I was hiking with a friend the other morning, telling her how I've been having a rough couple of days. I've been sad, weepy, on edge. I'm at an age where I wonder, Is this hormonal? When I mentioned this, she laughed. She looked at me and said. "It's grief! It just doesn't stop or come to an end because you're living your life." Of course. Her response was so spot-on that I started to cry. Again. It was the second time that morning that tears poured out of my eyes... and it was only 8 a.m.
I miss my husband. I wonder where he is. I think of ways to get his attention, wishing for a sign, hoping to feel his presence. Our daughter is about to finish her first year of high school. Does he know? Has he been watching? What would he make of it -- her grades, her new friends, her obsession with clothes and makeup? It's all par for the course of a teenage girl. Which for mine, seems to overshadow even the loss of her Daddy.
I was recently going to an end of school-year party, a mini-fundraiser for my daughter's school. It didn't even occur to me to invite my boyfriend. Maybe because I knew he had a gig the same night, or maybe because I saw it as a school event, albeit a social one, but it was for parents and faculty, teachers who never knew Joel. Bringing Antonio would have felt like a betrayal of sorts. I still want people to know that my daughter's father died, and that when I show up to a party alone, it's not because I'm divorced, but because I am a widow -- these are the kinds of thoughts that go through my widow mind.
Having my boyfriend with me might confuse things. I still want people to know about Joel. That we were happily married. That he was a great Dad.
So I appreciated when my friend, Mimi, called to ask if I would be going to this event, and if I'd be brining Antonio. She suspected it would be a couples thing, and said she didn't want me to feel like I was alone. "You're welcome to come with us. We'd love to go together." Mimi is how I know Antonio. She's the one who suggested that he give our daughter guitar lessons years ago. Because of my work schedule at the time, Joel was the one who arranged them. Joel liked Antonio. "He's a great teacher, a cool guy," he told me. My daughter liked him, too. I hadn't met him yet, but by the time I did, I was predisposed to like him. Antonio was husband- and child-"approved" long before we ever got involved.
Which is why I cried -- what else is new? -- when Mimi called me. It was sensitive and kind for her to consider how I might feel walking into yet another "couples" event at school, by myself. For some reason, Mimi has probably seen me cry more than any of my other friends. I don't know why that is. Years ago, when Joel first started suffering from symptoms of MS, we would run into each other in our village. She would simply ask, "Hey, how's Joel doing?" and that's all it took for me to burst into tears. Later, when Joel was in the hospital, but before we knew how sick he was, she was the one who organized a small group of friends to keep my fridge fully stocked. The day after Joel died, Mimi and her husband came over to my house, shocked and sad, just to sit with me. We marveled, as always, at Joel's extensive music collection. They are avid music lovers, like Joel was, and actually appreciated whenever he would bring them new music by bands no one else seemed to have heard of or cared about. But they did care, and this made Joel happy.
When Joel was in the ICU, one of his friends came to see him and cried so hard that he literally left puddles on the floor around where he was standing. That day at my house, Mimi's husband, who I also consider a friend, cried, too. By then, I was used to seeing men cry.
I miss Joel. I love Antonio. My friends feel the same way. Sometimes it's complicated. Other times, it's simple. Tears keep falling - on a hike, a phone call, even at a party. But I smile and laugh a lot, too. Life is so strange. But I am good...
I think Joel knows.