My wife Amanda has been sick on
and off now for about two years. Her doctors have told us they’re
surprised she’s made it this far, and whatever we’re doing, keep it
up. Amanda says it’s my love that keeps her going. If anything
it’s the other way around.
We’ve lived a hard scrabble life. Without her thrifty ways, we’d
have either starved or frozen during the unrelenting Maine winters.
We’ve eaten our share of beans, potatoes and clam chowder. She goes to
the Salvation Army and finds me flannel shirts when she feels up to it.
She even found an Eskimo style fur cap which keeps my ears toasty in a
dig my own clams and mussels and sell them for whatever I can get at
the market but this year has been tough for clammers. We’ve had beach
closings from the worst case of red tide I’ve seen in my lifetime. The
Atlantic has turned bloody with billions of toxic algae and my best
clamming spot has been closed for weeks now.
and I love clams and their briny flesh that’s delicious with Tabasco.
They’re a clean mouthful of ocean. When I was courting her many decades
ago I brought her wild daisies, a dozen clams, and two bottles of beer.
We had a picnic on the rocky beach near her mother’s house with the
gulls circling us. She ate those clams with enthusiasm. When she wiped
her mouth with the back of her hand, I knew. Not long after that I
the cancer came back again, Amanda said, “I don’t want to go through
another round of radiation. I’ve been poked and prodded enough.”
had parts of her lungs removed and has endured radiation and
chemotherapy. She lost all her hair and grew it back twice although the
second time it grew back it was completely white. I told her it was
proof, she was my female Moses come down from Mount Sinai. She laughed
at that. When she decided to refuse treatment I didn’t try to change
her mind. She’s always put a good face on it for me no matter how sick
she’s been but as time passes it’s gotten harder to watch her suffer.
she’s been sleeping more and when she wakes up I help her out of bed.
She insists on cooking dinner every night. She sits on a step stool
near the stove and I hand her chopped carrots or bite sized shrimp. I
can’t ask her not to cook. It would take away her determination to do something
everyday, to have a purpose. I don’t have the heart to tell her that
she puts too much salt in the food, God love her. I know she can’t
taste much. It doesn’t matter; I’ll eat anything she puts in front of
night she tried to get up to go to the bathroom by herself and slipped.
She hit her head and has a welt the size of a quarter. I sat up at the
noise and jumped out of bed to help her. When I carried her back
to bed she said, “I hate being such a burden.”
“Amanda you’re not a burden to me. Besides, I’d do anything for you,” I said.
“If you mean that, let me go.”
buried my face in her nightgown and breathed deeply. The familiar smell
of washing powder mixed with her scent is something I’ve lived with my
entire life. It’s a comfort to me. She wrapped her arms around my head
and said, “You have to let me go.”
cried together for a while and I lay alongside her until she fell
asleep. I walked out to the porch to smell the salt breeze and to think
about how I could find strength for her. I went down to the beach and
stood there for hours listening to the waves crashing ashore.
first light I went to the beach and dug up some clams. I drove to the
store to buy a six pack and on the way home I wanted to buy daisies but
I couldn’t find any. When she woke up I laid a red checked tablecloth
on the bed. I brought in a basket with the clams, Tabasco and two
beers. I opened both our bottles and put a straw in hers. She
took a sip and smiled. “Just like our first date, huh?”
nodded and pushed her pill bottles aside to put her beer on the
nightstand. I cracked the first clam, gave it a dash of Tabasco and
held it out for her. My fingertips tingled. She looked up at me as I
fed it to her, then I smoothed the white hair from her face and kissed
her forehead. I cracked the second clam and fed it to her. She grabbed
my hand and squeezed it tightly. I was surprised by her burst of
strength. She gurgled a bit, but she got it down. I got the third
one open and she began gasping, the neurotoxin was closing down her
airways, but she held her mouth open, eager to swallow it. We lay in
our bed and I held her until her breath subsided. I kissed her and
called the ambulance. She looked so grateful and at peace.
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