I find myself adding up the months, the days, the hours since I last saw my husband alive. It was a normal morning. Nothing struck me as unusual or spectacular. I certainly didn’t expect my life to change in the course of a few hours. I really don’t remember much about that particular morning, just that I had the two exchange students we were hosting in the truck with me, bound for school. I remember that Barry had opened the gate for me to pass through then came through on his motorcycle. I made sure to wait and use the remote for the electric gate, so he wouldn’t need to get off the bike to take care of it. I know he waved his appreciation and left for school. Everyone was bound for one school or another. The boys to high school, Barry to his college classes, and me to the elementary school where I teach.
What I don’t remember is what we said that morning to each other. Did we have plans? Did we joke around? Were we happy or irritated with each other? Did we kiss goodbye? Did we smile at each other? I wish I could remember, but all I remember is going down that drive and opening and closing the gate for him. One little act of kindness, really quite insignificant. But, that is all I have to hold on to as my final token of love toward my husband. I know that the night before, whenever he came to bed, he kissed me while I was sleeping and whispered, “I love you,” to me. That I know. He did it every night, like Swiss clockwork.
I have found that being in Virginia has made some things easier, I am not in the house we had just moved into, I am not constantly running into boxes that need (still) to be unpacked, or into his clothes, his shoes, his personal items that still take their proper places in the closet, the bathroom, and throughout the house. I don’t think of him every time I use a knife … I bought that set for him — Christmas or birthday? … or grab some spices … the Moroccan curry tins I bought for him to use, the small bag of spices from France, the tiny dried red chilies grown by his friend, Jazmit, from college. Pretty much everything in my home is a memory of him, or a memory of me, trying to create memories without him. Either way, it is a constant drift of memories … from the shallows to the depths and back again — sometimes wonderful, joyous memories, but almost always they lead me to the memories of losing him, of waiting for days and hours, minutes and seconds, for him to make his way back from the land of the dead … to miraculously beat those fucking doctor’s predictions and find his way back into his beautiful, strong body. And still, unreasonable as it is, I still beg him to come back to me. I don’t even care how, just that if he can find a way, I still need him. I miss him so deeply, so urgently, that I have gone to the edge of rationality. I don’t even make sense to myself. It’s an impossible request that I make every morning and every night, and sometimes throughout the day.
I am not rocking and bawling and begging, like I did for so many days and hours and minutes during the first year or so. Now, I make my requests with a little less dramatic flair … some quiet tears and sniffling, usually. On a bad night, some serious crying and misery, but I’ve rounded the bend and am mostly somewhat restrained now when I cry over him. Is that better? I don’t know. It doesn’t feel better, just less chaotic. The sadness has gotten no less, I’ve just learned to deal with it more calmly — to keep my head above the waves of grief, rather than drowning in them. I am still left gasping for breath, for some sense of hope at the end, but I’m not as completely overwhelmed, most of the time. I don’t beg for whomever is in charge to take me out of this world with the same regularity or fervor that I did originally. I do still put in polite requests — I’d prefer something quick and painless, but I’m open to other options, as long as my beautiful husband is waiting for me on the other side. Of course, I worry about the effect it would have on the kids, and the people we love, but honestly, my missing of him, my deep and abiding loneliness is so enveloping, that I would just prefer to be gone, and if he won’t be there when I die, then I want to simply not exist. That was always his view, we died and that was it, fini. I don’t think he thinks that now, I have my reasons for thinking he has been, and still is with me at times. Coincidence only explains strange things that happen up to a point, after that, you have to be open to the possibilities. But, I am willing to become non-existent, rather than to live this very solitary existence.
My friends keep telling me that things will change, I will change, life will change. That I do know. The one thing you really can count on is change happening. I just no longer have the capacity to believe that all change will end up for the better, that even the hard lessons are part of the path to becoming stronger, wiser, more capable. I am stronger, but in ways I don’t want to be. I am wiser — I understand loss of child and spouse in the most intimate way possible. I am more capable – I have to be, there is no one in the world ready to come rescue me at a moment’s notice anymore. So I have to be more prepared, more proactive, more self-reliant. I guess my misunderstanding was thinking that with those gifts — strength, wisdom, and capability, should come a greater sense of happiness, of contentment, of self. Instead, I am swimming in an ocean of grief. Everyone thinks I’m doing so much better, because they can see that I’m treading water, quite successfully, granted, but I’m still in the water. I’m not even close to the shore, and I don’t see a point when I will be …
I just see a seemingly endless number of seconds and minutes, hours and days, weeks, months, and years, stretching out in front of me…without any long term relief, without any real joy or relief, just me, treading water when I can, succumbing to the waves of grief when I can’t, and growing older and more lonely in the process. What a horrible thought — to feel more lonely than I feel right now without him. I can’t really imagine it, I just fear it.
Will there be better days than this — yes, of course. But part of me believes that those days are just the illusion, that the real delusion isn’t that I will remain in these dark waters for the rest of my life, but that I will find a way to the shore, or that someone will come by and rescue me from the waves.