“He didn’t like anyone messing with his things,” she tells me of her late husband as I measure his bedroom. She is eighty-six, attached to a cane she calls, “Hoss”.
They had separate bedrooms, one at either end of a narrow, carpeted hall. Hers, which I have already measured, was bright and spring-like, while his is a darkly paneled trophy case. If this had been from the beginning, I didn’t ask—not her, not her son. She had been a nurse at one time, owned a convalescent home. Late hours might have made the separation a necessity. He had had a stroke, too. Maybe he had become bedridden—impossible to sleep with. She mentioned that he had lost control of his mouth and drooled terribly. Maybe she had built this shrine in his final days to help him, and her possibly, hold on to those things that had been best about him.
In the hallway separating the two rooms, I run my tape along the baseboard. She stands behind me in the doorway of her late husband’s bedroom, Hoss, her cane, planted firmly in front of her. “He liked everything just so,” she says. There’s no sorrow in her eyes, no reminiscence. She wears the smile of one who has seen plenty of slow dying, one who knows the odds are stacked against her now and that the bedroom she sleeps in is separated by much more than a carpeted hallway.
“You stay out of my room,” she says, imitating her husband’s stroke-contorted voice. “That was the last thing he told me.”
She closes the door behind her.
“He didn’t like anyone messing with his things.”