The 4th of July is one of my two favorite holidays (the other is Thanksgiving). In both cases you know what to expect in terms of food and the schedule for the day; you pretty much know what to wear; and there are no gifts involved. L was well aware of my preference for these 2 holidays as well as my love of fireworks so together we looked forward to mid-summer with its heat (well, he wasn’t so fond of the heat), blooming gardens, picnics and other gatherings with friends and fireworks. So when friends invited me to join them for a neighborhood barbeque on the $th I was delighted to accept. I picked up another invited couple and headed off to our friends. I knew that they had included some neighbors and others that I didn’t know but was looking forward to ‘new blood’ in the usual mix of our circle. So how come three hours later I found a way to arrange for someone else to drive the friends I had picked up home, slipped out of my hosts’ home without saying goodbye and barely made it to my car before bursting into sobs?
The truth is that my tears of grieving have all come at the most unexpected times–none more unexpected than this. I began to be aware of an undercurrent of discomfort early in the evening. I ignored it. All during dinner and the dessert that followed I laughed with everyone else at oft-told stories from the past, some new adventures from the present and stories of the antics of various grandchildren. Nothing unusual there. I was aware of a certain discomfort when it came to the folks I didn’t know–they were all delightful interesting people and yet I was unsure if they knew that L had died and I was a recent widow. Because I talk freely about L in the company of our close friends I found myself holding back even though there were stories that would have been appropriate for me to share. If they didn’t know I didn’t want to put a damper on the festivities and if they did know? Well, same story. So i found myself being quieter than usual–observing rather than actively participating.
By the time dessert was being served I was beginning to realize that I was really close to the edge. Suddenly I was aware that my close friends all had their partner plus children plus g’children–in short they had support well beyond friendships. And although we all know families can be dysfunctional–in these cases there is a closeness among the generations that is downright inspirational. Because L and I never had children (and obviously no g’children) I think what struck me was that absence in my life in a way I had never even considered it before and the very fact that we don’t get do-overs (at least in a situation like this) was emotionally crippling in a way I had not yet faced.
In the days leading up to this event I had actually been feeling pretty proud of the way I was adjusting and finding my way. But I was truly fooling myself. The words that I found myself repeating over and over as I sat in my car sobbing were, “I don’t think I can do this.”
So where am I a couple of days past this moment? Struggling as I try to come to terms with the reality of L’s death–his absence from my daily life and the daily/weekly routine that was our shared life. I have my work. I have my friends. I have the comfort and security of a home. In short I have a great deal that I know others would like to have. But that life–that routine–those hours spent at the end of the day catching up and laughing together and yes, sometimes arguing…those are all behind me. I talk out loud to L every night before I go to sleep going over the events of the day as I would have if he were here. But the reality is that it’s not even close to being the same. And the true reality is that I need to figure out what my life is going to look like — for real — now that he’s not in it.