Yellow Roses

I left Walmart today in tears, and this time it wasn’t because the fresh ginger was $3.98 a pound (it was, and I’ll probably end up throwing most of it out, again) or that so many of the plants on the clearance rack were nearly dead (they were, but I couldn’t fit them all in my cart).  Nor was it the People of Walmart – although I did see a few interesting outfits.  No, nothing like that.

I met a man.  A sweet, older gent near the fresh flowers.  I’d stopped to admire the yellow roses – a favorite of mine, a favorite of my mom’s.  I picked a bouquet up to sniff – no fragrance – anymore roses seem to have no fragrance.  Or maybe it is me…nothing seems to be as it should anymore.  Flowers are not fragrant.  Sunrises do not hold the same promise – even my favorite foods don’t bring the same joy (doesn’t stop me from eating them, just doesn’t bring the same joy).  Music isn’t as wondrous, colors aren’t as fabulous, nothing seems quite right.  I have a good life, with much to be grateful for, but still life seems to be slightly off-kilter.  Unbalanced somehow.

The sweet older man shuffled next to me, clutching an identical bouquet.

“Are these yellow?” he asked me, his hands shaky.  He held the bouquet closer to my face.  Through his thick glasses I see the clouded lenses of cataracts in his eyes.

“Yes, they have a touch of peach blush on the tips of the petals, but they are yellow,” I said.  “Yellow roses are my favorite.”

“They are my wife’s, too,” he said.  “It’s her birthday.”

“That’s sweet,” I say.  I see that tears are forming in his eyes and his thin shoulders begin to shake.

“She’s up in Sarasota National Cemetery,” he sobs.

The caregiver in me takes over and I hug this stranger.  I have been there.  I’ve had more meltdowns in stores than probably anywhere else.  The card aisle…the beer aisle…when I see the peanut M & Ms…flowers, sports paraphernalia, Home Depot – where he would roll his eyes at the plants I would buy that he knew he would have to plant, then weed.

“I lost my husband last year.  It’s hard, I know,” I tell him.  He hugs me back.

“She’s been gone eight months,” he tells me.  “God, I miss her.  Sixty-six years we were together.  Sixty-six years.”  He shakes his head and wipes his eyes.

“You were blessed.  We were together nearly 37 years,” I tell him.

Soon we are sharing pictures, and laughing through our tears.  He chooses another bouquet of mums and lilies to accompany the roses and we say our goodbyes.  I watch him shuffle off…and I put my bouquet of yellow roses in the cart.  They have always been my favorite.

I realize, watching him shuffle away, that I don’t have a corner on the grief market…I don’t even have a good-sized corner lot.  I was blessed, I am blessed – I still have a fabulous life.  I have someone in my life who has also lost his significant other – roughly 10 days after my husband died.  Together we have carved out a relationship of companionship, trust and support.  We both thought we would spend the rest of our days with someone else but the cards we were dealt dictated otherwise.  We never have to explain the pain, the grief, the feelings of loss – the bottomless pit of sorrow that threatened to swallow each of us individually.  I have family, and friends, home, and enough.  Enough to work toward regaining that balance in this world someday.

And yellow roses to help.

 

 

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Employee of the Month

 

ButtonMakers Pattern Template

I closed our last joint account yesterday.  It was a very hard thing to do.  Sad. Poignant.  Excruciating. The customer service rep who assisted me was very kind and gentle – she had assisted me last year with some matters after my husband’s death and even remembered the details of our accident.

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Not at all like the perky young woman in August who wiped out a 40 year history of the customer he had been at the bank we had used for our entire marriage with a cheery demeanor that probably earned her the title of employee of the month.  If so, I was going to find her car in the parking lot.  I made a mental note to key it on the way out.

“I’ll just take him off here” she said, tapping away on her keyboard.  “And here.” More tapping, and smiling.  “And…..here.  Done.”  She wheeled over to the printer, then rolled back to the desk.  She shoved some papers in front of me to sign.  Which I did, slowly, meticulously, with my beautifully written married name.   I kept the pen she had handed me.  I wondered if I had anything stronger with which to puncture her tires.  Probably not.

I contemplated whether either of my kids would bail me out of jail if I jumped across the desk and shook this lovely creature by the neck and shouted in her face “Look, he wasn’t just a name on an account.  He was your customer for 40 years. Forty years.  He was a good man, a decent man.  He loved his family.  He loved me.  He thought I was beautiful – even when I was anything but.  He mattered.”  But I did not.   She was young and fresh-faced and enthusiastic.  More than anything, I hoped bad things didn’t happen to her.  Ever.  I hoped she never felt empty and lost and alone.

“Here’s your death certificate back,” she handed me the folded document along with copies of my newly signed paperwork.  I stuffed it all into my purse.  I shook her hand and thanked her.  At least I think I did.  I walked slowly out, tears streaming down my face.  Past a former co-worker who stopped me to offer condolences.  I waved her off – I could not talk.  Past the employee of the month parking spot…

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So, yes, yesterday was tough.  The last account.  But thanks to gentle handling by a thoughtful employee I got through it.  Thank you for asking about my granddaughter.  For asking about my sons.  For asking even about my dog.  For remembering those details.  For caring.  For recognizing how tenuous my grip was, how close to the edge I live.

You, madam, are Employee of the Month.  And yes, a donation has been made in your name to the Animal Welfare League.  Thank you.

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Wobbling through a Weary WidowLand

cruise-pic

 

I am a widow.  I find I have to repeat the phrase several times a day.  I can’t believe it.  I still cannot believe it.  On forms where you designate marital status – I now have to check “W”.  I’ve spent the majority of my life and nearly all my adult life as an “M”.  I do not know how to be a single person, let alone a widowed person.

After the accident, I did not even think I could breathe without my beloved.  I didn’t even want to.  But breathe I did…and I surprised myself with my strength.  I was numb, bruised, disoriented, and incredibly heartbroken – but the sun continued to come up every day and life continued on for those of us left behind.  But what a painful life it was in its emptiness.  I thought that grief would crush me.  I felt as though I was swimming to the surface of a murky pool of sadness and misery, and sometimes I felt I was being pulled backward.  But I kept swimming, struggling.  At the surface would be the things I would need to survive: healing, peace, love, hope, and strength.

I learned to do a lot of things that he had always taken care of.  I navigated forms, accounts, procedures and processes I never dreamed even existed.  I learned about “primary account holders” and credit cards that can be cut off while you are stranded in Nebraska waiting for your husband’s remains.  I wrote his obituary, and planned a celebration of life, even though I could not celebrate.  Did not want to celebrate.  I just wanted him back.  I wanted my family to be whole again.  I wanted to be an “M” again.

I forgot our joint bank account number – and learned that account will have to be closed anyway because he was the account owner.  I learned that people that I didn’t even know prayed for me and for my family.  I learned that what I had always believed, was true – things don’t matter, people do.  I learned that a traumatic event can be relived over and over again – with or without triggers, and with or without being awake.  I learned that just because your heart is already broken, doesn’t mean it can’t break again every day when you wake up alone, or go to bed alone…or try to read a note he wrote in his incredibly sloppy handwriting.

I don’t sleep.  I don’t even want to most of the time.  I’m afraid of what I’ll dream.  I sleep with one of his t-shirts, with a book he gave me under my pillow “100 Reasons I Love You”.  His things, his books, pictures, clothing – all of it brings me comfort and smiles – but is just as likely to turn to tears when it hits me again, like a fist to the stomach.  He is not coming back.  I’ll never kiss him again or feel his arms around me.  I’ll never hear his voice again, or smell his clean, soap smell.  Never again in this lifetime.

I have given up trying to understand.  There is no understanding a freak injury in a freak accident.  There is only acceptance.  Acceptance of the fact that I am now wobbling my way, weary and weepy, through this wretched state of widowhood.

I am still on my feet and I no longer wish I had died there alongside the highway – lying in the median beside him.  I am glad to be alive and want to really start living again instead of just breathing and going through the motions.  It is going to be a long, and very slow process with many hills and valleys and I’m sure to stumble along the way.  But I’ll keep moving forward.

Widows wobble but they don’t fall down…

 

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December 31, 2016 · 12:40 AM

Alone, Again. Naturally.

 

sleepy lioness

You visited me last night, as I knew you would eventually.  It was my first night completely alone and instead of feeling lonely and sad, there was a certain peace over the household.  I held your pillow – and your unwashed shirt, the one that says “I’m the reason the beer’s always gone” – and drifted off easily.  Your presence is very much felt in this home, as it always will be.  Your chair, your dreadfully messy desk, your pictures…your scent which is fading daily.

You smiled your sweet smile and told me that I would be all right and for a second I believed you.  You said I was strong, and for a second I believed you.  You said you loved me and that I did believe completely.  You said I would be happy again someday and I laughed and called you a liar.  You smiled your sweet smile again.  You told me to go ahead and laugh, swim, play, write, and yes, cry if I must.   I asked you what it was like where you were – but you were gone, as quickly as you had appeared.

I woke, as I often do these days, with damp cheeks and a huge empty hole in my heart.  And I was alone again.  Naturally.

Alone Again, Naturally

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I. Will. Never. Forget.

wedding day

 

I lay facing my sleeping husband in the bright moonlight.  It was nearly as bright in the room as if we’d left a light on.  As usual, at least one part of our bodies was touching…no matter the size of the bed, we found each other.  In this case our knees were touching.  I stared into his face – so brightly illuminated, and listened to his gentle snores.

I traced his features with my fingertips, over and over, as if trying to memorize them.  The scars from skin cancer removals and drunken teenage car wrecks…the wiry eyebrows I had promised to trim but somehow had neglected to find the time to attend to.  The smooth upper lip that had carried the moustache for so many years that I loved – but that he had come to hate.  The lips I had kissed countless times.  I knew every pore, every scar, every inch but I kept tracing, studying, reveling in his face so close to mine.  He opened his eyes briefly and looked into mine.  “You’ll never forget me” he said and gently kissed me…and we fell asleep.

Thirty-six hours later I lay next to my husband in the grassy median of I-80 in Nebraska, under a clear blue sky in the warm sunshine, as paramedics worked frantically over him.  I held his hand and looked for the last time at the face I had loved so much for so many years.  I whispered my goodbye, and promised never to forget.  And I never will.

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