It’s been 6 months since I became a widow. Much has changed in that time. The rhythm of my life is fundamentally different. I’ve become a single person, eating whatever I want for dinner, sleeping sprawled sideways across the bed, and watching all the trash TV I want. I’m a sadder person than I was 6 months ago; I don’t laugh nearly as much as I used to. There’s little hope in my life, and even fewer dreams.
It’s been 6 months since I became a widow. Much has stayed the same in that time. I’m still trying to make sense of what happened, to come up a narrative of our life that neatly ties off all the loose ends. I’m still shocked when I look at pictures from the last few years and wonder how things could unravel so quickly. There’s still an active presence of Rick in every room of the house, from our wedding picture in the living room to the books sitting on his side of the bed.
I want to move forward. In many ways I’m ready, anxious, aching to move. I plan little baby steps: getting rid of a box of books, clearing out a drawer in his dresser; and they seem huge, momentous events. I’m physically exhausted from the emotional strain of having taken a single bag of shoes and socks to goodwill. I imagine my life after I’ve slogged through all this. My memories will be good ones, strong, positive, and affirming. I will be serene and joyful, the kind of person you know has been through a lot, but is still positive and engaged in life.
I want to move backwards. I fantasize about going back in time to make the future, my now, better. The timeline for this changes; 2 years, 5 years, 10 years; I imagine different scenarios, a different Rick, a different me, a better life, no illness, no death. Regardless of what year I choose, the present is always the same; we’re both here, both happy, both alive.
What I can’t do, not yet, not after 180 days, is to accept where I am now. My present is filled with the hard, tough work of just making it through each day. Some days I crawl forward, other days I slip back. The overall direction is forward, but the progress is slow and painful and never, ever easy. Just now, I got a call; the granite for his headstone has arrived, and I need to drive out to approve it. That is an example of what my present is; deciding what pictures to keep and which to throw out; trying to get up the courage to move a shirt that’s been sitting at the top of the steps for 7 months; the awful power of deciding how much of a person’s life and legacy should be kept.