Now in my late sixties, I find that there were very few things which I looked forward to. However, the daily walk to the mailbox was one experience that I found worthwhile. Those sealed envelopes seemed to offer the possibility that something new and interesting rested inside. I opened and carefully read each item of postage without prejudice and with total disregard for the addressee’s identity.
The short walk across the grass-covered yard and to the mailbox that day was the prelude to a meeting I would not forget. As I thumbed through the white envelopes, one, in particular, caught my attention more so than the others. The addressee was a hospice service that I was sadly familiar with.
“Family Care Hospice” the printed name on the envelope read and it was familiar to me. As my best friend, my wife, Robin lie dying in a hospice supplied medical bed some years ago I recall reading the metal tag on the foot of the bed, “Family Care Hospice.” Two young men delivered the white painted sterile looking bed one afternoon some years ago.
The unwelcome piece of furniture to be used by the dying was placed in the dining room of my home. I knew then that my friend and I would never again share a bed. I was sadly aware that after 46 years of marriage and love Robin’s time with me was coming to an end; an end that I could not prevent.
The morning of the bright sunshine and singing birds came and went and on that July morning Robin left with only the sound of angels’ wings and a softly whispered, “goodbye.” Her mortal remains were taken away by some men from a funeral home but that bed, that metal framed monster remained until the afternoon.
In the weeks and months that followed that never to be forgotten day in July I opened the mailbox to find envelopes with the sender’s name printed in the upper left-hand corner; “Family Care Hospice.” I opened some but after a time I thought that discarding the unopened envelopes would keep the reminders of death inside and out of sight.
There are those who would advise that I should forget about Robin’s death and move on but I wholeheartedly disagree. I remember her death and to suggest otherwise would be the advice of a fool. However, I understand that I must learn to live a different life; one without her in it. Neither I nor anyone else can say if that life will be better or worse, only time can determine that.
There came a time when the envelopes stopped finding their way into my mailbox and although I didn’t give it much consideration, I was relieved when I opened that mailbox door each day. Then, and quite unexpectedly, there inside the holder of mail was an envelope, “Family Care Hospice.”
Overcoming my feelings of dread and putting aside my fears I slid the tip of my index finger into the slightly open corner of the envelope and sliding that finger across the top portion I opened the plain white envelope. I began to read.
The correspondence was probably a form letter but regardless I continued to read. It appeared to the company that I had not taken advantage of their counseling services. Although Robin’s death was now four years ago the services were still available to me and I was urged to meet with a company employed and experienced, counselor. I placed the letter in a large bowl on my kitchen counter where it remained for several weeks, out of sight but not out of mind. Then a day came when I thought, “why not, what do I have to lose.”
The plaque on the office door read, “Christine Robertson, Licensed Professional Counselor, ATR-BC, LPC, ACHT.” The office receptionist smiled as she lifted the telephone’s receiver and announced my presence. “Go on in Ms. Robertson will see you now.” I wondered how many times that seemingly overused smile had been offered to people like me.
“Hello, Mr. Fine. Please have a seat. Can I offer you something to drink, coffee, juice or water perhaps.” “Hi, no, nothing thanks,” I replied as I looked around the room. “Please call me Christine, and may I call you Stan?” “Sure,” I replied. Christine spoke while I continued to almost systematically examine the room’s décor. My attention was particularly drawn to a wall plaque that read;
“We find a place for what we lose. Although we know that after such a loss the acute stage of mourning will subside, we also know that we shall remain inconsolable and will never find a substitute. No matter what may fill the gap, even if it be filled completely, it nevertheless remains something else.”
~Sigmund Freud (1961)
“I’m sorry to learn of the loss of your wife, Robin some four years ago. Are you having difficulty coping with the grief?” Grief, that sounded like a strange way to describe my feelings but I assumed she had to, at least for her purposes, give my feelings a name. “I’m not sure how to answer that question and as to the length of time since her passing, I can tell you it has been 218 weeks, 3 days and 3 hours, give or take a few minutes.”
“Sorry,” she replied. “The hospice service can offer you several methods designed to assist you in dealing with your feelings regarding Robin’s passing.” Disinterested I asked, “such as?” “Well if I may read from our pamphlet; you might benefit from counseling services designed specifically with coping skills, depression and grief.
‘You may be interested in ‘Reality Therapy’ and such techniques including the ‘Gottman Method’ and ‘Mindfulness-Based’ (MBCT) methods. Now, these are methods designed to help with grief, not necessarily trauma. Do you think you have any trauma issues?” “Do you believe that holding your wife’s frail hand as she died could be considered trauma?” I calmly asked. Christine looked away and as her head slightly lowered she replied, “Absolutely.”
Christine and I talked for a while and I realized she had a job to do and she may have even cared about me and my wellbeing but I suppose the whole experience felt very impersonal and rehearsed. How could anyone know anything about me, my life together with Robin and how I was feeling?
“Would you like to take some pamphlets with you and possibly get back with hospice regarding any interest you might have in any of our offered services?” “I suppose so,” I answered. As I began to get up from the very uncomfortable chair something came to mind. “Do you offer addiction services as well?” “We sure do. Why, do you believe you have an addiction problem?” “I most certainly do.” As I stood next to the chair I continued with my self-diagnosis.
“Please don’t misunderstand me I’m not addicted to alcohol, drugs or any other substance. I’m addicted to a person. I miss the sound of her voice, the sight of her as she moved and even the fragrance of her perfume when she came close.
‘I must admit that I found her docile unassuming nature to be strikingly intoxicating and one that captivated me more and more the longer I found myself in her presence. I was, to be succinct, in every way possible enamored with her subtle grace. I soon found that I had no wish to free myself from that sublime intoxication but I rather wished to continue to imbibe; but to what end.
‘I remember that sometimes, and very late at night, she whispered words only the two of us could hear. I miss those quiet nights spent with her and I miss the whispers. Nobody whispers to me anymore. I now understand that my happiness was in her keeping.
‘I’m addicted to my wife of 46 years, Robin and if there is a treatment for that addiction I prefer not to partake of it. Goodbye, and thank you for your time, and oh yes, the nice pamphlets.”
The cool night breeze that floats across the darkness passes quietly through my open window while thoughts of you steal my sleep.
My name is Stan and I am an addict.