I still think of you every moment, Dan. But I don’t sit and try to process and understand what is really going on as much. I remember in the early days I’d just sit here on our bed staring at your desk trying to figure out where you’d gone. I told the psychoanalyst Audrey sometimes used the word disappear interchangeably with your death. “He did disappear, didn’t he.” he answers suavely.
But sometimes, when I’m not really trying to process it or think about it now, it hits me. And then I feel that cool sensation of shock in my upper chest the way I did every day for weeks after I received that call. And then I get just a tiny glimpse of it. Of what I’ve lost. The pain then is, as another good widow friend called it once in an email and I think is the best one word description I’ve read yet: exquisite.
And sometimes when I’m feeling the reality and yet also feeling disconnected – so very long since I’ve seen you- I go into your email where you have every email since the day we got married. Tonight I just go back to about December of 2009. There in these sometimes long, and sometimes curt back and forths, I see our love relationship. I think we were both writers really so I see the truest us in these words. I see apologies, tension, and lots of i love you’s. I am surprised now to see how kind I was in many of those emails. I realize that I’ve been dwelling on my shortcomings since you died and forgotten how good I was to you – most of the time, or at the same time that I was often resentful and bitchy. There are short emails with the subject “i” and content, “love my wife. your husband, dan.” or “I have a good man, Your wife, Julia” And in that last year there is so much planning and organizing of our finances, health insurance, your plane flights, Audrey’s nap schedules- all in those emails. I am overwhelmed to read a marriage in all of that….a partnership- a working out of life’s details by two people who had once been madly in love. I feel completely inadequate to put into words what all of those emails say and mean because they are our life together- it can’t be summed up. But reading just a few of them from our last few months together- is jarring. In one I end with a prayer, “God please bring Daniel safely back home to us. I love him.” I stop and cry because on this particular tour, I guess “God” did, but later, he decided not to. There are so many words with double meanings now- about how much Audrey misses you and how much you miss her and wish you could stop touring and spend more time with her. It is so strange to me – this setup of your slow disappearance. Was it purposefully done to lessen the sting of your final and last disappearance? No, I think the sting is greater because of all that. But maybe if I collect them, one day Audrey will have a sense of how he missed her when they could not be together and that will give her a sense of things now as they are. How devastated he would be at this loss of watching her entire life.
Today she watched a cartoon where there was a whole segment about the boy’s father. I watch her expression carefully. And then in her favorite music class, the teacher ended with a song about loving mommy and daddy and what a happy family we are. I watched her then too. She continued singing the song as we walked out to the car in the drizzly rain. “I’m so sorry,” is all I can think to myself. This is going to keep happening, isn’t it? She will have this shoved in her face time after time after time.
Last night while getting out some paper to print out my “routine to survive”- an enormously long document of each day’s schedule I typed in a special downloaded designer font- a document that I probably spent much more time creating than I’ll use- for this is what I do best- I spotted a post it with your handwriting on it. It was a respite for my eyes to see your writing and I sat staring at it for a while. One of the most beautiful things about a marriage is this coming together of two single, separate people- finding someone else’s handwriting on a post it in your home. Someone else’s favorite beer or hot sauce in your fridge- that is different than what you would have in there. There is this sweet sense of pride in the belongings, handwriting, food that is in your home because it belongs to the one you love. The one who is different than you and yet you have access to these things because you are now one. It is such a comfort in life’s journey to have someone else combine their life, their stuff, their interests with yours.
The other thing I keep thinking about this week is how much when I hear your imaginary “voice” in my head talking to me all the time, the majority of things you say are teasing things…sarcastic, mocking, but not in a malicious way- the way we spoke to each other- the way we were able to joke about ourselves. This is what I hear all the time. And I almost smile because you are still making fun of me in my mind. Sometimes it’s not even words but just an expression on your face I see. Because this too is one of the most precious things a marriage brings- being able to laugh at the things about yourself and about your life together, that are often the deepest, darkest things you’ve had to encounter. Then somehow over time they are tamed and chuckled at together. JCO puts it this way in her memoir, which I thought one of the most striking truths in her book, “what the widow has lost- it would seem a trifling loss, to others- is the possibility of being teased.” Yes, this is a tremendous, tremendous loss.