At 4:30 a.m., in 2006, I told my wife I'd take her to the doctor later that day because she wasn't feeling well. I told her I loved her and said things would be okay. At 6:30 a.m., I found her unresponsive on the floor in our bedroom. At 9:30 a.m., a doctor ushered me into a private room at the emergency room of the hospital an ambulance rushed her to. He looked at me somberly and said they tried all they could do, but she was gone. It was something he probably said often in rote fashion to families, but to me it was the most impacting thing I've ever heard.
My wife had kidney disease and the last three years of her life were spent in hospitals; it was hell. The doctor said her heart wore out; she was probably dead before she collapsed, he said. Consolation, I guess, because later people offered the “at least she didn't suffer” saying they do when there's no real words to say.
“What about me?” I thought. “I'm suffering.”
I plowed on without her, lost. I have no family at all. I am truly an orphan, a ship with no keel.
I did that destructive run that those who lose spouses always do. Some gamble, some seek companionship in wrong places. I turned to Dewars scotch and beer. The newspaper where I worked ordered me to get grief counseling.
My counselor told me to lay off the booze and get a dog for company. I kept drinking and got a cat. I don't follow instructions well.
Eventually, I tried dating again, but that was futile. I bombed. Two of the women later told me they thought I sabotaged the relationships because I feared they would end anyway. Well, no shit. Fear of loss is a major motivator in my world.
Here's where the APBA comes in, and gives this blog part of its title. Some have told me they were impressed with the number of baseball games I replay each day. I average four to six a day at times. I'm a third of the way through the 1942 baseball season now, after three months of playing.
I love the game, but the frequency of games picked up after I lost my wife. I work, come home, fix something to eat, watch some television and then roll a few games. I don't sleep much, so I can play late into the night.
As I've said a few times here before, the game is the one constant in my life. Things change, but the game remains the same. Different seasons, but the world that I create by tossing the dice and logging the wins of each game remains the same and gives me a safe, serene world that I can control and understand. I've been playing some form of the APBA game since 1977.
So, I move on. I reach landmarks. This time it was seven years. Ten years looms ahead, and then 12, which will be longer than we were married. A minister at the church my wife and I attended told me a week after my wife passed away that to get through this I had to “wake up each day and breathe.” I quit the church soon after. (He probably borrowed that insight from that sappy Tom Hanks move "Sleepless in Seattle").
But, maybe he was right. Maybe you get through these things day by day. You wake up. You breathe. Another day passes, then another year. Another landmark. But for now, each July 14 I watch the clock.