We met April 27, 1990. Thirty years.
We married May 2, 1992. Twenty-eight years.
He died August 24, 2016. Three and three quarter years.
Angelic Daughter remembers every significant date, and reminds me of them. But observing these dates does nothing for me now. Mike’s gone. The past is past.
The first widow year was filled with rituals. All the firsts without him. I never looked better. I glowed in the back of the limo on the way to the opera. I stopped the pastor in his tracks, shocked him with my my red fit-and-flare dress and dewy, ivory skin on Christmas Eve. Maybe he was thinking, “isn’t it a bit soon to look that good?”
The second year was ghastly – filled with bleakness, and “what the hell do I do now?” and far too much booze.
The third year, little glimmers of hope. Maybe I can have a full life again. Maybe there is a kind of freedom in this. Maybe there could be another man. I got a good job and a sense of emergence, a feeling of metamorphosis, into another phase of life.
Now, three-quarters through the third year, contraction. Everything has imploded, for everyone. My only role now is survivor, planner, bequeather – get her sorted, make arrangements, develop a back up plan, prepare. Stay home, gain weight, lose hope.
The ruby crowned kinglet came to the yard last week. Seventeen years ago, when Dad died, that bird came right into the flowering plum tree just outside the kitchen window, and flirted with me energetically as I rinsed the dishes. A very curious, very nosy little bird. I hadn’t seen him since then.
This time, he was more elusive, flitting branch to branch, from the crabtree to the cedar, not as close as before. But still, he was there, for two days. Where the hell have you been?
Just passing through.
It was windy, twenty-eight years ago. My hair wasn’t as perfect under the headband and veil as it was when I rehearsed it. The ceremony was short. The restaurant lost my bouquet, or my mother purloined it, so when it finally came to the toss, I used a makeshift bunch of tulips the waitstaff pulled together.
Ten years later, Angelic Daughter watched the reception DVD (the church didn’t allow recording during the ceremony) so many times that it jammed in the old DVD player. I think I recycled that machine with the wedding DVD in it. I don’t have another copy. That’s a relief. She wore out the honeymoon swimming with dolphins video, too. Another relief. The hotel staff seemed dispirited, forlorn – and no one swims with dolphins anymore.
Our wedding was on derby day. His family was annoyed. They liked to place bets. This year, the derby was cancelled.
Mike chose the ring, but I paid for it. I paid for the honeymoon, too. Yay me. Empowered. Deep inside, the fat girl felt devalued and desperate. I loved Mike. But I thought, did I really have to buy a husband?
I’m tired of marking these anniversary dates. They hurt now. They remind me of failures, compromises and defeats. Mike and I were often out of balance, out of synch. Nothing went according to plan. Twenty three years of mutual simmering resentment and his explosive rage, followed by cancer, reconciliation and a too short good bye.
Fuck. Happy fucking anniversary.
I did love you, Mike. I don’t understand why you chose to hurt me as much and as often as you did, but I know I didn’t do a good enough job of forgiving you.
We planted grass in the tiny backyard of the city town home I bought for us in ’93. You called me downstairs to see it sprouting. The rain came, a deluge, and you stood there in the basement, water rising around your ankles toward the outlets, looking up through the sliding doors at the stormy sky, saying “cool!” while I panicked about electrocution and plotted my revenge against the builder who left us with a patio drain sticking up too high, and ground pitched toward the house.
Mike planted grass his final spring, on the lawn below the new deck, meticulously digging out dandelions and gently depositing grass seed along about a six foot line, before exhaustion took over. The grass he planted spread, fighting off weeds for a few additional square feet each spring.
But the dandelions are back, and I like them. The rabbits eat them and they subside when the hot weather comes anyway.
I ordered a new battery powered lawn mower today. Seems stupid to pay someone to do it, when they never listen to what I say and I don’t really care how it looks, anyway. I’ll finally get to do it my way.
For whatever that’s worth. Or however long that lasts.