During the period of Marlene’s illness, and dying, I was consumed with the obvious activity – caring for the patient. Caring for myself was an afterthought; in grief it was abstraction.
Caring for Marlene was the pre-occupation, and it certainly occupied my mind, but other chores and tasks of life had to be attended to as well, though these got the minimum of attention. I was grateful for Marlene’s decision a year earlier to hire a lawn maintenance/grass cutting service, and that saved me three hours a week of distracted labour, and even the stress of having to face this weekly chore. The gardens were largely neglected, the borders and edges becoming overrun with weeds and invasive annuals; I was so grateful to one of my clients, a building management company, who sent over one of their grounds-keeping crews to overhaul my overgrown gardens. We had long had a driveway snow removal contractor – I only had to shovel the walk, and even there one of my neighbours with a snow blower saved me many times from the city plow refilling the end of my walk. I grocery shopped by rote, yet aware that Marlene’s diet had changed and so had the groceries. Most of the bills got paid, but the accounting piled up.
Somehow, also, I carried on my professional consulting practice – affirming my professional identity – though the number of clients was becoming sparse, as was the corresponding revenues. And I kept on writing, and creating my new identity, author, though this was mostly an accidental vocation at the time. My website, afsconsulting.ca, a 20-year patchwork of changes and additions, needed a complete overhaul. Despite my pre-occupation with Marlene I was compelled to attend to that aging dinosaur. I commissioned a local web designer and had rebuilt it almost from scratch. He said it would take six weeks; it took six months; it wasn’t all his fault. We went to a WordPress platform, installed on my isp servers and using my own url. The idea was that with WordPress, rather than html, I could make changes to my site myself, especially the blogging. I wrote almost 100 blogs in that time period. And I continued to promote AFS Consulting with my annual Groundhog Day cartoons, and Lammas Day greetings, featuring Wiarton Willi.
In the fall of 2016, with Marlene’s end of life drawing nearer, I was in a race to finish The Hallelujah Chorus. But I also knew that writing the book was not enough, I also wanted the books to be circulated. So I bought the rights to a new url and had my webmeister install a new website on my isp servers: afspublishing.ca. The book itself did not get finished and published for another year.
And I wrote. I wrote blogs on the AFS Consulting site; I wrote newsletters to family and friends recounting Marlene’s and my journey with cancer. Many of these friends gave me generous feedback about how informative, and even entertaining they were, despite the subject matter. They encouraged me to write more.
I joined the National Capital Region Chapter of the Canadian Authors Association, so I could network and see how I fit in to this new professional community.
By chance, I discovered in one of my clients, a senior financial officer, that she too had an interest in writing. We had talked about ‘Hopes and Dreams’ Level 4 in the model of human development I often use in my coaching practice. I told her how I had long wanted to travel Route 66 in a Mini Cooper – since I was 16 years old – but when I had shared this dream with Marlene, Marlene had no interest. It’s a bit disheartening when your life-companion doesn’t share your hopes and dreams, but it may be too much to expect that one person can meet all your needs. ‘Find another travel companion’, she suggested. This was very unlikely, so I traveled Route 66 in my head, researched it and started a travelogue. My closet writer friend asked me to send her some of my chapters. To my surprise and delight, she replied with a chapter of her own. And thus began a tennis match of our fantasy trip to California, and return, with many stops along the way.
That travelogue should be resurrected one day and turned into a book.
But what is plain to me now, that period of creativity, that drive in my head in a Mini Cooper, in parallel with Marlene’s journey to oblivion, was really me driving to hold on to myself.
And to find my newself.