Lately, I have been finding myself in situations that I have been in before, except this time, Im in the situation as the other person, and the other person is my forever dead husband. The other night, I found myself sitting in his recliner chair, and talking to him in a whisper, which I do from time to time, and I was saying: “I get it now. And I’m sorry.” What am I sorry about? Read on ….
Years ago, when I met Don in an AOL Music Chat Room and we had a long-distance relationship from Florida (him) to New York (me),we mutually came to an agreement that he would be the one to move to where I was, which eventually ended up being New Jersey, just 10 minutes outside of Manhattan and the NYC border. Actually, it was never really much of a discussion. One day, after a few years of dating long-distance, he simply said: “So obviously Im the one who will be moving, because you NEED to be in NYC for your career and your comedy and acting and writing and all those connections, and theres nothing for you in Florida. I can be a paramedic anywhere. Im going to start saving up money to move up there with you.”
Don was a very practical and logical person. In his mind, if he wanted to be with me, he knew he needed to move. He didn’t really think of it as a sacrifice. He thought of it as a fact of life. “You live there. I don’t. If we are going to be together and have a future, I need to move to where you are. It’s that simple.”
Except it’s not. And it wasn’t.
He moved in. About 10 months after that, he proposed. And about 9 months after that, we got married. We would have 4 years and 9 months together as a married couple, before he died. I can honestly say that in our marriage and our time liviing together, we rarely fought. We didn’t argue much at all. We barely even had disagreements. Things that other couples got stressed about or got angry at each other about, we laughed off as silly. We would witness couples in restaurants either not speaking to one another at all, or talking to each other disrespectfully or in a careless and cruel way. Don used to say: “We will never become that. Never.” He didn’t understand why people would waste their time with someone they clearly didn’t like or enjoy being with. Someone who they had nothing to say to at dinner, or someone they felt the need to yell at every 5 minutes.
Don and I really enjoyed being with each other. We loved each other so much, but more importantly, we really really liked each other. When we were together in each other’s presence, we were almost always happy. He was a content and happy person by nature anyway – the kind of guy that used to walk around whistling a tune, or humming lightly to himself around the apartment. He was rarely ever stressed out or upset about anything. For real. That’s just how he was.
Therefore, when he was upset or bothered by something, I always knew right away. He would get this look in his eyes like a little boy lost. His voice would shake a little when he spoke. There was one topic, one area, where there was sometimes tension and emotion between us. It was the topic of him disliking New Jersey – and missing Florida, his friends, his old job there, his lifestyle, his way of being. It would come on suddenly for him, during a quiet weekend afternoon hanging out together. He would just say out loud, out of the blue: “I miss Florida.” Then I would say something like: “I know you do, Boo. I’m sorry.” He would get really quiet and then continue: “I miss my friends. I didn’t realize it would be this hard to leave.” He would stay quiet for a few hours, or a day or two would go by and he would be more sad than usual, and then he would be back to his old self again.
Sometimes his dislike of all things New Jersey would turn into hatred. It would come on because of something specific that would happen, like his car being towed after parking on our street, or having to get a monthly parking spot across the street for $200 a month. Or having to get ice off his car. Or having to pay double what he paid in Florida for just about everything, just because. Or not being able to take his bike out and ride it all year round, or play tennis all year round like he did in Florida. Or always hanging around “my” friends, which did become “his” friends too and he loved them, but he missed his own tribe back home. Or working EMS in Jersey, which was apparently much different and more annoying than down in Florida. Sometimes he would get upset by one of these irritating things, and in his anger, say something like: “Dammit. I hate this stupid place!” Or “This state sucks. Everything is so ass-backwards. Why is the simplest thing so goddamn difficult to do here?” Then what would happen is that I would take those words in and hear them as: “I hate it here. Im sorry I ever moved here. Im sorry I married you and I hate our life together.” I would get upset, and start to cry. “How do you think that makes me feel, when you keep saying over and over how much you hate it here?”, I would ask him. He would say: “Im not going to apoligize for missing my friends and how simple things were in Florida. That doesnt mean I dont love you or that I want to leave you. I live here BECAUSE I love you SO much. Its just hard for me sometimes, Boo. Im not saying it to make you feel bad. I just need to vent.” For me, this was hard to hear. To me, it was so hard to seperate his love for me and his hatred for where we were living our life. How could he possibly love me, but HATE living here, where we live? How is that possible?
Turns out it’s very possible. Fast-forward to current day. After 26 years of living in the NYC area, I packed up my life and moved back to my home state of small town Massachusetts. Staying in my parent’s basement while I finish writing my book, and most likely, leaving NYC behind for good. (I will visit OFTEN – but living there is just too impossible financially.) A few month after moving here, I found love. I have this incredible man in my life who I love with my whole heart and soul, I am finishing the book that will tell the story of me and Don and my life in the aftermath of his death, and I am surrounded by my wonderful family, who are unbelievably supportive of what I am doing, and letting me live here to do it. I am happy. Truly, Im positively giddy in love and filled with joy.
And yet – I miss my NYC life with every fiber of my being. I miss being part of that world. I miss the theatre. I miss having friends who are in shows all the time, and me being in shows or onstage or involved in some writing or directing or acting project, and all of us struggling together and supporting one another and seeing each other’s shows and acting in each other’s short films and little independent projects. I miss NY pizza, bagels, and the countless outdoor street cafes and sitting outside late at night having drinks or food and just chatting. I miss walking to everything. Public transportation. Everything being open and available at all times. I miss my total independence, and being a city girl. I miss having all my days and nights be different than the week before. I miss being invited to a random Awards show or Broadway or film premiere that a connected friend has tickets to. I miss the skyline. I miss living 5 minutes from the airport. I really, really miss my friends. My many friends who live all over NYC in all the buroughs. I miss going to Yankees games and having lunches at my best friend’s husband’s restaurant and teaching comedy and having “NYC moments” which are weird things that only happen in NY.
Most of all, I miss knowing that NYC is my second home. Now that I have officially left, and its been almost 10 months, it feels so real and so permanent. I think I am grieving the loss of those dreams, those possibilities. The reason that Don moved there in the first place – because it was where I was going to make it big. That was the plan. And then we wouldnt have to struggle anymore, and we would live happily ever after in some amazing penthouse NYC apartment. But we never got our apartment in the sky. We never got any of that. He died instead. And I had to leave our apartment. And then I had to sell his car. And then I had to move. And then move again. And I had to let go of so many things, the biggest of those things being our dreams, our future, our “next thing”, whatever that might have been. Maybe leaving NYC was the last of all those things I had to leave behind, and it hurts. It hurts like hell.
Sometimes you don’t know a thing, until you know it. And I had no way of knowing how it was humanly possible to love someone so much that you would live somewhere that you hated, for them. I had no way of knowing how the loving of one thing can co-exist with the longing for another. Now I know. I get it now. And I’m sorry.
I’m sorry for all those times I made my husband feel badly, simply for missing his home and his friends. Im sorry for making him feel like he was hurting me by missing them, when in reality, he had sacrificed so much of his own life and world, just to make being with me possible. There is so much I want to tell him Im sorry for, and I cant. Because he’s not here.
What I can do is take this knowledge of knowing this from both sides now, and use it in my current life. I wonder now, if my new love feels similarly to how I felt back then, all those years ago. I wonder if he feels badly when I say that I miss my NYC life, or that I miss Don. I hope that he doesnt feel like me missing that life, means that I don’t love this one. I hope that he knows that the missing of one thing, and the loving of another thing, can co-exist at the same time. I hope he knows that while I love him with all of my heart, that my heart will also always hurt for the space where my husband used to be.
I hope he knows all of this, and that he can understand it, better than I could.
Better than I did,
back when I didn’t know.