The first time I crossed the Yellowstone River it was on the way to a wedding where I met Andy and Christie. I think it was about 2003. Maybe in 2002. I can’t remember, this is what old age is.
I drove over it last night, on the way back to my hotel. I am here for the last week of radiation and the last week of chemo. We will know in mid-January what this treatment has bought us. Maybe, oh, just maybe it has bought us more time. Maybe it has not.
I thought, when I came down, that I was here to do laundry and drive people places and run errands and empty the dishwasher and put food in front of people. I have done that, I have another 4 days of that.
My days start with a large cup of coffee, cobbled together with water heated up in the microwave, dumped into a pour-over filter. They end with a hefty slug of scotch, in a plastic cup. In the interim, it is laundry and it is driving and fighting with Jane the GPS (so many one way streets Billings, what’s with that?)
And I cross the Yellowstone River each day. All those years ago, I didn’t know it would come to this. I didn’t know that I would find myself almost 20 years later, watching a man I love as a brother die. I didn’t know that I would hug his children, hold his wife. I didn’t know that it would ever be this hard. I didn’t know, as I was excited to cross the river all those years ago, that I would cry each time I drove over it.
We don’t know how things end. That’s the way it goes. I’m told that we never cross the same river. I’m also told that water is part of a cycle. It’s in the river, it becomes rain and fog, it falls back to the earth. I didn’t think I would cross a river for this. I didn’t think that I would cross the river as a single woman.
It is hard to see him leave by inches. His vision is going, he knocks things over. He is often irrational. Christie is overwhelmed. The children are lost and hurting. Andy and I went to a park to watch the sunset. He looked at the clouds and I looked at the river.
I crossed that river all those years ago, and I found a family. Andy and Christie, they gave me a family. A wondrous and miraculous gift. I thought about that as I took a drive last night. To figure out what hotels are close to the hospital, so that when I come for the last time, I know where to stay.
This is hard. This is hard. Not the dishes, the laundry, reading books to children. When I come for the last time, I won’t have to drive across the river. I’ll stay on the other side. And I’ll watch him cross it.
And I don’t know how I’m going to do that.