An overly ambitious push on the toothpaste tube forced a hollow exhale, but no paste. I stared at it, stupid with the realization I’d almost run out. These days it’s harder to tell. The aluminum tubes of not-so-long-ago stayed where you put them, curled up neatly from the bottom to indicate what was gone and what remained, or crumpled all over with dents and bumps, they nonetheless held their shape as the paste receded. You knew where you were. Now the plastic stays semi-rigid, lulling you into a false sense of security that nothing has changed. But it has; and my toothpaste is almost gone which means a new tube has to replace it very soon.
I remember buying this one a few weeks before my husband died. How could it be gone already? It’s only been a few…months. Hard to believe. We’ve passed so many markers: his 76th birthday (or what would have been); our 50th anniversary (or what would have been); the start of summer music camp (or what was); the launch of his beloved boat (before it was sold). So many markers, and that tube of toothpaste empty, too. Why have I not adjusted along with the shifts? Patience. That’s what they all say. But patience won’t move things along in any dynamic way.
While the birthday, anniversary, summer season and toothpaste all disappeared, friends who were part of our life together, openly crushed by the injustice of his sudden impending death, have also disappeared into a world I apparently don’t inhabit anymore. They see each other at dinners out, stroll as couples in the balmy spring air where I run into them on the street as I walk home alone, plan future gatherings together, and all without me. I wonder if I’ve become invisible. Even single friends have gotten very busy moving their own lives on somewhere I can’t seem to go. Are they all afraid association with me will pull them into an abyss they’d never escape from? I can’t answer. Their reactions come as a complete surprise. I’ve heard of the isolation of divorce and even understand the alienation of allegiances under that circumstance, but what of death? Will patience change this too, or is a trip to another planet necessary? Something major to precipitate a dynamic and creative difference.
Someday…you’ll have enough money to live and not be scared, own a pleasant home without roaches and mice, live on the water or a mountain with a view of natural magnificence; someday, if you have patience and wait. Realizing that I was not going have any of those things if I waited any longer, I remember starting up with a gasp to remedy those omissions with my husband, immersed so deep in his work he hadn’t noticed the way time jumped forward. Yes I’d been patient and worked hard and with singular focus for a long while, but eventually one must turn patience into action.
I pushed again on the seemingly empty toothpaste tube, reminded it was almost too late to get a new one without an interruption in the cleansing. ‘Just in time inventory’ was being tested severely in my home. I got past the other markers—birthdays and anniversaries—and I can get past the toothpaste, too. But I think perhaps a better balance of patience and proaction is called for. I’ll toss the toothpaste and put a new tube on my shopping list. Maybe I’ll even try a new brand, or at least a new flavor. It won’t happen all on its own, no matter how much patience I have.