Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy anniversary, Sweetie

"Postsecret.com is a website where people can anonymously reveal their deep, dark feelings. I came across one entry that I think would be perfect for you to use as your own in the coming weeks. "I don't want to cover up my scar," it read. "It's a good conversation starter and it makes me look bad-ass. But thank you anyway!" To further inspire what I hope will be your fearless effort to claim the power inherent in your wounds, I also offer this spur from musician and author Henry Rollins: "Scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue. Realize the strength, move on."

This was my horoscope today, for the next week. Been thinking a lot about my scars...or rather, the scar.

In a strange twist of fate, my anniversary of meeting A falls three days after my anniversary of marrying E, which makes for an especially fraught week as it leads into Memorial Day weekend every year, the last weekend A and I were in the same place at the same time. (If you don't count my walking through the redwood forest where his ashes were scattered.  Which I only count when I'm engaging in dark widow humor to myself.) Even though I talked to him every night between then and when he died, when I think of our last goodbye, it is always the one where we hugged and kissed and said "I love you," my eyes filled with tears as I went through airport security.

The attempt to balance the celebration of one relationship with the mourning of the loss of another is something that generally leaves me feeling entirely unbalanced. I find I alternate, swinging between them: I celebrated during the day; I cried at night.

When I am really missing him, I remember a hug we had in his kitchen that last morning before I left. He was wearing a red shirt, and he felt so big and strong. My sweetie was 6'2"; he made me feel safe and protected; it's such a rare, surprisingly sweet thing, my being smaller than anyone. In remembering that hug, I can feel the solidness of his chest and the strength in his arms holding me close, and the muscles in his back as I ran my hands over them. It's one of the strongest physical memories of him I have, and I try to keep it evergreen, because it means so much to me, and does so much to calm me when the ache threatens to tear me apart.  I feel like I have lost as many memories as I've managed to keep. I cannot remember his voice now.

I cannot remember his voice.

It's been nearly 5 years, and mostly, when I hear his words in my head, they're in my own voice, and it feels like an exceptionally grave loss. There are one or two phrases I can almost hear in his voice, but even that I doubt the accuracy of. I went to sleep the other night, on my wedding anniversary, thinking about that, crying a little, begging both him and my own memory banks to conjure up his voice in my dreams so that I wouldn't lose that, too, but as usual, my dreams did not cooperate.

I tried to tell myself that perhaps I heard my own voice in my head because he and I were so truly connected that it was one and the same. But while I considered the possibility that it might be true, I didn't really believe it.

I remember reading my first grief book a couple weeks after he died, and seeing the chapters that dealt with beyond the first year, going out to the fifth, and I couldn't imagine what that meant. Would I still be grieving 5 years out? That terrified me. Would I be better 5 years out? I couldn't imagine how that could be true.

The answer to both questions turns out to be "yes." Time has passed, and I've grown accustomed to the duality, accepting that while there may be momentary confusion in the comparison, it really isn't so impossible to live in seeming emotional contradiction. Our hearts are not linear, feeling one thing at a time, in its turn. I wonder, now, why I ever thought mine was.

I suppose this is true for many, if not most, widows, but I can't "celebrate" these anniversaries. I met A 7 years ago; I've celebrated 5 of these anniversaries without him. The day passes each year without failing to give me a blithely malicious kick. There are few days on the calendar sadder than birthdays never attained and anniversaries celebrated by only one person.

At every step of this journey, I've wondered if whatever stage of healing I was at was as good as it was going to get, and then I've ended up finding out it wasn't. But it's been the same for a really long time now, and I think maybe this IS it. And what does it look like for me? It means missing him a little every day, and terribly some nights; it means a few quiet tears in memoriam here and there; it means sighing and carrying on, because there's nothing else to do.  It means appreciating every little good thing that comes my way.  It means realizing the strength, and moving. On. Forward. Sideways.  Sometimes backwards. But moving.


  1. Just letting you know that I am here ...

  2. I'm so sorry that you have so many memories and occasions to mark, all clumped together in such a short timeframe.

    I loved the bit you wrote about the physical sensations and memories you have of him holding you that last significant time.

    I can still remember Charley's voice…I think. Or at least I can remember the sound of his laugh. I tried just now to remember something he actually said, in his voice, and if I pushed through the wall hard enough, I think I could hear it. But I've been wobbly enough lately that I think "hearing" it would be worse than not recalling it at the moment. Isn't it "funny" how things like that work? (Except I sure am not laughing.)

    I hope the rest of this week and weekend pass as inauspiciously as possible….Sending you lots of hugs from Oregon….