924 Days Later…

It feels like a lifetime ago since I last posted here 924 days ago. In a way, it has been a lifetime. Forgive my absence, but my beloved partner of 20 years died 209 days ago, after a long and chronic illness which at times overwhelmed us both. A bit of an optimist, for the first 14 years we were together, I was certain Ruben was going to get better “in the next two weeks.” Except, something always happened. A blister, turned into an ulcer, followed by weeks and months or years of off-loading that usually were successful — but sometimes not – leading to a couple of amputations of toes. Then it was his eyesight, followed by kidney failure and dialysis. After a transplant in 2013, I was sure we were on our way to living a normal life. Except, we weren’t.

In 2014, I adjusted my hopes. I thought, if Ruben didn’t recover “in the next two weeks,” then perhaps we could just maintain things as-is forever. His diabetes, blood pressure and kidney function were all great. The status quo was my big plan. But then 2017 came along and stripped me of hope courtesy of Facebook reminder pics which began popping up, sharing images of Ruben past and present on my timeline. The difference was shocking. Even I could see we weren’t maintaining things, we were losing. His nephrologist gently suggested we should work on his Advance Directive.

I didn’t have a name for what was wrong with Ruben, I just knew he was dying ever so slowly before my eyes and there was nothing I could do about it.

Since April of 2018, everything just got harder every day even as I loved Ruben more and more as he struggled with physical impairments that day by day robbed him of so much. Meanwhile, I was deep in the weeds of being a caregiver, and I didn’t even know it. In retrospect, I did many things the hard way before reaching out for resources which saved me, including a caregiver support group through USC and beginning a daily meditation practice.

My Ruben passed away at home on April 30 as the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic was unfolding. The lockdown in March did speed up his demise, as we were unable to access feeding tube services which would have extended his life for a few more months. I had always thought I would be with Ruben near the end, but to my horror I couldn’t be with him at the hospital when he was there for about 10 days until they sent him home for hospice which lasted less than a day when he was not really conscious. There was no memorial service to bring closure with his friends and family. Like so many others around the world during this dark time, I was all alone in grief. He was my world, and then just like that he was gone.

For the record, I hated every single day in May this year, and didn’t have a very high opinion of June or July either. Luckily, I had good old girlfriends to re-connect with virtually, and I found an online grief support group through reddit where people didn’t try to “fix” others’ grief – they just listened or shared — which was exactly what I needed. Strange, how a mix of real friendships, family and random strangers on the internet can get you through a bad spot.

Nothing will ever be the same again, but I will go on. Now I have time to pick up some creative things I left behind – like this blog —  and to start writing new work that has been left undone for more than two decades while I was looking after my beloved. I miss him so very much. I don’t know why I thought everything would go on forever, but I did. Clearly, it doesn’t.

So here is what I know now:

  1. Ruben and I had a very complete and thorough love. It was crazy at times, but it was magical and unconditional and unbreakable. It continues.
  2. Life is short. Seize the day!
  3. Be active. Eat right and be healthy.
  4. Create – -whether it’s people or art or whatever your talent is, use it while you are here.
  5. Love is the most important thing you can do in life, so love the people you are with. Love your friends and family and even random strangers on the internet. They might save you one day.

To learn more about my wonderful Ruben or hear a few of “our” songs, check out this link.

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