I guess someone at Mamapedia stumbled across my blog and asked if they could publish my New Years post. As a result, I received quite a few emails from other young widows thanking me for articulating their own pain as well. It’s amazing how, even though I am in the same situation as they are, when I receive their emails, hear their stories, and especially when they include photos, I cry because I am so, so sorry for their loss- as if I don’t get at all that I am one of them.
To know that my efforts in writing here is in any way helping other women is a good feeling if there can be good found here. I always carry with me the words of a friend from our Brooklyn church in the early weeks- the woman who had battled cancer and brought me the first good tasting thing I’d had since you died- and told me, “There will never be anything redemptive about Dan’s death, but there may be about your grief process.”
One of my favorite things to do as a young child, since maybe the second grade, was to write letters- to anyone I could. I wrote my teachers letters. I wrote to the kids I met from Connecticut and Canada on our summers in Cape Cod. I kept my correspondences neatly tied up in ribbons for many years. I kept journals as well…from about age ten I wrote nightly. They are in a large file box in my closet now- and you can see them change from small pink books with gold edges and little locks to larger journals and notepads of varying designs as I too grew. I wrote melodramatic poetry as a teenager, and in college, I found that writing papers brought me extreme enjoyment which I realized was not the case with everyone. When I returned to graduate school for creative writing, mostly to get out of a job at Random House that I loathed…my teacher and the head of the nonfiction program wrote in my first evaluation “she has a writerly personality.” I found that surprising and wasn’t sure what kind of a personality was a writerly one, but recall thinking, “Maybe I am a writer?”
Well, you always thought I was. Recently I found a back and forth email between us of one of your interviews with a soccer player that you got published on ESPN. You had sent me your questions and interview for editing and I had sent it back with all of my corrections typed in red ink. There was quite a bit (I guess it was the English teacher in me- I had taught at a private school in the city for a year and college writing classes in Brooklyn for a year) and I can remember you telling me how you weren’t going to send me anything anymore. I was only trying to help. But when I pulled it up recently, perhaps it was a bit of overkill. I’m sorry for that. As you would say so often, my intentions really were good.
Well, it saddens me love, but it is only since the time of your death, that I knew I was a writer…published or not- whether I’m brave enough to call it what I do for a living or not, it’s who I am and always will be the way I feel most comfortable “being.”
With your death, came a strange authority I could not write with previously. And…so I thought, also came the responsibility to try to articulate this ineffable grief- this madness that happens when someone you love so much, disappears from the earth.
But how to describe the nausea and sighing in those early days? The sickness you sleep with and wake up to. The way the sky is larger and time becomes a stage with scenery changing around you while you stand still.
And how, how do you articulate what it is like to explain to your child that her father is never coming home, to hear a child as young as two tell people her father died- “he died.” Or hear her, at age three, point to a cemetery you drive by and say, “Is that appa’s cemetery?” excitedly.
How do you articulate the instantaneous dissolution of your marriage without your consent? How can you convey the utter sense of wrongness and artificiality when you check off the widow box or write “deceased” next to your daughter’s father’s name on her preschool application?
How can you possibly articulate what it feels like to pack away your young husband’s clothes: socks, t-shirts, favorite soccer jerseys, or to tape a fingernail you find on a small piece of paper or to hold a lock, no a chunk, of his hair packed in a plastic baggie, packed by the funeral director at your request, for just a moment every time you open your sock drawer.
I used to think it was the responsibility of the writer to articulate these things. That is not possible. It’s a bit like loving a spouse who has been buried for a year and a half. There is no response, no hope of a magical appearance, but that doesn’t mean you stop loving him. Trying to construct some sort of narrative or brief on the wordless pain and reality of this kind of loss is just as fruitless, but as it turns out, the obligation of the writer is not to achieve it, but…simply to try. Sometimes, that is enough.