So my parents are coming into town tomorrow, which means that sometime before I leave to pick them up at the airport, I have to put away some of my pictures of A. I have a lot in my office, and one on the dresser in our bedroom. E's never said a word about them, and I'm grateful that he understands that I need them, even if he doesn't understand why I have to have so damn many. (He may not have ever given it a second thought, but I wonder sometimes. I try to avoid crossing the line of "too much A," much as I did when he was alive, and I did the same with A in regards to E. E is understanding and supportive, but I have no desire to abuse that understanding and support through insensitivity.) I had a single picture of A in the house when he was alive, but after he died and we couldn't chat every night on webcams, I still needed to see him, and suddenly, I had a bunch of pictures of him framed and displayed. There are the 3 pictures amongst the guitars, the one on what amounts to an altar, the one with my family pictures in my photoscreen, the 3 little ones on my desk, and 3 more on a picture rail across the room, and then there's the digital frame, when it's on, though that one includes pictures of E as well, and all the dogs.
It is enough pictures to make anyone wonder. Why so many pictures of one man in one room? Why so many pictures of a man who is not E? I don't want to have to answer those kinds of questions, even unspoken, so I will put away about 6 of them in the office, and maybe the one in the bedroom, as I did the last time they visited. I resent doing it, and I feel disloyal to A doing it. But I tell myself I'm doing it in anticipatory self-defense, and that A never had a picture of me up anywhere in his apartment or office. That he wouldn't disapprove of me doing what I feel I have to do to keep my own peace, because he did the same. I wonder sometimes if he wishes he'd gone another way. Would it have made this easier? Or just hard in a different way? I suspect the latter, honestly. But maybe we would've felt braver in our honesty, and that would've made up for it.
When new people come over to my house, I always ask myself if I should put some of the photos away, for the same reasons I put them away when my family comes. I don't generally bother, counting on people's hoped-for manners keeping them from giving voice to whatever nosy questions that they might be thinking. I can't blame people for being curious; I am curious about a lot of things, too. But if they're rude enough to to interrogate me about it, then they'll get whatever answer I feel like giving them at the moment. So far it hasn't been a problem, fortunately.
But family, at least my family, is rarely bound by such conventions, so best to avoid encouraging them to ask questions they really don't want the answers to. And at this point, I am long over the fantasy that sharing the details of the death of a loved one is likely to lead to great support and greater closeness with anyone other than other widows. People get bored with it so fast as it is.
For the most part, it doesn't come up anymore. Everyone who needs to know does. The people I worried most about telling, I'm no longer in contact with. But still, I have to keep this secret, and I hate it as much now as I ever did. It's the practical thing to do, of course, when you don't know how someone's going to react (or you do, and you know it won't be good). It was practical of me to stop hoping his family would be kinder than they were. It was practical of me to stop reading his horoscope. It was practical of me not to go to camp only for sentimental reasons related to him. I am practical, but I'm not practical enough to feel these things as actions that don't really matter, that don't really comment on how I truly feel about A and how he felt about me, and that they are simply actions taken to minimize potential problems. Not and believe it, anyway. I get it in my head, which is why I do it. But my heart doesn't like it. So often, being practical seems like a betrayal of my own soul. A small and temporary one, but they add up nonetheless.