It came out the year we started dating. Not long after I added it to my playlist, I got a package and went out to get it. My leg was bothering me, sore and weak, my arms were bothering me, and I felt a moment of real fear. What if?"Don't you worry 'bout a thing
Don't you worry 'bout a thing, pretty mama
'Cause I'll be standing in the wings
When you check it out"
-- Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing
Stevie Wonder (1973)
We are so vulnerable when we lose a mate, when our life partner is no longer there in the wings to step up, pitch in, catch us when we fall.
Mr. Simply was quite the caretaker, and when we met set right out trying to do things for me and worrying about me even in areas in which I had been functioning quite competently, thank you very much. He wanted to find me a rollbar for Orville (my 1973 MGB). He worried about how I'd get to work if there was ice on the sidewalks and parking lots, and on the stairs at my apartment building. And over the years, I became more and more dependent, forgetting quite literally how to do some things, just getting out of the habit of others. And then of course there were the myriad ways in which even normal healthy couples do for each other.
He didn't get my graduate degrees for me, but he was "in the wings" both times, supporting me (literally and figuratively) every step of the way. He was literally in the wings when I defended, slipping in and out to check on Daisy's progress in emergency surgery and signaling me with a thumbs up from the back of the room each time he returned from talking to the vet.
Over the last few years, he was doing less and less, and I was doing more. And what we couldn't do just didn't get done. The yard hasn't been raked in so long, for example, that the leaves and pine needles are becoming soil and changing the shape of the yard and the way rainwater flows around the house -- or doesn't any more, to be perfectly frank.
But still. Even after he got cancer the first time, he managed to move my office for me not once, but three times. Three times! Of course, the last time I was down to some boxes of files, but still. He did all the grocery shopping, right up until he went into chemo last year and was too sick to, because my legs would no longer support me that far or that long.
Two years ago, he took money out of his IRA to buy me a van to carry my scooter, and a lift to get it in and out of said van. There were the new windows on the house that he paid for, also out of his retirement fund, last summer. The old ones were so old (and so was I, for that matter) and sticky that I could no longer manage them. And he was always there for emotional support or just to bounce things off of.
Last spring, he came to the hospital, even as he was dying, to be with me when I needed him. "Do you want me to come down?" he asked on the phone. I had not even wanted him to know until after I got home that evening and it was just a funny story, but then they decided to admit me for observation overnight and I had to tell him. "Yes," I said. And he came, even though he was loaded up on pain pills and had to get a neighbor to drive him. He came when I needed him.
I'll never have that again.