Sunday, May 30, 2010

Hardware, accent on the "hard"

E and I ended up at Home Depot today. We were there specifically to buy a crowbar to tear up the bottom of some cabinets we have out the garage. We've had a pack rat living in our garage for some time, and the destructive capabilities of this tiny rat (or big mouse) are really astonishing. It has eaten many, many things that are not food, including parts of our car wiring, but it seemed to have gone away for awhile, and we decided to stop worrying about it. Recently, though, the little brown signs of rodent life in the garage were back, and things on my workbench were mysteriously moving across the garage. We knew its lair was under the cabinets; I tried to shop-vac a bunch of the rat's "collection" out through holes in the cabinets last summer, but gave up because it was too much. But as we cleaned the garage yesterday, we happened upon and cornered the pack rat in one of the cabinets, and a live trap and a scoop of peanut butter made him our captive sometime in the night. We set him free in the big wash that runs behind our neighborhood, but still needed to clean up the mess. Hence the trip to Home Depot.

But while we were there, we looked at a few other things: lighting possibilities for my kitchen redecorating project. Flooring for the Arizona room where the dogs have destroyed the indoor/outdoor carpet. Laminate flooring possibilities for inside the house where the dogs have destroyed the carpet. A typical Saturday afternoon of shopping for necessary projects and dreaming of others.

When we finally moseyed our way to the tool corral, there was a cart, two customers, and an employee in our way, and I had to wait while E went in in search of the crowbar. But I was stopped in my tracks anyway; the employee looked so much like A, it took my breath away. He still had some color in his goatee and hair, though it was mostly gray, but otherwise, the resemblance was uncanny, right down to the glasses. A made his living with tools, rather than selling them, but nonetheless, I was stunned to tears. Simultaneously, I wanted to stay there and stare at him forever and I wanted to flee.

I stared at him as long as I could; I had reasonable cover, as my cart couldn't get through the aisle, and E was on the far side of them. As much as I was fully cognizant that it wasn't A, I just wanted to pretend that he was there, in front of me, alive, and to appreciate that for just a minute. But even though I couldn't tear my eyes away from the guy, the fantasy couldn't quite hold. He looked so much like him, yet he couldn't be him, and that is why I got teary. Every time I thought how much I wanted it to be A, wanted him to be alive like this man, the tears sprang afresh to my eyes. And as we made our way to the checkout, I saw other men who vaguely resembled A, and I thought, you know, maybe Home Depot is a dangerous place for someone who loves an absent middle-aged guy who used to build things. Suddenly, he was everywhere I looked, but none of the others had such a strong resemblance. I kept looking back over my shoulder for another glimpse as I finally turned the cart and walked away.

E missed the whole thing, and if he noticed the resemblance of the employee, or my subdued manner when we finally reunited in the next aisle, he didn't mention it. But the tears stayed close to the surface and threatened several more times in the store and on the way home; I wasn't quite right for hours after.

It never ends. I knew it never would, but I didn't KNOW, you know? When you think you've tripped all the triggers, and espied all the ambushes, and think there can't be anything left to bring you to your knees; when you've become a veteran widow and think you can see the muzzle flash and hear the bullet headed straight for your heart well in advance enough to step out of its way; it is then that you wander down the crowbar aisle and have your heart and all the defenses around it pried open, defenseless once again, and that dull ache you've mostly learned to ignore comes front and center. It never ends; not until you die yourself. So what is a successful life, then? Enduring longer than your pain? Does that seem unnecessarily cruel to anyone else? Is there to be no mercy, ever, for the bereaved who need it most?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Of anniversaries that weren't

Six years ago today, A and I "met" via a PM on a bulletin board, in an exchange of notes that soon became a true correspondence of a growing friendship, and ultimately a love of a lifetime. A too-short lifetime for his part, but still. The first anniversary sneaked up on me; I didn't even realize it, but he remembered the date. I remembered on the second one. And that was all we ever got. Now this day passes marked only by me, and my dear widowed pals who make it their sacred duty to remember these things with me. I didn't even get a sign today.

Four years ago this weekend was the last time I kissed and hugged him. We spent a wonderful Memorial Day weekend together, and then it was back to chat and e-mail until the day he didn't do either. It's a bit of a tough time, now that I think of it. No wonder I've been wanting to wear that bracelet, as I did today, plus the perfume I always wore and spritzed all my love letters with, so he could smell me from wherever he is.

Yesterday as I was driving home from work, I started thinking about how he died, how we'd made an emergency plan "just in case." And it still feels too weird to be true, even though I know it is. I tried to put it out of my mind, because it just makes me sad and miserable and I didn't want to be sad and miserable for the rest of the night. But I woke up this morning, and instantly it was back in my head; maybe in my sleepiness, my defenses were down. And I allowed myself a little bit of thought about it. It is still so horrifying to me that he was alone for 2 days before he was found. That's what my mind chews on and recriminates about; and I'm not the sole criminal in those reflections. But again, I had to set it aside. There was a day to start, dogs to feed, and my dwelling on it wasn't going to change it or mitigate the horror. It just was what it was.

It is not the anniversary that makes me sad; it's that we had so few of them, there was no time to create a ritual, nothing to remember, nothing to sustain me through all the ones I'd celebrate alone. For our second, and last, I'd bought him a functional sextant because he wanted one, and told him it would help him always find his way to me, or something equally sappy. It disappeared with the rest of his stuff. It's almost a non-anniversary, except that six years ago my life changed irrevocably, and for the better. I mean, my life, with him in it, was about as perfect as I could ever hope for. And because I met him, I have experienced the worst pain I have ever known. He was a meteor, a falling star that was so beautiful, until impact, when it devastated life as I knew it, so many dreams and hopes and futures extinct from that moment.

I miss him so damned much. I would give almost anything to have him hold me in his arms and say "I love you, Baby." Such a small thing; such a small impossible thing.

Friday, May 21, 2010

That bracelet

A couple of you may remember the saga of A's bracelet, the one I made for him that he never took off; the one that was lost in the shuffle after he died; or maybe it wasn't lost at all, but the unwillingness of his family to find out where it was and get it for me made it is good as lost.  The second chapter of that was that I made an exact replica of that bracelet 3 different times, and it kept coming apart, and I wondered at the time if that was a sign that I wasn't supposed to wear that reminder every day for the rest of my life.
I put the bracelet in a safe place next to his picture and didn't really think about it for a long time, until recently.  I'd gotten the jewelry-making bug again last weekend, and was in the mood to make some anklets for the summer.  Once I had all my beads and tools out, though, I thought again about that bracelet.  I fished it out of the dish I'd put it in, washed the dust off of it, and brought it back to my desk and tried once again.
The funny thing is, as soon as it was finished and I put it on, I felt better, maybe not unlike those widows who have taken their wedding rings off for awhile, only to put them back on later.  I didn't wear it for long because it was long past bedtime, but I wore it all the next day, and felt the same.  That was unexpected, considering I've gone without wearing it for months...maybe years now; I don't even remember when I put it away.
As I was driving to work this morning, I was reflecting on how I've been feeling the last few days, which is kind of hard.  Cynical.  Shields up and defensive.  And I'm not really sure why, as I cannot pinpoint any specific attack coming at me.  And yet, it stands to reason that that bracelet would only make me feel better if I was somehow feeling worse, even if I didn't realize it.
Maybe it's simply the relief of having something lost returned, making me feel a bit more whole.  I don't know what it means; but nonetheless, I think that bracelet is going to get a lot of wear in coming days. 

Another joins the club

We got word yesterday that a coworker of ours had died of cancer.  She hadn't worked at the office for the last year, at least, once her treatment for cancer overwhelmed her ability to keep working, but while she did give her notice back then, it wasn't like she ever really quit.  It was that cancer effectively fired her; she had no choice.  She fought for 2 1/2 years, but at the end, she was ready to go home.
Home.  Now that I believe that there is more to life than this particular life we're living, I am sometimes envious of those, including my A, who have been released from this world and the worries and hardships thereof.  Sometimes I'm so tired, and while I try to make the most of my time here and appreciate those who travel this world with me, I think that I maybe wouldn't mind so much being done.  And in those times when I wonder, if we have a choice about when we leave this world, why A would choose to cross over instead of stay here with me and others who love him, that's usually what I work my way around to.  That life is tiring, and if you have any choice at all, and are given the vision to know how this universe works and that the rest of us will be along soon enough, I think it might be mighty tempting to go ahead.

Management forwarded a beautiful and loving note from her husband, now a new widower.  He was very philosophical about how he would need to take some time to process not only his grief in her fresh absence, but the emotions he hadn't really allowed himself in the last 2 1/2 years.  As I read it, I thought, "Mister, you don't even know what you're in for."  And I was sorry, for my own sake as much as his, that I do.  He must be 60-something; I was just 34 when it happened to me and while I knew the moment I found out A had died that it was going to be really bad, it was 100 times worse, in ways I could've never anticipated.

But then again, I wrote some philosophical posts in those early days, too, about how I was going write my way through the grief, about how one day I'd feel better.  Of course, I had no idea how bad I would feel, or for how long, but I suppose those things were true after all.  And in the shock of bereavement, maybe it's a blessing that the intellect is still able to offer us useful, coherent thoughts like these when the soul is screaming "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"  It can't hear anything beyond its own pain.

I don't know him, but I feel for him nonetheless.  And maybe he will have a better handle on this grieving business than I did; maybe they finished all their business in the time they had.  Maybe he's older and wiser than I, and can bring a different and greater perspective to his life that has changed so drastically in just a single day.  I pray that that's the case; because even if he has all that to start with, this is still going to be one literal hell of a ride.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ashes and dust

Last night I was puttering in my inner sanctum at home (I just hate calling it an office), a task that was long overdue.  Once I finally made it to my desk, which still hasn't been fully excavated, I noticed that the three pictures I have of A on a picture shelf there had grown dusty.  I blew on them a little, but it was inadequate to the task, so I took a tissue to them.

On the one hand, I live in the desert.  Deserts are dusty, and so are the homes in them.  Reasonably, I shouldn't read into it any more than that. 

Nonetheless, it was symbolic, and poignantly so.  I was struck by the simple reality of dust on my love.  His face, a photo only, and yet him even so.  There is dust on my love.  While I do believe we've communicated since he died, in a fashion, and while I do believe our love is ongoing and strong, and while I do what little I can on my end to keep him current, the fact is that there has been no day-to-day interaction like we were used to having for 3 years, 10 months, and 5 days now.  I say it that way because every time I say "almost 4 years" I wince a little.  Next Tuesday is the, wait, 6th (geez) anniversary of our first "meeting" on the internet.  And I have been carrying on by myself for 2/3 of that.

I'd like to state for the record that that sucks mightily.  And I only say that because I lack the words to express how truly and unabatedly shitty that bit of my reality is.

Mostly, now, when I think of him, or see his picture, I just think, "I love you, Sweetie.  I hope you're having a splendid time where you are.  I miss you a lot."  Because there's not much else to say.  If he's interested in my goings on, I'm sure he can tune in, and the times when I choose to tell him are more for me than they are for him.  He is with me, but he isn't.  The love is there, but the lover is completely out of reach.  And I feel it.  I feel that distance every day.

There is dust on my love, and every passing year adds another layer of it.

There is dust on my love, and I never wanted that to happen.  Never.

There is dust on my love.