I spent last weekend attending a guitar festival in northern California with a couple of my girlfriends. It was beautiful up there. We had fun and laughed a lot. We drooled over guitars. We shopped. We ate at great restaurants. It was a good time.
But at the same time, it was hard for me to be there. For me, the Bay Area will always mean A to me. I loved it there, because I loved him there, and we explored a lot of it together. And up until now, I've looked for excuses to go back there, to revisit places we visited together, as if I could revisit our life together, like some kind of historical reenactor, I guess. I hadn't been back for 3 years because I haven't been back to guitar camp, so was looking forward to this trip. But the melancholy hit me as we descended into San Francisco and remained as an undercurrent for the rest of the weekend.
In the past, flying over that vast green landscape was a time of excitement and anticipation; I consciously remembered that as we neared San Francisco, though I've only flown into San Francisco once before; it was always San Jose. But from 35,000 feet, at 700 mph, it's much the same view. I would be nervous and jittery with anticipation of holding A in my arms again, seeing him smile, talking with him, kissing him. And that just wasn't going to happen this time around.
A and I had discussed going to this very event, but hadn't had a chance to do so, because it only happens every 2 years. I wasn't ready in 2007, or in 2009, but I thought I was ready to do it without him this year. And I was, but it was more challenging emotionally than I had anticipated, because honestly, I didn't anticipate it being challenging at all. Maybe that was naïve.
In quiet moments, I felt it was all wrong. I wasn't supposed to be there with my girlfriends. If A were alive, I would've flown to him and driven up and met them there, with him at my side. To be there without him just opens up a chasm in my heart in a way being at home does not. The land, the light, it all conspires against me in California, highlighting what is not there. It isn't comforting like I thought it would be; it's actually painful, and I know it affected my mood on and off all weekend. I missed A terribly. And I was homesick, missing E and the dogs in a way I never have before.
It got worse as the weekend wore on, and by the last day, as we headed for home, I was pretty much silent and solitary whenever I could get away with it. I was in my own head, and terse when I did speak; I was irritable, the most consistent indicator of unvoiced grief I have now. I don't know how much of that my traveling companions noticed, but they didn't ask, and I didn't volunteer, because the weekend wasn't about me and my widowhood and I doubt it occurred to anyone that any trip I happily volunteered to take might be bittersweet nonetheless. They wouldn't have understood anyway.
At one point, I took a break from all the guitar stuff and sat out on the lawn, listening to music, enjoying the feeling of cool, damp grass on my hands and legs. As I sat there, soaking up a different kind of sun, the kind that kisses you instead of burns you, feeling the cool breeze, and luxuriating in the change of scenery, an idea for a song came to mind. But it gave voice to what I'd end up feeling all weekend:
There's something about coming back to a place
where love used to live
and finding no one home
and finding your key doesn't fit in the door
and finding it's not home anymore
It may be too sad a song to write; I'll have to sit with it for awhile.
In any case, the feeling I'm left with is that I'm not sure that I want to go back again. I mean, it's entirely possible that life circumstances might make it necessary, but I don't know that I'll be looking for reasons to go anymore. Because the reason I always went to California is gone, and it's just too hard to reckon with that again and again. It brings up so much stuff, stuff I still can't do anything about, will never be able to do anything about, and I don't know that I need to do that to myself. In the early days of grief, there is wisdom and healing in feeling it all, processing it all, however painful; but now, five years later, it seems to me avoidance of known triggers, especially the totally optional ones, may be the wiser choice, the emotional version of "Doctor, it hurts when I do this!" "Then stop doing it."