Last summer I went to my ex-husband’s parent’s house to visit; his grandparents had just moved in after his grandfather had a stroke. His grandmother had always been kind to me even though her grandson and I had long since ended our relationship; we had even exchanged Christmas cards for years, me sending them from the past four states I had lived in during five years.
My daughters had not visited their grandparents in a while, and it had been even longer since they had seen their great-grandparents; so my youngest made a cake and we made the five minute car trip to visit. My ex-father-in-law had been providing hospice care for his father in the home where he runs his business while his 80 something year-old mother did her best to help.
When we arrived, I was immediately affected by the scene; W, the great-grandmother, with her hair and makeup completely done, was standing by J’s hospital bed holding his hand. The bed had been brought into the area between the table in the kitchen and the family room so he could be a part of everything; he looked so small and frail, not the healthy robust man I remembered.
W stood beside him as we all gathered around the table talking and visiting; everyone oohing and ahhing over my grandson’s bright red hair, and discussing my youngest daughter’s upcoming wedding. Every now and then, W would turn to J and say, “J look at your two great-granddaughters, didn’t they turn out to be beautiful young ladies? And here, meet their families.” J would stare off vacantly, but W would talk to him as if he were completely present.
I watched her with him, trying to hold back my tears the entire evening; she never left his side. When we cut the cake, her son tried to get her to come to the table to have a piece, “Mom, come and sit down, Dad will be okay for a minute,” he pleaded with her.
“Oh, no,” she replied, “I can’t leave him, he’ll know.” She did not even want to let him go for a second; finally, somebody brought her some cake and a chair to eat next to the hospital bed.
When we left that evening and said our goodbyes, it was the last time we would ever see J again; he died a few weeks later. He and W had been married over 50 years; probably closer to 60. I saw W at my daughter’s wedding a few weeks later; she seemed utterly lost without him.
When I think of the way she looked that night, sitting with him, holding his hand, and refusing to leave his side; I cry. I don’t mean in the way that my eyes well up with a few tears, I mean to say that I have cried so hard I feel like I cannot stop. I do not just cry for them, but I cry for me.
As we drove away from the house that night, I realized something; I want what they have. I want somebody to love me so deeply, so profoundly, that they could love me for 50 years.
However, nobody ever will.
If I live to be over 50, my parents will not love me for 50 years; my father is dead, and my mother has gone years without speaking to me, so she clearly will not love me for 50 years.
If I am still alive when my children are in their 50’s, they will not have loved me for 50 years; they do not speak to me now, so they clearly will not.
I will not have had a love for 50 years; I have already been divorced twice, not even close to 50 years…
I have not even had a friend for 5 years, let alone 50.
I started to think about the people who have come and gone from my life; friends, lovers, spouses…
I have given so much of myself at times; some say too much, others say not enough. Regardless of how you look at it, I failed at something, at everything; at love.