I learned to change a light bulb, and many other things, after my partner died
Without the love of his life, Paul David Power had to learn how to carry on
Today, I changed a light bulb.
It wasn't too long ago, if I needed a light bulb changed, I had someone to do it for me.
My partner, Jonathan.
Yes, at one point in my life I was one half of that glorified lifestyle bliss we call couplehood. Whether we want to admit it or not, it's a status. A status that rises to prominence this time of year, as Cupid points his playful arrow at our hearts and encourages us to show — and buy — our love for our significant other.
For nine years I had that status.
Until Sept. 24, 2013. The day Jonathan suddenly passed away.
After nine years, I found myself on my own.
Jonathan and June Cleaver
Before that day, I had grown comfortable sharing a home with my partner.
We traded off household duties. Mechanical or electrical issues, broken things, something in need of mowing, shoveling, or getting up on a ladder — that was Jonathan's gig.
I, on the other hand, approached domestic cleaning with such passion it would make June Cleaver blush. A god at laundry, or at least a master of pink shirts.
Soap scum? No match for me. Dishes? So clean they squeaked. My real claim to fame? Picking up 3,285 pairs of black socks off the floor over the course of nine years (hint: I wear white socks).
We divided duties and it worked.
Finding yourself suddenly single after nine years is a jolt. I don't mean the pain of grief that never truly fades.
That's a whole other story.
I'm talking about the practical stuff. Things I never worried about before. Hinges need tightening? Furnace light out? Internet not working? That had been Jonathan's domain.
But suddenly looking after the household had become, literally, a one-man job.
The first burnt-out bulb
I remember my first task trying to be a handyman: a burnt out light bulb.
It was in our main entryway and without it, I was in complete darkness. I let it go for many weeks. But after one too many times banging into the front hall table, I decided it was time to do something about it.
I remember looking up at the light fixture, about eight feet above me, and pondering how I was going to do this. I could call someone.
But I didn't.
Instead I thought of Jonathan. What would he do?
I went to the garage and managed somehow to hoist our stepladder out of the summer tangle of garden hoses, weed whackers and rakes. It was too heavy to carry, so I slid it to the front porch.
Setting the ladder in position below the light, I climbed carefully. Now, to a four-foot-eight-inch guy, climbing up to an eight-foot ceiling is no small task.
It takes agility. It takes stamina. It takes a strong stomach.
A short-lived moment of victory
I arrived at the top victorious, only to discover the shade would have to be unscrewed.
I descended, went back to the garage, and opened Jonathan's tool box, to survey a mystery of screws, pliers and other shiny metal objects. What do these do anyway?
I considered the choices and proceeded to shove seven different screwdrivers in my pocket.
Back to the front hall, with screwdrivers weighing down my jeans, to once more climb the ladder. After three failed attempts, I found the right-sized screwdriver and took off the glass shade. I balanced it in one hand as I descended the ladder again and went to the pantry for a light bulb.
Back to the ladder. I placed the shade carefully on its top step, and proceeded to screw in the light bulb.
At first — nothing. The bulb was crooked.
I unscrewed and tried again — nothing. Then I realized the light switch was off.
That was a good thing. It's supposed to be, right? I screwed in the shade, climbed back down the ladder, and over to the switch.
Here goes nothing.
OK, on my own
With a flick of my finger, I could see.
Changing a light bulb eight feet above my head may not seem like a great accomplishment. But for me, that night, I realized something. I wished Jonathan was there, but I didn't need him to be there.
I was going to be ok, on my own.
I am forever grateful for the time I had with Jonathan. For having a relationship that many people in this world never are fortunate enough to experience. But I'm also grateful for what I discovered after losing Jonathan.
Something I never really understood as a single man before entering couplehood. Something that many of my single friends have yet to discover.
I might want a relationship, but I don't need one.
Valentines Day isn't a bouquet of roses for many. Whether it's love lost, or that great love still not found, the day can make us feel we are somehow less complete if not part of a couple. That we need a relationship.
Whether in a relationship or not, love is all around us, in our friends, our families, our memories and most importantly, within ourselves.
And if we're on our own, that's OK.
Today, I changed a light bulb.