I took down his groaning tie rack. From the vantage of the bathroom’s royal seat, the ties were on full display. All I saw every time I looked was his hand reaching for those bright silk beacons; him falling and bringing down all the ties with him; the paramedics ripping away ties as they struggled to get him upright; him thrashing, moaning, miserable. After the fire truck and the ambulance left, I collected and rehung every one. Until last week when I realized I couldn’t look at them for one more minute. I plan to make a quilt, someday, from my favorites. For now, they rest in a jumble, in a drawer.
It’s cliche to acknowledge small details that a departed spouse saw to which went unnoticed by the surviving spouse. For me, this is most evident in the garden. Dear god, but I never realized how hard he worked to make it look effortless. I can barely keep the weeds and critters at bay.
I made the trek to Home Depot to buy pea gravel to spread around her corner of the garden. The bags were slippery and heavy; one flew from my grip and burst on the concrete. Oops. I barely managed to heave four over the edge of my cart. At the checkout, I saw a burly worker helping an older man load gravel into his SUV. “I may need help too,” I called to him.
He turned to face me. Pale tattoos covered his skull and neck. His mouth twisted into a sneer as he took in my gray hair and “Resist” t-shirt but when I got to my car, he was at my elbow, tossing gravel into the backseat as if throwing pillows. “Thanks so much, “ I joked, “I’m the world’s biggest weakling.”
His sneer increased as he regarded me with hard eyes. “They weigh 40 pounds,” he finally barked.
It felt like a strange absolution and I drove away with tears streaming. I never knew how heavy each bag was. I never knew how hard it was to buy multiples.
I never know when I’m going to need help with the smallest things.
Another realization came as I mindlessly steered between clown cars skittering across lanes of traffic. Stopped at a red light, the question dropped into my brain like a rock: what if something good happens – who will share my happy? Of course, there are many people who would celebrate with me. But what if it’s my deepest held dream, the dream he knew every contour of; how can anything be truly right without him beside me?
I also had to shake my head at myself, anticipating the negative of some future, uncertain positive.
The grief books stress the departed is never gone. I had a glimpse of this while on vacation, when I realized he was as much with me there as anywhere. And assuming good news awaits someday, he’ll be with me in spirit, smiling his most beautiful smile.
He probably got a kick out of the snarly Home Depot man, too.