It has been a very long day.
After the library, playground, and lunch, my dad drove me to the city for my counseling session while my mom watched Audrey.
Traffic was light and we got there early, so I went to the bank to drop off a few checks from the sympathy cards I’ve received. The bank teller smiled at me and asked if I’d just gotten married. I told her “No, actually my husband just died.” “What?” she asked genuinely surprised. “Oh, I’m so sorry.”
She asked me how. “He drowned,” I heard myself say in that insane way because it sounds insane. I told her a little bit more. “Did they have to get the body over here?” she asked. “Yes.” “I have a two year old daughter,” I said- now in tears. I was a bit taken aback by her questions, but then she told me, “I lost my husband when my son was seven. Now he’s in his twenties and married.” Now it was OK that she’d asked. She understood.
It’s strange how sorrow pervades the world and is everywhere but we don’t notice it until it pervades our world. A friend compared this to when you learn a new vocabulary word and start hearing it everywhere all of the sudden.
Before I left the teller, she told me it’s very hard and she’s been there, and I asked her, “How did you do it?” She told me she had a lot of support from three sisters, friends and family, and “my faith,” she said. “I have faith,” I heard myself tell her.
After I left the bank, I had a few blocks to walk and some time to kill. I found myself just standing on a street corner staring as the walk sign changed back and forth to don’t walk several times. This is our city. This is where we met, fell in love, got engaged. I see us on every corner. I used to live on 56th Street not too far from here- we walked up 57th all the time when I lived there. Our dentist is down the street on 6th Avenue. Your old building when you first worked at CBS is all the way down 57th on the west side. That’s where we met on September 11th, 2001. I see us at the diner on this street on one of our first dates. I see us at Columbus Circle before an interview I had. I see us coming up the subway stairs by Carnegie Hall, and eating at the cafe. There we are in Lee’s Art Shop picking up the pages for my daily planner when I was pregnant. And there we are late one night stopping at the drugstore on the corner to get bottles of water.
It is strange to me that this city is still here- in existence- when you are gone. You were that much a part of it for me.
I stood outside the hotel where my counselor’s office is for a while, and I could see you so clearly- walking down the street- tilting your head and smiling. I look for you everywhere lately. I think it must be something in the body or mind- something chemical that can’t comprehend why you’re not seeing that person anymore. “Where is he?” it asks…
"It's strange how sorrow pervades the world and is everywhere but we don't notice it until it pervades our world."
As I've moved through the stages of life, I have come to know that you can scratch the surface of almost any apparently "normal" "happy" family or person and find there are tragic backstories, that any one of those people or groups may be living with heartbreak invisible to the casual acquaintance, fellow churchgoer, or colleague. I had assumed, for example, that ours was the only family in our socioeconomic overeducated circle to have a son (my stepson actually) who was a heroin addict, with all the sturm und drang (into rehab, out of rehab, into jail, out, OD, revived, back into jail, etc.) it entailed. When I finally confided these struggles to some friends at church, I was astonished to learn that two of the leading families (parish council, etc.) I thought I'd known pretty well had teen and 20-something sons with serious drug issues too. That's just one example.
I'm glad you connected with the bank teller who comprehended your pain and the process and struggled you are in and will remain in for your lifetime. Those little sparks of "she gets it" validate your feelings and, even if briefly, welcome you into a shared world of human suffering.
Remember, too, that love and sometimes even joy are everywhere. It's harder when we're in pain to see or feel them. One world: world of pain, world of love. It's the way it is.
Thinking of you; been very busy with work lately. Saying a prayer.