M said good-bye to my Dad at the end of March, in the Oshawa hospital. He (M) was leaving to go back home in the days following, and, without acknowledging it, or saying anything about it, we (all) knew that this would be the last time he would see my dad.
It wasn't planned, it wasn't really thought out, because at that time, after a month of driving to Oshawa on a near-daily basis, my ability to plan anything was at an all-time low.
I stood outside in the hallway when M said bye to my dad. Not sure if M knew I could hear snippets of what he was saying; I could not hear anything my dad was saying, as he could no longer speak on account of the trach. I leaned up against the wall, not caring about the germs, almost rocking back and forth against it, for comfort.
M had met my dad, and my mom and my aunt, for the first time the previous October, right after my parents had celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. It was a sunny, beautiful Sunday the day that we went out to visit them, in the town they live, east of the city. We sat on the porch, drank pinot grigio. My dad was still recovering from his eight weeks of chemo/radiation, and was slowly trying to gain strength. M was comfortable around them, as he is comfortable around everyone. His gregarious nature, coupled with his brash (not at all in a bad way) American forth-right-ness allows him to fit in everywhere.
He promised my dad at that visit that he was not to worry; he was going to take care of me. On my own, I wondered, what exactly did that look like? No man I had ever been with had ever 'taken care of me'. It was something I put away to take out and look at later. By the way, when I say take care of me, I mean it in the purely emotional sense. I've been taking care of myself longer than I care to remember, and in this spirit I was intrigued.
M's been home almost a month now. We talk on the phone every day, sometimes more than once a day. Sometimes our connection on the phone is poor and we can't hear each other. Sometimes one of us is driving and is experiencing frustration on the road. Sometimes M is beginning to enjoy the night, enjoy talking, as I am dropping off to sleep, getting ready to face six-thirty am for the millionth morning in a row (that's how it feels lately). He's drive-able, as my aunt describes it, but eleven-hours drive-able. The US is our closest neighbour here in Canada. But M is not my neighbour. My neighbour, as I've described here, before, is a difficult journalist who certainly would not provide any type of emotional support. M does, but I find it hard to look at the phone and believe he's in there.
As I said, I heard snippets. Snippets like "she's my best friend", and again, gallant and kind, "I will take care of her". And to my Dad, facing his end of days, "I wish I could have known you longer".
I wish that too M. I wish I had the wedding day for both my parents to see me seen to. I wish I had those photos, regardless of what may have happened after.
I am childless, and it's times like this that remind me of a line in a long-ago novel (when I remember where I read this, this beautiful line that I will paraphrase now I swear I will post the author's name and book right here, in its own post); the character is the novel realized how much her children would help her cope with the death of her own parents.
I am taking care. Of me.