I remember driving down to Palm Springs early one morning last spring to visit Ed. Out of nowhere came the thought, I wonder if he is doing this (he'd been in a hospital for three weeks at that point) just to show me that I can manage on my own. That I can do the driving, pay the bills, make commissary runs and take care of all four cats. Kind of a trial run. That would be like him. Always trying to take care of me. And as soon as it came, I banished any such idea. That he could actually die was never a thought that I allowed into my conscious mind for any longer than it took to chase it away.
In spite of my resistance and mental gymnastics, he died anyway.
At first there was a numbness that let me get the things done that needed to be done. I was distracted and forgetful.
The first few months were filled with a sense of expectation. There seemed a need to get everything ready. I wasn't sure why, but I knew I was waiting for something. There was an almost imperceptible tension in my life, just below surface.
I finished the house remodel, finally replacing the carpet in the living room and buying new furniture for the place where I would be spending most of my waking hours. A glass topped desk and a bright red rug in a room of full of gray and black with a stunning view.
I woke up one Sunday morning to a house without water. And a new pond in my front yard, complete with bubbler. I found the water shut off and dug up the soft wet soil to find the leak in the irrigation line. A phone call to our friend, the contractor, who put in our addition, brought him and one of his crew members to replace the line.
I fired the landscaper who put in the cheap water line and hired a new service to take care of the pool. I found a guy who washes windows at $3 a pop, including the screens and all of the glass doors and walls in the new master bathroom.
I dealt with lawyers in California and Oklahoma to settle his estate which had to be probated in Oklahoma but not here in California.
My step-daughter and her grandsons would frequently drive up from Carlsbad to spend weekends throughout the summer.
His 85th birthday came and went in July. As did my 63rd. And I got old.
He still hadn't come back.
Outside of my dreams. My dreams were prosaic; we weren't ever doing anything exciting, usually they were dreams of checking luggage at an airport and boarding a plane and traveling somewhere, or having dinner at home. Nothing special, but they made mornings so very difficult.
I seemed to be okay. At least I was constantly pretending that I was okay. Avoiding serious questions from friends and family members who cared. It was because they cared that they never really got the truth.
In November I went to Chicago to visit my other step-daughter. The plan was to drive up to the Twin Cities to spend Thanksgiving with her daughters and their families and then drive back to California for Christmas.
Thanksgiving was the holiday that Ed and I used to spend with my brother Steve and our closest friends. It was always Steve's holiday. He died in April 2011 and Thanksgiving that year was sad, but bearable. I knew that I could not face Thanksgiving at home this year, not with both of them gone.
So I flew to Chicago, Gail tripped on the stairs breaking her ankle in a bunch of places and I stayed with her through Christmas. And it was a blessing for me, if not so much for Gail.
Christmas was Ed's favorite holiday. He loved the way the house looked, loved having the whole family together, enjoying each other. We had anywhere from 10 to 16 people at the dinner table. And he was especially pleased that the addition had given us two guest rooms so that the family could stay in our home. Most of it, anyway.
I don't think any of us wanted to face the first Christmas without Ed. Dad. Grandaddy.
I flew home to an empty house. The luggage needed to be unloaded from the car so I could unpack. And Ed wasn't there.
I read Joan Didion's book, The Year of Magical Thinking and realized that I had been waiting for Ed to come home. That is why his shirts are still hanging in our closet and why his cologne is still in his medicine chest.
Didion's book clarified my behavior and I gave up on the hope of his return. Sadness took the place of expectation.
When we got a hard freeze a pvc water line (they are everywhere) down in the wash behind the yard split. Since it was above ground I could clear the brush and replace the bad pipe by myself.
For the first time ever, I bought a new car in January. Ed loved his high-end sedan with all of its bells and whistles, and as much as I enjoyed driving it while he was alive, I now faced any trip in it with dread. It was his car. I always felt like a thief driving his car. And it reminded me of all of the teasing and laughter that we no longer shared.
While I was in Chicago, I explained to Gail that I would never take my own life, no matter how depressed. On the other hand, I wouldn't do a lot to extend it. Death is now real to me in a way it never was before. Unfortunately, I have never been a believer in a life after this one. Life just ends.
And so now I am waiting until mine does. I have no goals left, except to survive today, although I am not really sure why that is important. Some part of me believes that if I just grit my teeth and hang on a little longer that the pain will eventually lessen. Or at least relax the choke hold that it has on my heart and let me take a deep breath again.
And the worse part, of course, is that I can't really share my feelings with anyone. Ed was my best friend. There was nothing we did not talk about. I know that today, all of the people who love me, loved Ed. They know that there is nothing that they can do or say that can fix me. And I would rather not put them on the spot. So I let them think that I am recovering and moving on with my life.
Nobody wants to know that the widow is still mourning.
But she is.
Welcome, fellow travelers on the grief journey
and a special welcome to anyone new to The Grieving Room.
We meet every Monday evening.
Whether your loss is recent, or many years ago;
whether you've lost a person, or a pet;
or even if the person you're "mourning" is still alive,
("pre-grief" can be a very lonely and confusing time),
you can come to this diary and say whatever you need to say.
We can't solve each other's problems,
but we can be a sounding board and a place of connection.
Unlike a private journal
here, you know: your words are read by people who
have been through their own hell.
There's no need to pretty it up or tone it down. It just is.