The hour on D.'s old alarm clock glows green on my nightstand by a pile of unread lit mags and a Valentine's Day card that isn't really one but a blank-for-your-message Papyrus selection. D. has written in it in pink gel pen. Where did he even find that? I wonder -- every ballpoint, felt tip, and roller ball we've dug out to write Christmas thank-yous is dried up or nearly so. In the top right corner, in his tiny print, is the year. Before he met me, the keeper of family histories and their artifacts, he never added that to his cards.
I, too, have picked out a blank card by the ubiquitous overpriced paper goods imprint this year -- maybe to make up for this occasion on which neither of us has much more to offer.
There is no card for "I have a brain tumor and I'm sorry it is completely fucking up our lives" (D.). There is no card for "I am holding my shit together as best I can for you and the kids but I know I'm not doing a good enough job" (me). And we're not about to write those things in our respective valentine stand-ins. That would be admitting too much about the beating our marriage has taken in recent months. Okay, years. Illness exacerbates the things that haven't been working and makes them impossible to table indefinitely.
We are trying, in spite of it all. To the outside world, we are managing.
At this time of night, though -- last baby feeding done, late-night TV guiltily consumed in a separate bedroom, resistance to the arrival of the next day keeping me from sleep -- I know our efforts aren't even countering enough of the damage to make this a zero-sum game. The silence I've kept here, protective as it is meant to be, is serving no one.
In a few weeks, I will file our valentines with the rest of our letters to each other, spanning almost 18 years. I have not paged through them recently. I don't want to read between the lines and find the little fissures before they became cracks and then shear points. But leaving the card on my nightstand for six months, as I did last year, is just as much a reminder of my reluctance to face our history.
I never imagined that this was the life waiting for me, for us, when I started writing in this space, and that bears some unpacking. It's been too long. But I'm here.
Chicken Tandoori Kebabs
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