Widowed, at 57, could not have imagined such a thing one year ago, thought didn't even enter the mind. Thirty years. Now, can't stop myself, always there, running in the background, like a program on my computer. Long enough time has past, so I pretty much go through my days without being outwardly affected when thoughts of my loss creep in. Many times I can talk affectionately about Linda and our life, with a smile, and not even barely be brought to tears. Others, I will be completely absorbed with the present, shopping for food, cleaning the joint up, reading even. I get sucker punched, hits me, thirty years, she's dead, stops me from what I'm doing, watched as the cancer ate at her, takes over completely and I feel as if all the air is gone, and I have the most hopeless, helpless, I just want to, really, I just want to die also feeling. Oh, not again! I try to get that "normal" feeling, my wife, taken. I try to make my life normal. Sure miss that smile. It's a process, long, hard, sometimes miserable miss her so much can't get away from it though how I wish sometimes I could just forget about it all, dead, in my arms never to see her again, process.
Working to 'normalize,' (what ever THAT means) my life, I have received helpful advice from caring friends, and others. Early on however, I wore my pain and frustration on my sleeve, I must be in a dream, her death was all I could talk about. When folks would talk with me, it was always me saying how bad it is, lonely, how unfair. They would roll their eyes, "He's at it again. Can't you talk about anything else? She's gone, not coming back, you are alive, join the living. Get past this before it consumes you." And soon enough, I had alienated just about everyone that ever said they cared. I didn't know how bad it could get! Never had this kind of feeling before. I have a pretty big imagination, I could have NEVER imagined this, and probably wouldn't have wanted to hear it from anyone else, either.
New resolve! I AM alive. I have lots to live for! She's dead. Held on to her as the grim reaper took her from me. He was gentle enough, going to give him props for that. They're right, conceal my emotions, be Kenny once more. Thirty years, alone now. I began the task by evaluating my situation, missing her so much. Let's see now, Linda dead, after a brutal all or nothing slug fest with cancer. She was a fighter, fought hard to beat it, except she brought a knife to a gun fight. Retired now, don't have to look for work anymore. Double edged sword that one, gone the frustration of not being able to get a job, and having people tell me that I just don’t want to work, or I would be. Or landing a job and quit so I could stay with my wife. Now all my time is my own....no one to answer to, no one depending on me, no one to share with. I'm not trying to say completely isolated, I could talk with Linda about things I wouldn't tell a Doctor, or even a Priest. I can do anything I want, except I only want Linda, I want my lover, I want to not be alone, I want to be with her some more.
Stop visualizing the events which were the past year of my life. More than half her weight, gone. Stifle the urge to 'share' my pain with people who could not understand wish I could talk to her again what I am going through, until it happens to them. Then go see Kenny, he will listen, he knows, he's been talking about it every day since she died. And so I climbed off the pity pot, showered, shaved, put on clean clothes. Threw open the door, and walked back out into the world. The sky was bluer then, and the grass doesn't seem so green anymore. Now when I take in a deep breath, it's to try to keep from crying.
Soon enough though, I would cross paths with some of those aforementioned people, smile at them, greeting, friendly small talk, O.K. see you later! And as I walked away, still within hearing distance: "Wow, only a few months, he acts as if nothing has changed, I wonder if he even misses her?" Damned when I do, damned when I don't. Well I'm strong, 'I don't need no arms around me, I don’t need no drugs to calm me, I don't think I need anything at all.' (Pink Floyd, Another Brick in The Wall) So, I pretty much Linda's not coming back keep to myself now, stay home, try to, I remember the day she gave that to me, keep busy, if not, things well up, best to push them down, maybe, she was so pleased when she found this under the covers, then they go away. Not much chance that. Not anytime soon. At least I am not burdening friends and family with my issues. Got me a high dollar best friend for that. No less than once a week for fifty minutes, gives me all his attention, till my time is up. Then I'm ushered out the door like a guest that over stayed his welcome. They don't want to hear it, make them think about their own mortality, no, they're not ready for that, too depressing to even consider. Brings the expression 'Out of sight, out of mind,' to, well, mind. Paint the house, keep moving, arrange the furniture, don't go to bed until I can't stay up any longer, I'm moving on! "My god, now he's eliminating the memory and the presence of Linda. Cold, uncaring S.O.B.. He'll be looking for a replacement soon enough, you'll see. I wonder if he ever really cared." Best I avoid contact, think about her all the time now, not give their tongues an excuse to wag. And I won't have to consider their opinions. Concentrate on thickening my skin, fortify my resolve. That's the ticket!! I just loathe when people see something, and with only a cursory glance, think they know exactly what the situation is. No need to talk to him, I can clearly see what going on. Jerk, I don't want to talk to him at all, now.
I was quite surprised when I learned there are few people in my shoes, relatively young, and healthy, having to evaluate not only their past, and future, but their present. And then it is usually the man that expires first.
Tried grief counseling, once, I was twenty years junior to everyone else there, and the only man. They wanted me to turn my life over to Jesus, after explaining to me that it was God that took Linda from me! Had to grin at the irony of that, let Him guide me. "I wont even get out of bed until I've spoken with God, He tells me what to do." "Yes, God is the answer, until you accept Jesus as your personal savior, you wont know true happiness." Sure, I'll sign right up. How long have you been angry with God for making her sick? Actually, I'm not, thought it was life style, genetics, and her own denial when she first started feeling bad. "Oh, you’re the one in denial, God's plan, that's why Linda got sick and died." Made as much sense to me as being told that God did it because I was not Catholic, and living in sin by not being married, AND being instrumental in bringing a bastard child into the world! I asked, How do you know it wasn't the Devil, isn't that the kind of people he goes for? Haven't spoken to them since. They even went so far as to not inform me that Linda was being honored at an event. Found out when one of my caring friends called to tell me that my absence was 'noticed.' Had to tell her this was the first I'd heard, and why didn't the event organizers inform me? You're just going to have to ask them yourself.
My days were literally filled with the anticipation (love spellchecker!) of getting home to hear Linda share her day with me, and telling her about mine. With all other issues considered, I was living a great life, knew it, too. Could always share my thoughts, ideas, fears, whatever, with someone truly interested in what I was saying, and ever eager to hear more.
Now, I'm the extra peace of a jigsaw puzzle. The puzzle is complete, and there is no where to put me. I am the proverbial square peg. After Linda, I feel like I just don't fit, anywhere. Suddenly after thirty years of moving forward, working to a shared goal, my transmission's broke, and in the worst possible place, the middle of my life road, everything whizzing by no one stopping to offer a helping hand, too busy with their own lives. I know, I was, I am the same way. So here I sit, gunning the motor, switching the gears, and I just can't move, although I'm really trying, nothing is happening. The most frustrating thing, what really gets me riled up, I feel helpless, I've been self reliant most if not all my adult life. There was a time, not long ago either, when almost nothing could stop me, I could fix anything, I was confident, knew when I was in over my head, and able to stop before I made it worse. Now it's all foreign to me, all my reference points, the experiences I could recall to bring sense to my life seem useless to be of any help now. And I end up remembering how it was, how it will never be again.
Absolutely clueless as to where, how to restart my life, I do try though, every long, sometimes miserable, day, and I make mistakes, I do, had people tell me as much. I didn't receive an instruction manual with the ashes. Your advice has been helpful. Thank you very much! People tell me what I'm doing wrong, or better yet, what I didn't do right, but NO ONE tells me how I should proceed. Afraid, or maybe unable to give advice, all too willing to give opinions though. I'm not angry at them, if I don't know, how can I expect others who have yet to experience the same to have even an inkling of how I feel, what I need or what I'm to do with myself. Oh, they say, 'I know, when my cousin died, the worst.' Or, 'When my father passed, I didn't think I could carry on.' Not even remotely the same, like comparing apples to grapefruit. Oh, were you living with your cousin/father for thirty years as mates, did you sleep with them almost every night? Were you sexually intimate? Does your dead relative permeate every surface of your home? Your car? Are they tangled in the cobwebs of your mind? Did you clean their puke, or change their bedding when their bowels moved? She in so much pain, even to touch her brought tears. Having to move her, to avoid bed sores, change the sheets, even wiping drool from her mouth was so painful she could not help but cry. Did you have to do that? Was it as painful for you as it was for me? Did you hold them, during the last moments of their life, as they quietly studied every crease, every mole and every hair on your face. Did they tell you how frightened they were, dying and all. Did you really sit there, promising to walk with them, for as long as you were allowed, until it was time for them to pass. Wasn't that so touching when you said that. How they took on that grateful, peaceful look, and then said, "You would do that for me? Kenny, I love you so much." Then, the breath left her lungs, and she didn't inhale. I could see the light leave her eyes, because she never took them off me for the last hour of her life, and I didn't stop looking into hers. At that moment, when her jaw relaxed slightly, I realized how tightly she had been holding my hand, because she released her grip. I wanted to go with her. Jump right in, "Baby! Wait, I'm coming, right behind you!" Even still, sometimes, I wish I could have. Being there, with her as she died, was at once the most intimate, loving, spiritual and the most terrifying experience of my life. We had never been closer than at that moment, and I will not see her again. Death has to be better than this. She doesn't suffer any longer, can't be all that bad, why else does everybody eventually do it then? I have a survivor's guilt, I'm here, spending money, fixing the house, making it nice again, the way I did it for her. No one to share it with, just as soon put a match to it all. You have no idea, and yet, you don't want to hear it. Best to avoid such conversations, too depressing that. And me? What's the use in talking about it? It's a done deal, over, finished. Nothing will change that. Too uncomfortable to speak of death, and survivors. He probably wants to be left alone now anyway. Let's not bother him, not even by calling.
I took such comfort in knowing that soon I would be home, with her, sit with her, Linda, holding hands, talking, listening, laughing at all the absurdity around us, and knowing everything was alright, because we had each other. Us and Them, that’s how she liked to say it. Even had Pink Floyd playing it during her memorial. To walk with her, to lean on her, to carry her, or be carried when I needed it.. Over used cliché' here: She completed me. Gave purpose to my life, she depended on me, maybe not as much as I now realize I depended on her, but I always knew I didn't ever want to be without her. Couldn't imagine how profound It is.
I took great care and consideration of her feelings, trying everyday to not make her question her decision to be with me. I loved her because she loved me, and that made me love her even more. Linda had her 'faults,' there were things about that girl....She couldn't reconcile a checking account, apparently had no concept, didn't or wouldn't check the oil, to name a few. Sometimes I would get a call from her at work, "Kenny, I forgot my.....would you bring it to me." Once, she even wore different color shoes to work! Instead of me getting angry, or admonishing her for something she did or couldn't do, I was always brought to smiles, and I would drop whatever I was doing to rush to her. You see, Linda's shortcomings were the things that made me love her so much, poor girl, can't get along without ME. Needs ME. Calls ME. I need to be needed, again. Never wanting to see her fail, I would quickly gather whatever it was and get to her soonest. With a big smile from me, a sheepish grin from her, both of us knowing, I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. We could laugh and share, not argue and fight. I loved (love) that woman, not in spite of, but because of her idiosyncrasies.(that spell checker again) Side Track: Linda's feet weren't pretty, they weren't. She would always make comments, 'Don't look, I hate my feet, my feet are so ugly! Don't want you to see them.' Every time we would get 'together' she would mention those feet. One time, knowing, just knowing she was going to remind me how she felt about the way her feet looked, I had two little paper bags with me. She started 'Oh, please, my feet don't look...' Without a word, I got my little bags, and started to place one on her foot, "What are you doing?" ….Then the laughter erupted from her mouth, real, true amusement upon visualizing the "So ugly I had to put a bag over......" I didn't use the bags, and Linda didn't mention her ugly feet again, except to relive that day with me, and always with a laugh and a warm, loving smile, that was the day she realized, knew that I cared for her, all of her, ugly feet included. Thirty years. She put up with me for that long, longer, I'm sure, had she lived. She knew me as well as anyone did, better than most, and she still liked me! Wanted to be with me. Needed me. Poor girl, couldn't get along if I wasn't there to find her glasses, or cell phone, purse, keys. The first time I told her, in the most sincere, honest way, that I couldn't love her any less, she was hurt, why would I say such a thing? Because I figured if I told her I couldn't love her any more, I would be telling her I had given all my love, already, no 'more' for later, we couldn't grow. By saying I couldn't love her any less, there was always more to give, plenty, and not a chance that I would love her any less than I do now. I made sure before I ran that past her, that I had an out, that could convince her that she need not worry. It's all so good. She did understand my play on words, but for weeks, everyone she saw, she would ask them for their first reactions to that statement coming from their spouse. It ran almost 50/50. across the board. Yes, she kept a score card, showed it to me, proof. She was convinced more people would see it the way she first reacted to it, that's the why of the score card, even went so far as to teasingly accuse me of calling everyone and getting them 'on my side.' Sometimes, she just couldn't want me to be right, especially since it sounded so wrong. Though it grated on her when she heard it, she didn't question the sentiment, and soon enough, was using it herself, on me. Oh, how we loved to love each other.