That’s exactly what it felt like: as if I were leaving my sweet fatherless daughter reaching for a string to hold onto what was left of her deflating heart as she anxiously watched it float away.
“You’re coming back, Mom? Right? You’ll come back?”
I hesitated- her anxiety had made me anxious about traveling, something I used to do routinely this time of year for work, thinking nothing of it, because Mike was with her.
I said, “yes, I’ll be back Tuesday.”
But I didn’t say, “I promise.” I couldn’t. Promise, that is. I was superstitious about it.
I got on the plane for the short trip to Toronto, to attend a gathering of Patrick O’Brian/regency era enthusiasts.
It was the first time we were to be apart overnight since Mike died.
I tried not to telegraph my own anxiety. But I did send updated emergency information to my brothers.
Before I left at 4 a.m., with my daughter and my brother, the uncle who agreed to stay with her while I was away, asleep upstairs, I cried as quietly as I could, and silently asked Mike to help all of us out – not to be upset that it was my brother who was watching her – to just help them both get through it.
I called as soon as I could after landing.
She sounded fantastic. Happy and relieved to hear from me, of course. But more than that. Really, really good. Not just then, but every time I called, all weekend.
She had a clarity about her I hadn’t heard so consistently in a long time.
I think it might have had something to do with presence of her uncle – she spent so much time with her Dad, and there hasn’t been a man around the house in over two years. Something about the male presence must have made her feel comforted, reassured.
She told me what they’d had for lunch and dinner, and how she’d emptied the trash and replaced the trash liners and had fun at art and riding, and did a good job at work. She asked if I was having fun and what I was doing, and, of course, when I’d be coming home and what sort of present I’d be bringing her.
As if this was a normal trip, and she was a neurotypical person, and it was just another time when Mom would be gone for a few days.
I was massively relieved, and thus able to enjoy the historical presentations, the meals and the English country dancing lesson.
I’d had a gown made especially for the Saturday ball, which I wore to the dinner before. I decided to skip the ball itself to go hear the Journey tribute band that was playing at the restaurant attached to my hotel. You know why. (If not, the post behind the link explains it).
When conversation came around to explaining the circumstances of my widowhood, I discovered three sympathetic cancer survivors. I met a lovely couple who shared my interest in the books (she) and in choral singing (he). They took pictures for me, to document the gowns.
I “broke” my “day/dinner” dress out of ignorance of the mechanics of donning Regency style dresses without the help of a ladies’ maid – which I’m bereft of at present – ha! – but was repeatedly rescued by other more knowledgeable ladies, with safety pins and offers of the use of sewing kits.
My hair was a disaster due to strict observance of a “no scented products” rule in deference to the very sweet and hard-working organizer’s sensitivities, but I was told by several gentlemen (themselves resplendent in period uniform) that I looked radiant.
My improvised infrastructure didn’t quite succeed in creating the “shelf” effect (which I irreverently refer to as “tits on a platter”). I might splurge on the right kind of custom corset (“short stays”) next time, to shove the girls up high enough to provide …erm… more historically accurate allure. Ha!
I got back to the airport early. My plane was delayed just long enough for the crew to fail to advise passengers that roll-aboards would have to be carried up stairs onto the plane (preventing me from observing my superstitious entering-the-plane ritual) and that, once carried up, said bags wouldn’t fit either under the seat or in the very small overheads and would have to be carried back off again to be “gate-checked” (thereby giving me a second chance to perform my superstitious getting-on-the-plane ritual – whew).
Safe, uneventful flight and landing, breeze through customs, bag was where expected, and, a very rare thing, very light traffic on the road home.
And there she was, accepting a much longer, tighter hug than her tactile defensiveness typically permits. Asking what I brought her.
We got through it. We proved we could get through it.
We have a shot at a different but almost-normal life. Though it has to be a life without Mike, it will never be a life without whispers of his love and support from the other side (the right piece on the classical station just as I was thinking of him, a fan that perfectly matched my ball gown waiting for me, available for purchase, a touching Trafalgar dinner toast to “absent friends” that made me miss and remember him with love, and almost made me cry. Oops, writing that did make me cry just now. Oh well. It happens. It should. It’s ok. We’re ok.)
Wishing you support from family and kindness from strangers who quickly become friends, I remain,
Your humble, hopeful, momentarily and more often, happy,