Getting out of bed this morning, I not only felt the usual upset stomach and malaise, but a lot of fear as well.
For the first time since the phone call, no one was scheduled to come over today.
I got to chat with a friend online and shared my fears a little bit. I told her it was like when you’re getting into a cold swimming pool slowly…first your feet, then up to your knees, later your waist…easing your way in- the way I have been with people helping out. But then no matter what, when you dip those shoulders in all the way- it’s cold.
She tried to think of practical things I could do to manage today better- take a walk, call someone. It helped. By the end of our online chat, I felt like I had a plan. I would go for a walk, “even in the rain,” she had suggested.
Before Dan died, I found mornings entertaining a toddler very long and tiring- and like many mothers, was counting down the hours/minutes til nap time. I always made sure we had someplace interesting to go in the morning- a play date, play group, the library, bookstore, playground, etc. But I still don’t feel up to driving. My therapist was worried that I have some intense fear of driving, but I told him I don’t. I just don’t feel fully aware/alert yet, and there’s a lot of traffic around here. I’m just being cautious. Audrey’s schedule has changed recently and she won’t nap til about 2 pm, so it’s a LONG morning. It required 100% of my energy before, but now I wonder how I’ll make it through. I have so little physical energy these days.
It looked cloudy and rainy and I dreaded the thought of staying inside all morning so I checked the weather- what Dan used to joke was called “inaccuweather” and it was only a 10% chance of rain til late afternoon. So, after a leisurely breakfast and some jumping off the couch onto the chaise cushion – Audrey, not me, I got dressed and we gathered up our gear, had one more diaper change, and headed out.
It was my first walk alone with Audrey. We walked past the ferry dock where I still see you wearing your red Be the Reds shirt and waving at us as the tall ship docked. I looked for you there.
We headed towards the white rocks and driftwood next to the marina. I thought about the nickname we called each other: “my favorite person.” And how the world feels completely empty- without my favorite person in it…not a world I much want to be in anymore.
We headed towards the pathway to Whole Foods and Duane Reade. I thought about a time when we were in a car or on a train- can’t remember, and I told you how sometimes I just look at all the things even on a highway- like road signs and telephone poles and marvel at how some human put each of those things there- and how that makes me think about just how much we have done here on this earth- and it overwhelms me. You weren’t as impressed by my “deep thought” as I thought you would be. Instead you seemed to think it was obvious- “Well, we’re not really the ones doing it all- right? I mean, there is someone much greater holding it all together.”
In Duane Reade, Audrey tried on some sunglasses like she always likes to, but the tag got in her face and we put them back. I walked past the frozen food section and saw beef patties- a random memory of you eating those in the airport in Turks and Caicos before we took our flight back to NYC came back to me. “They were cheap,” you’d said. “And they’re good!” All the food was so expensive there- even in the airport- I think I had a $5 muffin.
We walked up and down the aisles. I looked for you coming to find me from another aisle where you’d gone to get toothpaste or hair gel. Audrey looked at the toys cars and picked up a red one, opening the door and saying “Audrey?”
“No, that’s too little for Audrey!” I said, joining in her joke.
I headed towards the nail polish because I promised her we’d buy that blue polish today which I thought would be something “fun” for us to do together. Something to hinge the day around. We each picked out a large nail file to buy. She wanted a blue one with polka dots. I can see us becoming very good friends.
I thought about how in Jane Austen novels, sick people and widows are always going to Bath to rest and recover. I wished that I had someplace like that.
At Whole Foods, she looked at CD’s in the “New Agey” section, and then we picked out some raspberries for her, some juice. I looked for you here again, at the end of the aisles- coming to find me with a half gallon of milk in your hands. Then we headed to the fresh food section to get some lunch. I got us both penne with meat sauce and some fried chicken to take home with us.
On the checkout line I decided to buy myself a magazine- Real Simple Family. I debated on whether or not I should get it, since 1) I never buy magazines and 2) it was all about families and mine has just changed drastically- but I dropped it on the conveyor belt anyway.
$40 later, because that’s how much you spend in Whole Foods when you run in for a few things- we sat down to eat together. I’d brought a few of A’s toys to keep her busy so we could spend some time sitting in there with other people- instead of alone in our apartment. So she played- and I read the magazine a bit.
“Wow, I’m doing it. I’m strong,” I thought. But I also had the urge to tell anyone who looked our way, or said “Oh, she’s so cute,” that her father had just died and I was a new widow. I also had the urge to invite someone to sit with us. But I didn’t.
Audrey sang her new song- her first song, “Rain, rain go away…come back nother day!” and I told her it was really keeping the rain at bay because I even saw some sun coming out through the Whole Foods window. She looked and seemed proud.
We headed back. Across the river is Grant’s Tomb and Riverside Church. You used to live in walking distance to both on 125th Street. I remember going into the austere and grandiose tomb with you many years ago and thinking about death- how someone was buried there. Grant, and his wife. And you were baptized at Riverside. I played the guitar and led a few worship songs beforehand. I wore a brown, itchy shirt you’d bought for me and black pants. I was proud of you.
Audrey was walking/pushing the stroller a bit, doing a little dance here and there- and all the while wearing a huge bright pink tutu I might add.
Perhaps, I thought, perhaps there is a force that is as strong as this grieving. It’s called mothering. At least these two are neck and neck now. I imagined a horse race where mothering had been far behind, but it was catching up…giving grief a run for its money.
As we headed towards our building- Audrey saw it and pointed- “Audrey!”
“Yes, that’s where Audrey lives.”
“Yes, mommy lives there too.”
“No, Appa doesn’t live here anymore- remember? Appa died.”
She repeated her three questions three more times, lingering on the last one, “Appa?” By then we reached the curb, so I stopped, and sat down on the curb. She was in her stroller so I looked her in the eye.
“Audrey, remember Appa died so he can’t live with us anymore here. But he’s with God- so he’s OK, and he loves us and misses us too. It makes us sad because we miss him right? But we can still talk to him- right now if we want.”
She listened intently though not making eye contact.
And then I started to cry, sitting there on the curb and speaking up at the gray sky,
“Appa, we miss you very much. We love you and it’s so hard. We don’t understand. But we miss you and love you.”
Then it was time to head inside for her nap.