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There Are Places I Remember

It started like this. Me, always feeling awkward, watching everyone, observing, seeing them. Do they see me?

Before, Dad used to eat Crispix every morning in his recliner near the fireplace while he watched the news. Sometimes a piece of fruit? Am I imagining that?

Before, in the evening, a bowl of ice cream. A big one, covered in chocolate syrup. I never liked chocolate syrup; it was really only good for making chocolate milk.

He would laugh at the TV. His eyes were big, like mine. He started wearing glasses eventually. I wear glasses now too. I hear him whistle. I see him reading the paper or filing his nails. Whistling. Always that chair, or one like it, in the corner by the fireplace. 

When I was pregnant and he was sick, I would go to his house every day. I woke up when I woke up. No alarms, no rushing. I was contented; I remember making my bed, putting on my maternity dress. Riley would come too. She loved blue racquet balls and he loved to throw them for her. 

The rhythm of sameness, of order. An unofficial but formal schedule. 

I drove over. 7 minutes door to door. 

We watched “Murder She Wrote” and “Magnum PI.” He would be in his chair by the fireplace. No Crispix for him anymore. No food ever again. I would be on the couch, on my side of course, because I was really, very pregnant. 

He would keep track of my water intake. One 16-ounce glass every hour, he figured out, would help me drink the gallon of water the doctor order me for the last months of my gestation. 

After our shows, sometimes we would take a nap, sometimes we would take a walk. Me, giant and pregnant, him, hunched, frail with his IV port hanging from his arm covered in mesh.

We would talk about everything: the day, the future, I said I wanted to be an interior designer. I love watching house shows even now, 24 years later. I loved playing with colors then. I felt too old back then to change my path. 

I didn’t become an interior designer. Life has a way of steering you where it goes. 

I ended up immersed in cancer and understanding it. I didn’t know that then, before. Before. 

I didn’t consider what happened after I left and went home. Mom came home from work; I know he needed to do his feeding tube at night. What did she eat? Was she alone at the table? Did she sit at her post, in the chair next to his? Probably not, the smells would bother his sensitive person. She was the same age then that I am now. 

I never thought about that stuff. I was quite content you see.

I was aglow with life inside of me, two lives actually. I had two lives inside of me while his life force was slowly trickling from his body. I didn’t think about how big I was with these two lives inside of me. I didn’t think about how I was wearing the same cotton maternity dress with the blue embroidered flowers on it because it was the only thing left that fit me. I was aglow with life, as pregnant women are, with hope and potential, colors and magic and dreams ahead.

What would come next? I seldom considered it fully, I was aglow with new life, with pregnancy. That was all I had wanted, and that is what I had. 

It started like that. Full of love and optimism, confidence, certainty. 

I never considered the irony of me, full of life and him, sick and riddled with cancer. I never thought, why me, and why him? I was happy. And content. And we took care of each other.

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