, whether or not they’re on Decadron. The “death rattle” is from the fluid and it has nothing to do with Decadron. But sometimes I wonder if there was more I could do.

After the dream I realize that my guilt is that for all that I fixed, I couldn’t work my magic and make him well. I couldn’t keep him alive. I couldn’t yell at everyone that he wasn’t dead, have them believe me, have that be enough to keep him alive, and take him home. I couldn’t. And sometimes I feel as if I should have been able to.

I know that my conversations with Sloan-Kettering in the summer were a lot of shooting around in the dark. I wanted to believe there was something more we could do. I wanted to believe it was fixable. A phone call here, an angry letter there and all would be smoothed over.

It was not fixable.

And I sometimes can’t stop the guilt from seeping in…”there should have been SOMETHING you could do…or should have done…” I know this is how grief goes. You simply do not escape it without guilt. For all the care I gave Michael in that last year I did it because I loved him but it took a lot of effort…and the one thing that kept me going, kept me strong, kept me doing everything I could every single day without a break was partially motivated by the fact that I knew that if I didn’t do everything I would hate myself when it was over.

I honestly thought I had assured myself a guilt-free bereavement. But grief doesn’t give a damn what you did; only what you didn’t do. And it lets you know. I have had guilt over what we didn’t do when he was alive…all the things we had hoped to do “one day”….Italy one more time….the Orient express…renewing our vows…buying new motorcycles. Etc etc etc. And each time I manage to remind myself that I took good care of him and I thought we had time….to do everything we wanted to do.

I’ve thought that the kids were dreaming of him all the time because they were suppressing their grief during the day. Yesterday I fought it off all day, I simply didn’t want to cry yesterday. There are some days where I’m just weary of crying and don’t want to do it.

So it came in my dreams. And the dream said, “You couldn’t fix this. You couldn’t take him home.”

There was a part of Michael that believed I was omnipotent. And it was in failing to save him, that I come to terms with the fact that I’m not. Some days it feels like quite the blow.

Advertisements