Janice bought the farm

How sad can a man be?

My wife croaked. We’d only been together 22 years, and then she went and kicked the bucket, and now she’s everywhere.

Janice and I were together more in the last year than ever before, and for long periods it was mostly just the two of us, a situation we hadn’t been in for more than a day or two since our honeymoon. We still liked being together, even in cramped, tacky quarters in Mesa, Ariz.

Twenty-two years is time enough for several ups and downs, and I don’t think we missed any. Janice and I mated, like geese, and our pair bond kept humming along even when we didn’t like each other much. That happened, too.

We reared fine young men—no soldiers or cops—which surely counts for something, at least it does with Janice and me. I guess I mean “did” count with Janice and me, but I’m not convinced that the past tense is altogether warranted. I can live with inconsistency for the time being.

This sadness is unpredictable and irresistible. I can be doing something or other and my eyes fill up and there’s a new lump in my throat, and if I’m driving I have to pull over. I don’t multitask worth a damn anymore—probably never did—and tears are compelling. Sometimes I’m too sad to do anything but be sad.

I distract myself with whatever I can stand. On this table where I’m more-or-less working now there’s a Large Print Crossword Puzzle Omnibus, a New Yorker, the New York Times Sunday Magazine from Sept. 23, the day Janice checked out, and Horoscopes for the Dead, a collection of poetry by Billy Collins. I tried a couple of novels that turned out to be well beyond my attention span, and now poetry and crosswords—the best of which are poetic—are my go-to lit.

Caring for someone is a privilege if you know it. I loved doing for Janice—moving her to another apartment and another apartment in Arizona, carrying things for her as she got weaker, answering the bell I gave her to ring when she wanted me, figuring out how to get her in a comfortable position when she couldn’t do it herself, holding her whilst she could walk, and wheeling her when she couldn’t. I loved holding her hand as she died. I’m deeply grateful that I got a chance to do all that for her, for anyone really, and especially for Janice. Now all I can do is miss her, so I do.