This morning I woke up with a pimple on my face. I was doing my morning routine, and while looking in the bathroom mirror and flossing, I noticed it: a big, pinkish, ugly, nasty pimple; right underneath my bottom lip. Staring into that foggy mirror a bit more closely, I began to notice all the other unfortunate things going on with my face. All the things I have ignored for the past 19 months of being widowed; all the things that were no longer being pointed out to me by my loving, annoying husband.
My eyes looked tired. Exhausted, actually. The life had been drained from them, the smile was gone. My skin was dry and my lips were cracked and that pimple suddenly magnified itself by a thousand, and I started crying. Sobbing, actually. Not because I had a pimple on my face. No. I was crying because I no longer had my husband here to point out that I had a pimple on my face. And that made me incredibly sad. That thing which used to annoy me beyond all measure about him- now made me incredibly sad.
That’s how grief works, I guess. There are so many different things to miss, that the missing becomes overwhelming. Each time you wake up or go to bed, there is a new list of things that you have to grieve. Your spouse is so many things, and, chief among those things, he is the one who rudely points out your zits and pimples. At least, that is what my husband so sweetly did, very often. Several mornings during our time together, we had the following type of conversation:
Me: Morning Boo ….
Him: Good mornin. (giving me quick kiss, then backing away) Ewww…
Me: What’s wrong?
Him: (in accusatory voice) You have a huge pimple on your face.
Me: Okay. Do you think we will live through this tragedy? What would you like me to do about it? It happens.
Him: Yeah I know, but its really disgusting.
Me: Well thank you for making me feel better about it. Now I feel like I can go out and conquer the world with your support.
Him: Oh stop being so overdramatic, Boo. You need to pop that thing.
Me: No!!! I dont wanna pop it. That’s disgusting. Itll go away in a day or two. Just leave it and Ill put makeup over it.
Him: No, I cant. I’ll still know it’s under there. Come here. I’m gonna pop it for you. Stay still, Boo. Stop moving around. I almost got it …
Me: You’re pushing your finger into my face. Its a little hard not to move.
Him: I got it! Okay. Good. I feel better now, dont you?
Me: Yeah. Fantastic.
My husband was extremely low-maintenance when it came to his appearance and mine. We were both very relaxed when it came to that kind of stuff. Hell, most of his jeans came straight from Wal-Mart, and it was a rare day when I would bother myself with full makeup or dressing up in any way. But for some reason, pimples annoyed the shit out of him, and him pointing mine out every single time annoyed the shit out of me. So we did this song and dance each time I got a pimple, and after awhile, it just became part of the fabric of who we were as a couple. It was one of those things that you never even think about – until you find yourself standing in front of a bathroom mirror in an apartment that you share with a roommate and not with your husband, because he’s dead.
There are so many tiny things like this, that make up the little threads in the fabric of a marriage. Things that I never considered or thought that I would ever miss about someone, that I miss so very much …
Like the way he seemed to never have to pee throughout the day, and I always made fun of him. “Are you even human?”, I would say to him in awe. “You never go to the bathroom. How is that possible?” He would just look at me like I was a lunatic and say: “Why are you keeping tabs on my bathroom use? I didnt realize anyone was counting.” And then whenever he would pee, he would emerge out of the bathroom and say sarcastically: “I just peed. Are you happy?” Sometimes when he was at work I would get a random text from him out of nowhere. “Just peed. Thought you should know. Later on I might go again. Stay tuned for the full report. Weirdo.”
I miss the way he used to pile all of his random things on top of our Entertainment Center in the living room. Things that, in no way, belonged there. Keys, chapstick, wallet, pens, watch. It was like a line-up of ridiculous items, sitting atop the entertainment center on some kind of bizarre display. Just like with the pimple, we would perform the same ritual each time. He would toss his things there, and then I would take them and move them into a basket so they would at least all be in the same place. “Where are my keys, Boo? What did you do with my keys?” “Theyre in the basket.” “What is it with you and baskets? Why does everything have to be in a basket?”, he would ask, laughing at me. “Because then it’s ALWAYS in the basket, so you always know where it is.” He would just roll his eyes and say: “I already knew where it was! It was right here, where I left it. Until you moved it!”
I miss the way he left everything in the bathroom wet after he showered. Everything was wet. The sink was wet. The doorknob was wet. The sides of the tub. The floor was soaked. The toilet seat cover – wet. It amazed me each and every time. He would always walk out of the bathroom with his towel wrapped around his waist, and then he would drag more wetness all over the hallway and bedroom floor. It was like Pig-Pen, but with water. “Do you understand the purpose of a towel?”, I would tease him. “You dont just wrap it around you. You USE it to dry yourself off.” Then he would hear me cursing 5 minutes later when I went to sit down on the toilet, or leaned forward into the sink to brush my teeth, and got water all over my shirt from his leftover puddles. Drove me insane. I miss it. I want it back.
I miss the guy who sat at the computer desk in our bedroom by practically lying down, and stretching his very long legs and feet across the file cabinet, resting them there like it was normal to sit that way.
I miss the strange way he would shake his bottle of TUMS before opening them, or the way he made me sit in the backseat of the car whenever he drove us on long road-trips, like to my parents house, because he thought I was too much of a pain in the ass in the front seat. “You wanna be a backseat driver, you can sit in the backseat, Boo.” I would sit there and we would both laugh and smile at the ridiculousness of the wife being banished to the back seat, and we would share knowing glances through the rearview mirror.
I miss how he left half-empty glasses of various beverages all over the apartment; and how he would walk in from a long day at work and strategically remove each piece of his uniform and clothing, including socks, tossing them all over the arms of the couch, the floor, and just wherever they would land. Each article of clothing would fly off of him the same way it flew off Charlie Brown on the pitchers mound in those old comic strips. Then he would collapse into our bed with a loud thud and let out a huge, overdramatic sigh. “How was your day, Boo?” I would say, giggling at his exhaustion. “Huh?” He would reply, and then trail off into a nap in his boxer shorts.
I miss his white, old, ratty t-shirt he used to wear all the time when he played tennis, and it always smelled so awful and sweaty when he would return. Or the way he purposely would slurp his cereal loudly in my face, because he knew how much I hated that sound, and we thrived on finding ways to annoy each other. I miss the way he would sit on the couch, shirtless, and drink directly from the Coke bottle. “That’s really classy”, I would say with sarcasm. “I’m so turned on right now.” I miss how much he hated the grocery store, and everytime I sent him to pick something up, which was not often, he would always get it wrong. Always. I miss his really dry skin, and how he was constantly getting static-electricity shocks when walking around the apartment, yet he refused to take his socks off. “Goddamit!” “Jesus!” “What the hell?”, he would yell as his hand once again met with a spark. I miss how he would always forget to re-adjust the volume on the car radio, before giving it to me to drive to work. Everytime I would turn the engine on, some classic rock song would blare in my ears and scare the living shit out of me. I still think he did it on purpose.
I miss him farting in the bed. It didn’t happen often, thankfully. Don was not one of those type of guys who would fart on purpose, and then laugh and think it was the funniest thing in the world. He was not proud of them in any way, like a lot of guys are. However, sometimes, now and then – we would be lying in bed, drifting off to sleep, enjoying the silence of the night, and he would fart so loudly and over the top, that I would question my decision to spend my life with this person. It was always an accident, and he was always immediately embarrassed, which is what made it so funny. The fart would happen, followed by a beat, and then a very sincere and giggly “sorry.” Some nights he would fart in his sleep. Again, this was not a regular occurance, but it happened here and there. One particular night, he had fallen asleep, and then he farted. Again. A third time. The fourth one was more like a musical note that didn’t want to end. It just kept going. I could no longer take it, so I reached over and shook him awake.
Him: Huh? What’s happening? Whats wrong, Boo? Why am I awake right now? Its 4 in the morning ….
Me: Because you keep FARTING! Its disgusting. Stop!!!
Him: (laughing) But Im asleep. I was asleep. I dont know Im doing it. Im sorry, Boo. That’s gross, I know …
Me: Jesus Christ. You dont smell that???
Him: (sniffing the air) Oh wow, you’re right. That’s pretty fucked up. Holy hell, it smells like I shit my pants. (starts spraying Fabreze)
Me: Oh, this is way beyond Fabreze, Boo. You need to Fabreze your asshole. Im not sleeping in these blankets. They are all filled with fart-smell now. I can’t do it. We have to move. We need a new bed. New apartment. New life. We have to get away from the farts.
Him: Nah. It’s Jersey. It blends right in.
That night, neither of us could fall back to sleep. We stayed up all night, we left the bedroom and the fart-smelling sheets, and we got in our car at 4:00 am, and went out for breakfast at the local diner. We had to escape the farts. We laughed so hard that night, and lots of nights. That was the thing about us, about our marriage. We always laughed. We mocked each other. We teased. We didnt let the tiny things bother us. We laughed at everything, because we felt so happy to be living our life together. All of those little things that some couples allow themselves to get so upset about and fight about and argue about – we didn’t. We just didn’t. By the time we had met one another and moved in together, we were both so ready to put up with someone else’s weirdness, and we both looked forward to many years of being able to irritate the hell out of each other. But that didn’t happen. We got robbed of that honor.
There are so many things to miss when you lose your spouse, because your spouse is so many things. Some days you grieve your past. Some days you grieve your future. Or the things you will never get to do together. Your friendship. Your partner in intimacy. You grieve your protector, your rhythm, your music. Your cheerleader in life. It is a list of things to miss, that goes on and on without end …
Sometimes though, on days like today, it is much simpler than all of that. Sometimes you just miss those threads that made up that fabric. Those sliver-like pieces of wood that created the rungs on the ladder. The letters inside of the words that formed the sentence. The scotch-tape that held together the paper, on the gift that was your life together.
It sucks when nobody is there to rudely tell you that there’s a pimple on your face. Or to leave your entire bathroom looking like Lake Erie. To slurp cereal in a truly disgusting manner. Or to flee the wafting stench with you in the middle of the night, and run away to eat pancakes.
Sometimes you long for him to annoy you again. To keep you awake. Keep you alive. Sometimes you want a reminder – some sort of evidence of your partnership and your love. Proof that you indeed existed together and laughed like hell together and scraped through time together. You want the kind of proof that doesnt come in a picture frame or some left-behind item of his that you now keep. Sometimes – in the still of the night – lying there alone – you just miss his farts.