|On a recent hike in the moors|
It has been almost two years since my husband fell from my grasp and I was left on my own, again. Two years since I was able to turn my key in the door and hear his voice calling me. Two years since I could awaken to the warmth of his body next to mine.
Slowly, incrementally, I have begun to loosen the ties that bound me so tightly to my husband. I have taken his few remaining clothes from the wardrobe and folded them neatly into a suitcase. I have removed the photo of us from my facebook profile. I have stopped wearing my wedding ring.
I once said I would never quit wearing it. But it felt like the right thing to do. It’s not that I am now on the search for a new partner. I don’t see a partner in my future, ever again. It’s just that I don’t feel married anymore. The truth is that I am alone.
This separation from Stan is a necessary step in my journey through grief. I can no longer cling to my relationship with him. He’s gone. That’s the sad reality of it. And in order to grow I have to figure out who I am without him by my side.
I sit in the living room that we once shared, but it doesn’t look the same as it did when we shared it. Gone are the gadgets he loved: the big screen tv, the music system, the dvd burner and the blu ray player and the apple tv and all the other things I didn’t know how to use.
I bought a wood burner and pulled up the carpet and had the floors sanded and stripped—all of the things I wanted for us but he said were too expensive, and not worth the effort.
I can just imagine his reaction to my new regime of juicing in the mornings. He’d tell me I spend too much money on food these days. He’d want me to buy cheap instead of organic; he’d tell me those foods are frivolous, and posh.
I go to bed early and wake up early, too. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night—he hated that—and read or write for an hour or two. Most nights after work, I stop at the gym. He wouldn’t have liked that, either. He would have wanted me to come home to him.
I am not the person I was when we were together. I have changed. I wonder if he would approve of or appreciate the woman I have become. I wonder if, had he lived, he would have been able to make room for all of this.
Perhaps I would not have been able to make these changes. Perhaps, had he lived, I would have acquiesced, and compromised, and lived a life that was full of love and companionship, but didn’t meet some of my needs.
Maybe that’s what relationships are about. Maybe you let go of some of the things that matter to you so that you can live with the one you love. I don’t know. I have never been very good at them. I have spent most of my life on my own.
They say that you continue a relationship with your loved ones even after they are gone. They say that your relationship with them changes once the heavy weight of your grief subsides, and you have time and space to reflect.
When Stan first died, I placed him carefully upon a pedestal where he has, until recently, remained. I could not speak or write about any aspects of him that did not place him somewhere near Saint or Buddha-hood. He was wise, brilliant, sensitive, insightful, funny, endearing, and brave. He was a great father, a loving husband, a kind friend. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, clothed the naked, befriended the poor.
I think Stan would have loved that I saw him this way, but after awhile he would have gotten bored with the accolades heaped upon him. He would not have recognised himself in them anymore. He would have wanted us to remember the real him, with all of his wonderful traits, but with his maddening traits, too. He would have wanted us to remember all of him—the Stan that was sensitive and wise, but the Stan that could be a bit controlling, and, sometimes, a bit selfish, too.
In the early throes of our love, (as women tend to do), I neglected my own preferences and wrapped myself around his. Had we married as youngsters, we would have negotiated the things that interested us, and grown, together, with mutual desires. But we married late in life, and there were things that were important to me that I had let lapse. I preferred quiet nights and book festivals to music venues and jams. I wanted to eat brown rice instead of mashed potatoes for dinner. I needed time, sometimes alone, with my son.
In the months before his death, I was beginning to loosen the ties that bound us so closely together, and it generated some conflict between us.
When I began to assert myself, he found it difficult. He liked having me with him, and he wanted me at his side. He didn’t want to participate in many of the things I loved. He saw my assertions as a rejection of him, and it made him angry and sad.
I am sure that, had he lived, we would have found a new way of living together. I am certain that our love for each other would have helped us to overcome these conflicts of needs.
He was making great changes, too, before he died. I like to think that we would have continued to nourish each other. I like to think that we would have made space for each other to flourish.
We just ran out of time.