Dinner Ch. 02

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Amateur

“Ok Cathy, what do you need me to do? What’s broken?” It’s been nearly two years since she lost her right breast to cancer. That loss along with the chemo, the radiation and the reconstructive surgery took 18 months of our lives. I moved out about 6 months ago.

It was a mutual decision.

I supported her in our cancer fight. Yes, it was our cancer fight. She and I worked together, supported one another for that time. The diagnosis, the choices… it was rough on the entire family. We pulled together, but we really weren’t together.

Cathy was religiously going to a social worker therapist for her own needs, and supplemented that with group therapy for her cancer. I stayed in the rear bedroom while living at home. Living with her, but sleeping apart, not being physically intimate with her gave me some distance. It’s funny, her anger and rage was still there, but I could tell that the fight against the cancer was tempering it.

Don’t ever let anyone think that looking into the abyss of death doesn’t change you. It changes the hell outof you. The people who minimize it are either blocking, or haven’t experienced it with a loved one. It’s a game changer.

For me, all my wounds were still there and would occasionally be ripped open. But there was a difference now. She was changing, and so was I.

The problem was that after the end of treatments and surgeries, we both needed a break from each other. We both needed to heal differently. She had her history of dealing with people, her festering internal infected sores. I had my years of resentments and my own unresolved issues. We were a great pair. We should be on the cover of Psychology Today as an example of what not to do.

I was living in a small apartment close to my latest job site, about 90 minutes away from home. I would show up at home to fix things or pick things up every couple of weeks. We both made sure the other was not there. Don’t get me wrong, we occasionally called each other. Texting and emails were more the norm at least twice a week. But nothing indepth, no emotions, just a checking in that the other is still alive. Nothing negative either. There was a night I took her to the ER when she slipped and cut herself with a knife at 10 PM one weekday night. I got her back to the house by 2:30 AM, then went back to my apartment.

It was a mutual decision to live apart for a while. I needed time to deal with the awful 10 years of marriage. She needed time to explore more of her life. Apart gave us that time. Then last night, I got a text to call her the next evening when I had time.

“I know that it’s been a while Dan, but could I cook dinner for you? I’d like to sit down and speak with you if you are up for it.”

For so many years she was demanding. Anytime she now asks me nicely with respect and then waits for an answer that is not pre-ordained, it kind of freaks me out. I am not unbelieving it, if unbelieving is a word. I am just not used to it at all. Live your life in defense mode for years, it’s hard to live another way. I’ve been working on this in my own sessions.

“I have a very small window of what canl─▒ bahis a good night be. I work late from Monday to Friday, so Saturday would be the best for me unless you would like to do Sunday lunch.” Then I chuckled, “I need to get to bed early on Sunday for my beauty sleep.” We both chuckled. I’ve had more than enough close and not so close calls that my face acquired a couple more scars from the direct hits. Plumbing is sometimes a risky business. “I get up at 4:30 for a 10-12 hour day while this job is still behind.

“Ok Dan, Saturday it is. You sound as if eating at 5 PM would be a good time for you?”

“See you at 5 then. I know that you are still off of alcohol, so we’ll both be dry.” I heard a pleasant thank you. Then we exchanged a little bit of small talk about the kids and hung up. It was Tuesday evening and it was going to be a long week.

Saturday rolled around and I spent the morning doing laundry, cleaning and grocery shopping. I may be doing a bit of overtime, but this job was going to go away in a month. I got another one lined up, but in the trades, nothing is forever.

Just the trades?

I walked in without ringing the doorbell and could immediately smell the soup. We used to eat chicken soup with store bought tortellini. ‘Little crowns’ she called them. I remember her telling me that as a kid she had to make them by hand. Roll out the pasta then roll and wrap each one individually into a crown. Ravioli could be quickly made. Setup the pasta and filling and then stamp and cut them out. Done. These took a lot more time. Now the tortellini are machine made. They don’t taste the same, but otherwise we’d only have them once a year, if that. Fresh pasta always tastes better.

I hadn’t see Cathy for about three months, and she was looking good. Cathy lost over 40 pounds during her illness. That was about 15 more than she needed. She had gained 10 back and it was a healthy 10 lbs. The nice part was the look of health on her face. Some worry still remained. We both learned that there is no cure for cancer, there is only remission. It will continue to haunt her, and me, for the rest of our lives.

“Dan?” as she held a tablespoon of a red sauce out for me to taste, “What do you think?” This is a fine hello. For Cathy it actually is – kitchen, food, Italian. What don’t you understand? When you had real difficulty talking about emotions for your partner or family member, good food made with care was a way to say it. I’ve begun to understand this additional ‘language’ in the past several months. Sure beats yelling and screaming and being hurt about it.

I took the spoon from her hand and she quickly backed away from me. She had a pensive look on her face and I think that it was just not about the red sauce. Tasting it I smiled and she immediately relaxed a little bit. I have to be less stoic, and this is where it has to happen. “This is wonderful, thank you.” Looking around, I saw that the table in the kitchen was not set yet. “If there is something I could do in here, I’ll gladly help. But the table isn’t set yet, so?”

Cathy smiled at me, a sweet sad smile. “I do have bahis siteleri things that you could do in here, but the table is set. It’s set in the dining room. Can you grate some cheese for me by the sink?” I grabbed the cheese in the fridge, got a plate and the grater. Grating it in the sink allowed any mess to be rinsed away, nothing to wipe up. She was clean and orderly, if not a little bit OCD.

“The chicken in the oven is almost done. Why don’t you get the salad, grated romano, basket of fresh bread, and the water and have a seat in the dining room. I’ve got the rest covered.”

The dining room was set with the good dishes. We never used the good dishes. What the hell are we saving them for? Maybe one of the kids would like them, maybe not. They have their own style.

There was a bottle of wine open and she had half a small glass for herself and a full larger glass for me. She was supposed to be off of alcohol. Her type of cancer had issues with alcohol consumption. But some things in life just can’t be absolute.

She came in with the soup and ladled it into the waiting bowls. “The chicken and vegies are warming in the oven. They should be ready when we finish the soup,” and she sat down. Only the dinner was between us now, no activities, no phone calls. It was just us. I knew what I felt, and I could guess what she did too. I wonder if we are on the same page. We were close together for those 18 months of the cancer. I wonder if we are now?

She picked up her glass of wine for a toast. “Here’s for you being here tonight. Thank you for coming.” As she clinked my glass, I added, “and for you preparing this wonderful meal.” She smiled, then my hand touched hers. It was the first time we touched in several months. She jumped slightly, and then smiled again.

The first spoonful of a tortellini in the soup stopped me cold. The flavor, the texture… “Cathy, you made the tortellini fresh? This really is a special dinner.”

“Well Dan, there were only two of us and I had some time on my hands. I haven’t done it in years.” She paused, “Thank you for noticing.”

We spent the dinner talking about the kids, her medical tests, my current job site and the next one. Anything else, everything else but us. We had difficult things to talk about, but easing into it with a good meal would make bad news easier to take. It would also make good news easier to take.

We finished the meal with some decaf espresso and biscotti, cheese and fruit, and an elephant in the room. When I stood up to clear the table, she asked that I leave it till later and invited me into the living room. We chose the chairs that were next to one another. The hard work was going to start now.

“I asked you to come to dinner today to talk about us. Two years ago you were walking out the door. Only then did I tell you about my mammogram. That was after treating you and everybody else like shit for two months, treating you all worse than normal.

“You stayed, moved to the back bedroom, but you supported me. You also made me go to counseling.” She looked at my eyes, “Thank you for all of that. You honestly saved bahis ┼čirketleri my life.” Her eyes said it, said it all. They are the mirror to the soul. She was honestly grateful. Of all the big sacrifices I made over the years, this was only one of the top two. The other one was when I was leaving two years ago and the kids acknowledged what I had sacrificed for them. Shit like this I’ve needed my entire life. Better late than never.

“Our life together for at least the 10 years before that day was pretty bad.” That’s when she stared into my eyes. She needed to read me right away. “I was pretty bad. No, make that very bad. I’ve been looking at it on and off for the past 18 months and more so the past 6 months. On that day, you said that you’d go into marriage counseling if asked and it was recommended.” Now there was a look of fear and pain on her face. “Would you go now?”

Without waiting for an answer, she began again. She was attempting to squeeze in more to convince me, even before she heard my answer. “I’m not perfect, but I’ve made tons of progress. I’ve been able to apologize to all of our children. They’ve honestly accepted my contrition. I’ve been acting differently with them all. It’s not a flash in the pan. Honestly, it’s been difficult for me, but I’ve been making amends whenever where ever I can.”

The fear in her eyes kept growing, her hands started to tremble slightly. She never showed fear in all her years. Her anger covered it up. Starting two years ago, that all changed. This was not a flash in the pan. When she cut herself with the knife, she said it was an accident. I was afraid that it may have been on purpose and called our youngest to ‘check it out’ with her mother on the phone while I drove home to get Cathy. I was relieved that it really was an accident, not a self-inflicted wound.

Cathy looked at me in my eyes again, awaiting my answer. I carried years of resentments on my shoulders, worked on that and other rotten parts of this marriage on and off for two and a half years. I’ve only gotten so far.

We both had 6 months of minimal emotional interaction to help us get our emotional ‘sea legs’ after what we both have been through. Was it enough? Is it too early? Do I even want to invest any more energy in this high maintenance woman? She will still be the mother of our children no matter what I do. Do I have the energy for this?

I looked into the wall, past her. I could feel the fear from her. I could feel the fear from me. It would be so much easier to start over again. I’ve got a chance now. I could run and it could be all over. All the kids are away at college, or starting a new life somewhere else in the states. The North Dakota oil fields are hurting for people who can work with pipe. Two of my buddies are there now, waiting for a yes from me.

I looked back at Cathy, and reached for her hand. She’s now totally frightened, until I smiled and griped her hand warmly while I nodded yes. Her eyes had been pregnant with tears, now had the tears cascading out of them, washing away her eye makeup.

“I still don’t know if this is going to work out Cathy.” She nodded with a sadness two me. “I have years of resentments to work out with you. We’ve both been working on ourselves, on our own issues. But we’re both willing to try with each other.”

I reached over and hugged and kissed her.

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