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  • He died 4 months and 8 days ago. That same week she was moved out of the apartment they’d shared together, and into a room in the intensive care unit on a lower floor. She can’t see the hills anymore from her bed, only the layers of scaffolding of a construction site next door. A year ago, she joked that the construction afforded her the opportunity to watch huskily-built men working below all day. Now, she says she doesn’t notice anymore. She’s happier about the bowl of roses someone has placed directly next to her bed.

    She is a funny mixture of there and not there. That paper sits untouched on her lap. The stories she once reveled in telling escape her. Names, gone. Daily swims, gone. The careful selection of blouse and jacket, the right necklace to complement each—gone. But she still laughs at our jokes. Still demands more ice cubes for her iced coffee. Still berates her son for his garlic breath when he comes in for a hug.

    And she still surrounds herself with images of those gone. Even when their names frustrate her by staying out of her reach, their faces are omnipresent. His most of all.
  • There are photos of him on their wedding day, peering playfully over a tree branch at her. Him as a stiff-backed toddler with a bob cut. Him as a young college professor, gesturing to some unseen crowd. And him elderly, wild eyebrows over his glasses, the hint of a smile. Those smiles of his felt too rare in recent years, as deafness isolated him from everyone, even her. But, when it seemed she might die first, her lungs packing up on her, he was terrified. Said he couldn’t picture his life with her place in it empty. After more than 60 years of marriage, even the way she nagged him was a kind of comfort. And so, as his balance turned shaky and all their children worried for his safety, he would still bring her breakfast in bed each morning, elaborately laid out on a tray. He would sneak bacon back from the nursing home dining room, stuffing it into a napkin, and stealing it away to her bedside, a dozen or more strips hidden in the folds.

    Whether through will or chance, he went first.

    And now, it is as if she is partially untethered. Here and gone.

    The day of his memorial service, there was not even a question of whether she would go. She’d been bound to her bed for months, unable even to make it to his room on another floor the day he died. But she’s propped the funeral program up by her bed, arranged so that his blue eyes are on her.

    Still here, even as so much else is gone.
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