Every little loss reminds me of my big one. I sign into the
Kaiser website from my personal computer and David’s name pops up as a log in. I write ” David Dobkin is deceased, please remove his name from your list” on our contribution forms for KPFA, the ACLU, Shotgun Theater and the Rosenberg Fund for Children. I add in memory of David Dobkin to the checks I write. My handwriting is worse than usual; shaky but determined, reminding me of what I’d see on
end-of-year gifts to Planned Parenthood from older widows. I don’t want to admit it but I’m one of them now.
Even impersonal encounters provoke memory. I return a telephone switch to the hardware store. I have no receipt; David must have bought this long before we married. The cashier doesn’t question but I do – what home improvement project, never fulfilled, prompted David to buy it? I can also be surprised: a stranger at a crafts fair looks me in the eye, gives me a hug & her condolences. I have no idea who she is and am too embarrassed to ask.
I use an ancient ‘need to know’ principle I learned from my Communist parents to budget my emotional energy for these interactions. I tell the receptionist at my dentist’s office for a functional reason: she needs to take David off her patient list. “I’m sorry for your loss” she says and I believe her. The dental tech gives me a cheery and generic “how are you” greeting. I default to “fine” even though it’s a lie. Why shock someone when lack of intimacy dictates there’s no need? I do tell my East Indian dentist. “David?” she asks, remembering her patient’s name, dismay imprinted on her gorgeous face. Most people I choose to tell act as my dentist does: they reach out in sympathy but then go back to business. As they should. And so the little losses of my life continue without David.
I leave tomorrow with Ellen for a week at Arthur Naiman’s place in Tucson, a house with three guest bedrooms and a jacuzzi that overlooks the city and its mountains. I first met Arthur in 1968, he had just invented the LBJ dartboard. Arthur went on to write and self-publish The MacIntosh Bible at the moment Mac computers hit the market. I go to visit Arthur when my husbands die. I went with Jessica after Stew, now it’s David’s turn. I want to be among the Saguaros, with their prickly arms that reach in supplication toward a blue Georgia O’Keefe sky. After Stew died, walking with these gentle giants made me smile my first smile. It had been, as I recall, a very long time. Right now I’m pretty confident I’ll find again the healing power of the Saguaros; this time for David.