Slices of Life: Finding a new me

Today I’m dealing with a bathtub clog. Plumbing was always his domain, but today it is mine.

Jill Pertler
Jill Pertler

Yesterday I changed a light bulb. It was the overhead one at the entrance to our basement stairs. I had to use a stepping stool in order to reach it. That light bulb has burned out many times in the 20 years since I’ve lived in my house, but this was the first time I changed it, or even contemplated the task.

It was one of the first times I’ve changed any light bulb. Someone else was always here to change the light bulbs. I never had to give them a second thought. Now I do.

Changing light bulbs has become my duty, as have myriad other chores. He used to brown the hamburger. He used to change the kitty litter. He used to hold the TV remote. He used to vacuum the stairs.

He used to take care of the cars — oil changes, adding air to the tires and scheduling needed repairs. He could “feel” when the brakes or the tires were bad. I don’t have that particular sixth sense, but I suppose I will have to cultivate it.

He was the family driver. He knew I didn’t like driving, so he took on the chore. It was like that between us. When we unloaded the dishwasher, I knew he didn’t like doing the silverware, so I always took that on first. I didn’t mind, just like he didn’t mind driving. It was how we worked things out in many areas of our life together.


When he was in the hospital about a half-hour from home, I visited him daily. After a few days had passed, he asked how I was getting there. I told him I drove and parked in the adjacent ramp. He smiled at me and said, “Wow, that’s impressive.”

Today I’m dealing with a bathtub clog. Plumbing was always his domain, but today it is mine. I’ll head to the store later to procure some heavy duty drain de-clogger. Not long ago, I brought the car in for an oil change. That was new for me also.

Changing a light bulb is no big deal. Nor is driving to the hospital. I get that. I am perfectly capable of doing many things. But he is everywhere. In the light bulbs. In the kitty litter. In car repairs. In the browned hamburger. In unloading the dishwasher. In holding the TV remote. In a bathtub clog.

In everything.

I miss the big things, for sure. But it’s the small things, the every day things that sometimes hit the hardest.

Like changing a light bulb. Today I did that. I suppose with time it will become automatic and I won’t think it’s weird that I have to change the light bulb.

But today it was weird. It was new, but not in a good way. It made me miss him. Again. Still.

So many things do cause me to pause and miss him. And as proficient as I will get at changing light bulbs, getting the oil changed and browning the hamburger, I hope the missing him in the small and inconsequential moments never, ever changes.


Because as long as those moments exist, a part of him is still with me. And I will want that, always.

J ill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.

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