Woke up feeling the enormity of the date. April 10, 2014
The 10th. One month ago, on March 10 Frank passed in the early morning hours. I still have not put his clothes away or thought what I will do with them, really. I know that will come. But not quite yet. I still like seeing his corner of my house just as he left it – somewhat messy, scattered, several things in plastic bags to protect them from moisture, and at least three books with bookmarks in them. He was always reading and usually more than 2 books at a time
I still find myself thinking and doing things as if he had not passed. He’ll probably be back and need this or that. He wouldn’t want me to change this – it’s how he likes it. I’d better get that large pan out of the sink to soak. For Frank. My mind jumps back to another morning and our negotiation about sharing my kitchen.
Frank spent most of the last 3 months of his life here at my house. Before that we had enjoyed the weekly schedule of him spending 3 days at the farm and 4 at my house with me. He would arrive on Saturday afternoon, we’d go to Papas for a late lunch or early dinner and then spend Sunday and Monday just doing as we pleased – mostly writing and discussing. Monday night, before dark, he would return to the farm to spend time with Volunteers. Thursdays we spent another day together – meeting at the feria and to do our weekly shopping and other errands in town. We’d again relax up at my place until time for him to return to the farm It was a schedule that worked so well for us until at the end of 2013 Frank developed a retinal tear in his right eye. Then everything changed.
He found an Opthalmologist in San Jose who he liked, trusted and who would text him within ten minutes if he had a question. His first laser procedure was in late December and began the near weakly 3+ hour bus trips over the mountain for check ups and check backs. As 2013 rolled into 2014 the eye issues continued and he underwent his first laser surgery leaving him with his eye filled with a gas that gently kept the healing retina in place against the back of his orbit. Because of the gas, he could no longer take the bus over the mountain’s 11,000 ft. elevation – and had to negotiate the much longer erratic bus schedule of the coast route. One time he spent 9 hours traveling to San Jose for a 10 minute check up. 3 hours to Quepos. 3 hour wait for the next bus. 3 more hours to San Jose. And he chuckled about it. That was Frank. He rarely got upset about things he couldn’t control. He would work it out in his beautiful mind – and enjoy his time to read, relax and just let go of his angst and fear.
We adjusted our life to his new visual restrictions. He no longer drove his car, fearing his lack of depth perception. For the first time in his life he began to feel some real limitations in the quality of his life. We talked about it a lot. And we adjusted. I did all the driving. He spent more time at my place. And we negotiated about the kitchen.
My Tico house is small and Frank’s favorite place to create and enjoy was of course my kitchen because he did all the cooking, I usually elected to clean up. Sometimes the enormity of my task went way beyond my comprehension. How can specks of sauce wind up near the top of the refrigerator? Why do the veggies have to be cut up impromptu – right next to the stove and directly on the tile counter? Wouldn’t it make sense to use a cutting board and do it next to the sink? And speaking of sink – doesn’t it make sense to clean up things as you go so you aren’t overwhelmed at the end, having used every utensil and pan?
One morning I asked Frank about some of this and he explained that when he was in a creative space he just couldn’t think about anything else. I reflected that it was the same for me with writing or painting. Then I said that really, the only part of the kitchen that really bothered me during the day was the island area where I liked to place the bowl of fresh fruit, a vase of flowers and my coffee pot on a bamboo square mat. Next to the mat I liked a folded kitchen towel, ready to be used. I said that if that island spot was clear and orderly, somehow I didn’t care at all what the rest of the kitchen looked like. Frank replied, ‘That’s fair.” And then he went on to say that the thing I did in the kitchen that bothered him the most was to leave things soaking in the sink. He wanted immediate access to the sink and asked that I leave things soaking on the counter next to the sink instead of in it. I thought about it and replied, ‘That’s fair.’. Our negotiation was typical of our life together. Respectful, Empathetic and Caring.
Now, a month later – the island area of the kitchen is too tidy. And the sink is empty.