Spring is slowly awakening in Chicago. Finally. Although it’s always such a tease. 70 one day. 30 the next. Rain. Wind. By the time it stabilizes, it’s practically summer and we’re just grateful for it–for anything over 50 degrees with some sunshine once in a while. I think we’re all eagerly awaiting to blow the dust off the window locks and open them wide for some fresh air. For me, Spring means something else, too. And it didn’t “click” with me until the other day. Springtime is when Ken came home for hospice for what would be the last two months of his life in 2011.
When I think back to that time, it looks like an unsurvivable pressure cooker, living with such leaden and bleak news. And sometimes it was. I’m not sure it could be anything else. But when you’re “in it” you’re just as pressurized so it doesn’t seem as startling. What I do remember is all the love and support that surrounded Ken and me. And how brave (though he would scoff at term, and would–rightly so–claim he was just being himself), upbeat and graceful he was. And I remember the walks we took–mostly with family and friends around the neighborhood. Ken wanted to be outside as often as possible that spring.
I can’t say I’ve had any grief bursts as I’ve experienced them previously of late, but the past month or so there have been moments of…stillness. Not particularly filled with anything. Or filled with emptiness and all that might imply. For brief flashes. I think my heart knew the time of year better than my brain did. Or was more ready to recognize it as such, anyway.
I began to put the pieces together yesterday evening on a longer-than-usual walk with Kallie. The weather was being teasingly cooperative. We walked farther than we ever had, as last summer/fall she wasn’t old enough to walk far. It was more in the neighborhood where I lived when I met Ken–which is snuggled up to the neighborhood I live in now–where we lived together. We walked on some of the same streets that Ken, Quantum and I used to walk on–which isn’t usual, really. It certainly helped bring him to mind.
Lots of people were out with their own dogs, and strollers with babies and toddlers toddling along–many of whom stopped to greet or pet Kal–who is always eager for a diversion. It was nice and neighborly–Rockwellian, even. Perfect in all the right ways–or in enough ways. As we walked down a quiet side street, lined with trees ready to burst with green, Kallie frolicked and loped in the park way. I was bursting too. With tears. Streaming down my cheeks as I blinked to clear my eyes. Surprising? Yes. Sad? Well, not really. Not overtly. It was more about what a beautiful moment it was. It was simple and pure, and a moment I couldn’t have predicted two years ago. And most importantly, it would have been a moment Ken would have delighted in.
We took a less traveled side street to get home as I wiped my eyes and cursed myself for not wearing sunglasses. And as we finished up our walk, I considered the complex recipe for my tear-burst. One million parts: missing Ken. One part: having this ridiculous puppy who plays with abandon because she knows she’s safe and loved. One part: I sometimes can’t believe that I’ve managed to hold my life together and been able to morph it from what it was to what it is. With a dash of WTF?
There really isn’t any time of year that I can’t tie with Ken, each one special for its own reason. Oddly, spring–the season of renewal and rebirth–was the last season we spent together. And it’s the season where I feebly contemplate planting the lowest maintenance garden as possible to keep up the tradition of his much-more-capable green thumb.
At least as the sun shines more regularly, I’ll be less likely to forget my sunglasses on my walks with Kallie. Just in case.