Today is March 13, 2012, and it has been exactly nine months since my husband died. It’s been nine months since I have felt him hold me or touch me, or take his index finger, put it on the tip of my nose, and go “BEEP!” He really loved doing that, and it was so incredibly silly. We would pass each other on the way to the kitchen, and he would stop and go “Beep!” on my nose. It’s been nine long months since I’ve heard my husband speak words to me, or laugh with me, or start his sentences with: “You know …” while folding his arms across his chest. Nine months since he sat in his favorite chair while I would present him with various fun “prizes” like candy bars and toys. Nine months since he tapped his fingers on my arm or leg, to the beat of the music, while trying to learn a new guitar chord. Nine months since he put his key in the door while coming home from work, snuck in slowly so as not to fully wake me, and said out loud while pointing at each of us: “One kitty, two kitty, and a Boo. Everyone is safe.”
For the past nine months, I have eaten meals alone. I’ve watched movies without pausing them every 10 minutes so we can give each other mini-reviews throughout: “You like it so far? Cuz I love it!” “Yeah! This is awesome!” For the past nine months, I have been to the grocery store and only bought foods that I like; avoiding the aisles that contained all of his favorites; telling myself not to look too long at the Special Dark Bars, or the Barq’s Root Beer, or you might cry. For nine months now, I haven’t been able to ask him his opinion, or get his advice, or his take on something I’ve been writing or performing or doing. For nine months, I’ve shut off the bedroom light with no fanfare, instead of racing my husband to be the first one into bed. He would usually beat me, and yell victoriously: “HA HA! I’m in bed first! I win! You have to shut the light! Ha Ha!” For nine months, I’ve been throwing my hair up in a wet ponytail after my shower, instead of Don gently towel-drying it for me while standing in front of me, humming some made-up song.
It’s hard to comprehend that it’s been nine months in this life. It feels like an eternity without him. Each day that goes by feels longer; like just another 24 hours that I dont get to spend with him. It also strikes me that nine months is the length of a typical pregnancy, and that in the time since my husband has died, another family member has been born. Our brand new niece; Jillian; came into the world on March 7th. After my mom called to tell me she had been born, I hung up the phone and started crying. I felt so alone and so sad for Don; who would never get to meet this beautiful little girl. He will never get to meet anyone ever again. Jillian’s birth is one of the first, significant things that have taken place, completely in the span of time that Don hasn’t been here to know about it. Nine months is a long time. He doesn’t know a lot of things. He doesn’t know that our dear friend Rodney got married, and he didn’t get to see the unique and beautiful ceremony where Andrew married them. He missed Sarah’s 40th birthday party, and he doesn’t know that John is in college now, taking film courses; or that his best friend Rob got yet another promotion. He doesn’t know that a Comedy Benefit was put together in his honor, or that I went to New Orleans, or that Posada retired this year from baseball. My husband has no idea that I’m driving an entirely different car, or that my parents are living in a different town. Enough time has passed since his death, for me to write a play about my experience with grief; and to be performing it in the Network’s One-Act Play Festival. Don will never get to read my blog, or my book about him, or know all the things I am trying to do just to honor him and my love for him. He has missed so, so many things.
The more time that passes, the more that I miss him. I cannot believe how much I miss him. Sometimes I’m instantly struck by how much I ache for him, and I have to literally catch my breath and rejoin the world again. Other times, it’s the world that brings me to my knees with it’s constant reality in my face. The world always finds ways to twist the knife a little bit harder in cruel demonstration that he is never coming back. It has become more and more difficult to simply be with other people. Family, couples, friends, and even people just talking about their significant others in conversation. There are so many times when I think I’m doing okay one second, and then I’m suddenly not okay at all. Like last night; after watching Rodney’s acting debut in the Festival, and witnessing my friend; his now wife Sheri; come up and give him a quick little supportive kiss in the lobby after the show. It was no big deal – just one of those little things that married people do – and it instantly transported me to the numerous shows of mine where Don did the same thing. Knowing that the person you love most, your life-partner, is out there in that crowd smiling and proud of you while you’re onstage, is everything. Performing has become an entirely new experience for me now. I feel lost when I get off the stage, because there are no arms waiting to hug me. No lips waiting to kiss me and say: “You were amazing.” Nobody to whisper in my ear privately: “My Boo was the bestest one up there. You always slay everybody else.”
It is these little, everyday things that are the worst and the saddest for me to deal with. On Sunday, I did my second play performance in the festival; and my mom, Aunt Debbie, and Nancy all came out from Massachusetts to see it. We stayed at a Marriott that night together, and the next morning, had a really nice relaxing breakfast in the hotel restaurant. We were sitting there talking for a long time, and the subject turned to a long discussion about my mom and dad, Aunt Debbie and Uncle Richard, and Nancy and Ron. They were each bringing up different issues; big and small; about their partners, their marriages. They talked about different quirks and habits their husband’s had, things that drive them crazy, things they have gone through together over the years inside the marriage. Suddenly; I felt so uncomfortable and out of place. I got that feeling again, like I wanted to run away and cry. I will never know what it’s like to be married to someone for 25 or 40 or 50 years; or to go through those mid-life changes with each other; to go through losing other people together. This scares me more than anything else – that when I have to lose people in my life, Don will not be here to help me get through it. I will not have my husband to lean on ever again, to get us through those times where everything seems wrong. There are some days where I don’t feel as if I can exist or function with normal, everyday people. Nobody is in my situation. Nobody in my everyday life knows what it’s like to deal with this.
Nine months is a long, long time. And then, when you think about it in terms of life, it’s not a long time at all. Nine months behind me; still a lifetime to go. When you marry someone; you just assume and hope and think that you’ll be together forever. You don’t think one of you will lose their life this way, this soon. And so when that happens, and you are left here on earth without that person that you vowed to be with for life, it is an extremely confusing time. Most people become widowed when they are old, and while it is still very sad to lose your spouse at any age, they dont have to face decades of a future without their love. This is why losing your spouse is so different than losing anyone else in your life. Everything you do and everything you are, is intertwined with that person. To lose them suddenly, is to throw you into mass chaos. Who am I now? What am I doing? Where do I fit? What does it all mean without someone to share it with? What is the point without love? I vowed to love this man until forever; until “death do us part.” But what if only one of you dies, and they die at age 46? Where does that leave the other? Just because he is dead, does not mean I love him any less. In fact, my love for him has never felt stronger and more alive than right now. My husband is gone, and I love him. I do not know how to stop loving him, and I don’t know that I would ever want to. But how do you continue life when you are in love with someone you can no longer be with? I wish I knew. My heart is stuck on forever, and I don’t know how to not love my husband. I am in love with a dead guy. Tell me – what am I supposed to do with that?