I can’t sleep. I stay up late. Until 1 or 2 am. I stare at your chair and your desk. The bus tickets you left for me on top of the extra napkins you always carried around in your pockets on one speaker. “You can use these to go into the city.” A baseball hat, your glasses, belt, and wallet on top of your other speaker.
The widow dinner group I had attended a few times is emailing about getting together and hiring a psychic to do a private reading for them at one of their homes.
The psychoanalyst at Audrey’s school stops me one day as I’m leaving the playground with another mom after dropping Audrey off. “Can I talk to you for a second?” The other mom runs away. “How are you?” “Oh you know, doing the best I can. Ask me in ten years…haha.” (See my joke.) He looks at me seriously and says that he’s concerned and it shouldn’t take that long. He is caring and I like him but later this bothers me. I know a lot of widowed people at this point- and he is not one of them, and yes, it can take that long. “It’s just that you’ve suffered loss upon loss,” he tells me. Thanks.
I take Audrey to a “Princess Ball” where I imagine you would’ve danced with her on the little dance floor surrounding by the motley crew of women dressed up as the Disney princesses. Instead, I dance with her- to Girls Just Want to Have Fun- spinning her around and rolling her in and out on my arm the way you did to me when we danced just for fun in our apartment, a long time ago.
Audrey has entered a new and terrible phase. She has tantrums for the first time. She gets overtired and doesn’t know what she wants screaming for me to help her with something and then pushing me away. She is conflicted. It is a draining time for us. Most everything from taking a bath to brushing teeth, going to bed- has become a battle. I wonder how you would’ve handled it or what you would’ve said to me if you were here.
I correspond with a friend who was a pastor at an old church of ours who lost his wife at 32 from cancer. We hadn’t spoken since her funeral. He is the one I mention in one of my early posts about what not to say to people. “She was really great,” is what I had said as we stood near her open casket, Dan by my side. He tells me that he went for walks from about midnight until 3 am for almost a year just crying and thinking. And that one night he had a breakthrough and God told him he could handle whatever anger he had so he opened up his mouth and uttered every profanity. He is remarried with children now and lives in Bolivia. He tells me to close my computer and give it a try. “I hate you,” is all that comes out…quietly.
A friend’s husband volunteers to come have a “date” with Audrey. He takes her for Korean food and helps her learn how to use her scooter. It is the first time she’s had alone time with a man since you died. He tells me it must have been hard for me, but it wasn’t. I am just sad that it is so luxurious for her to have an afternoon like that.
A friend of yours comes over to help me with the music files on your computer. I want to make sure I save them well. There were a few that I had been unable to open. He opens them. One is a song of mine you had laid down cello tracks for. I had never heard this. Another is a nursery rhyme you loved to sing to Audrey to your own tune. Turns out you created a whole instrumental to the song you made up. You never got to play it for us.
After he organizes the files and converts some of the Logic files to mp3s we sit and talk theology. He’s the liberal, cynical Christian and he admits that none of us really know what happens after death. I am not comforted by our conversation.
Later that night I sit and cry and keen. I am crushed. It is debilitating. I wonder if it also has to do with Thanksgiving.
A day before Thanksgiving Audrey’s school has a “Thanksgiving Celebration.” For the first time ever, I watch her parade into a chapel with her class and sing a few songs. Parents are taking photos feverishly and my eyes well up with tears. It’s quite possible I might have done this anyway, but I can’t believe you’re missing all of this. And how much is still ahead. This is just a taste…just a taste.
I plan Thanksgiving. I will host, I decide, ordering a turkey from Whole Foods. Last year I was on the run during the holidays. “Don’t stay home; do something different,” people tell you. So, I did. Last year we went to the Macy’s Parade. Got up at 4:30 am and got a spot right in the front. Then we ate an early dinner out at a restaurant. Standing in front of giant Snoopy and Hello Kitty balloons on Central Park West without you was devastating. Picking one of three “Thanksgiving meals” at a restaurant was depressing. This year I’m tired of running. I invite my parents and then when I hear another couple from Audrey’s school has no family here and no plans, I invite them and their daughter, from Audrey’s class- as well. So what if I have a one bedroom apartment.
I sit up in our bed at 1:39 am wearing your socks. I read poems about gratitude. I recall one Thanksgiving at my mom’s the sleeve of your shirt caught on fire on a candle as you reached to pass someone something. It was forever singed after that.
I shop for three days at three stores. I make the cranberry chutney I made at your last Thanksgiving. I make the stringbeans the way you did, with soy sauce and sugar til they are shriveled. I buy persimmons and freeze them the way your dad does, Asian pears, and your (and my) favorite beer: Boddingtons.
I am in charge of bringing coffee and drinks to Audrey’s school party so we’re up early at Dunkin Donuts and then to school earlier than I’d planned. So we sit in the car in the school parking lot and I play her the songs that are now mp3’s on my phone. She still knows the words to the nursery rhyme. I try to explain that you’d created that music for her before she left, but I don’t think she gets the concept of music production and recording.
Yesterday I set the table with flower arrangements and candles, napkins tied with twine and this poem by Robert Herrick:
Here, a little child I stand,
Heaving up my either hand:
Cold as paddocks though they be,
Here I lift them up to Thee,
For a benison to fall
On our meat, and on us all. Amen.
Audrey dances around singing about Thanksgiving parties as I dust all of the framed photos of you. I tell her that I’m missing you. “It’s…it’s hard to be thankful for someone when they died,” she replies.
Actually- I think, it’s quite the opposite. Sometimes it’s really hard to be thankful when they’re alive. And then after, it’s just really, really hard.
The day is busy; I do feel thankful. I think of your singed shirt, toast you with a beer, and let the loss of you fill me up like the fragrance of the thanksgiving meal in my small apartment.