It’s a gray, dark rainy November election day. I’m staring out the window on my lunch break at work, wishing I could call you, thinking how my life feels like the day looks. This is not going to be a good day; but I do come up with some random observations I’d like to share with you.
Random observation #1
Like apartment carpeting, my finger still shows the imprint from where the ring sat for 7 years. It’s around my neck now (the ring, not my finger), worn on a gold chain along with yours. I remember the exact moment in the hospital when they gave me your ring. It was mid-August, around the 14th, and they were going start you on dialysis. This was still when there was an expectation of your getting onto the transplant list. The nurse mentioned that with dialysis your fingers would swell, so I asked for the ring. You’d been wearing it on your middle finger for the last year because you’d lost so much weight, just another ignored sign of the disease that ultimately killed you.
I took the ring and put it on my middle finger. Now I had a wedding ring on each hand. I looked at both rings a lot; they gave me hope. I waited for the day when you’d wake up and be cognizant of where you were and what was happening, when I could lean over and tell you how sick you’d been, but that everything was going to be fine now, and then hand it back to you.
Your ring was a little too big for me; after a few days, I left it at home, sitting on the bathroom counter on top of your wallet. It sat there far longer than I thought it would. A few weeks after the memorial service, I started thinking about what to do with your and my rings. How long should I keep wearing mine? What do I do with your ring? We didn’t have any children so there’s no one to save them for, and there’s nothing of great interest in them as jewelry, just two simple gold bands. What’s more, while your ring was getting too loose, mine was getting too tight. My arthritis has gotten worse and the ring that fit nicely when we were married was becoming a struggle to remove.
What finally decided it for me was that every time I looked down at my left hand it was a smack-in-the-face reminder of what had happened. I took off my ring five weeks after you died. The next day I got a gold chain and put your ring and mine on it, and slipped the chain around my neck. Wearing the two rings, together, feels appropriate. It’s an honor to your memory and a tribute to our marriage, while still letting me move forward. It was the right decision.
Random observation #2
Today is Election Day, and I’ve been missing you, missing us. I remember when we met, and I told you that politics for me was like religion is for some people; I cared passionately and couldn’t do a “mixed marriage.” Luckily, we shared similar views. Election Day was always fun; we’d drive to the polling place together and visit with neighbors while we waited in line, vote and then you’d drop me off at work. In the evening, we’d watch returns together. This year, like everything else since you died the fun is gone. I voted early because I didn’t want to greet old neighbors and get expressions of condolences or, worse, have to explain why you’re not there.
Yesterday there was a last minute campaign rally right across the street from where I work, and there were so many times when I wanted to call you, or thought about how much fun it would be when I told you about this after work. Each time I had to stop and remember that I can’t call you, and you won’t be there when I get home from work. I hadn’t had too many of those “I can’t wait to talk with Rick about this” moments lately, and now I’m right back to being surprised that the door is locked and the house is empty when I get home, and that no one calls me mid-afternoon to ask if I want a ride home. I had a good weekend, but I’m back to gray again. I miss you, Rick; I miss you every day.
Random observation #3
It happened again: a new email in your in-basket. It’s from a friend who moved across country a few years ago. He wrote a quick, casual note giving an update on what he’s doing, asking what you’re doing, and sending a greeting to me. I didn’t want to, but I had to write the “I’m so sorry to have to tell you but…” note. Explained what had happened. Sent him the link to your obituary, said how much I miss you, and send it off.
I feel so bad when this happens: for the person who was just contacting an old friend and now has to get this terrible, unexpected news, and for me; every time this occurs it brings me right back to August and re-experiencing the terrible, terrible summer.
I try to be detached and analytical, and guess who will respond and who will not. I’m a good analyst and so far, I haven’t guessed wrong. This friend, as expected, sent back a heartbreakingly kind and personal response on how much help Rick and I had been during a hard time in his life; how compassionate Rick was as a human being; how sad he was for what had happened, and how much he would miss the friendship they shared. It was eloquent and lovely and I sat there this morning crying while I read it.
Random observation #4
Widows used to wear veils to block their view of the world; I’m wearing an invisible one. Everything is fuzzy, the world is out of focus, and the edges blurred. The color scheme of my life has changed to gray. Everything is gray. The knife-sharp blue brightness of the first few weeks is gone. I’m more in control, less likely to break down without warning. Our wedding picture still sits on my shelf at work, but I can look at it now without crying or even tearing up. I have very little emotion now, about anything. Mostly I just float through the day, a few laughs, a few smiles, none of it really meaning much.
This is not me. I’m an emotional person, a terrible poker player, someone who can’t hide joy, pain, anger. I need these emotions. They are fuel for my life. I’m running more slowly, everything dulled. Friends compliment me on how strong I am, how capable, what a great job I’m doing.
I know this is not good, it is dangerous and unhealthy and a trap. Feeling nothing is suppressing what I need to do, which is to feel everything: grief at your loss, anger at why it wasn’t prevented, sadness at the loss of our marriage, guilt at what I could have done better, joy for the fact that we did find each other, even if for less time than we had hoped.
So often, I was angry with you, for the way you choked back your emotions, for that unwillingness to face things that might be unpleasant or hard. I watched you turn anger into inaction, grief into depression and tried to get you engaged and moving and feeling. You only trusted the good and happy emotions, never realizing that emotions, just like food, need to be balanced.
Now, here I am, perhaps doing an unwitting homage to you through my new inability to feel much of anything. I really, really don’t like this. I’m terribly afraid of being stuck in this state of eternal fall grayness. I’d prefer anything else; winter with its sharp, cold brightness, spring full of wet, messy starts, summer’s lush, almost overwhelming ripeness. Anything other than this gray, dull, fuzz.