Sunday, July 30, 2006

Minor Miracles

Hi babe,
We went to a bbq with your family yesterday, and for one of the only times, it actually felt Everyone seemed genuinely happy to be together, no one rehashed old antagonisms or talked politics; everyone just sat around and enjoyed the company and the kids' playing and your dad's self-deprecating remarks about his golf game and his burgers. He read us a short letter he had published; I know how much more it would have meant to him to share it with you--his son, the gifted writer.

Your sisters were funny and not taking themselves too seriously, for a change. No one said anything critical of my parenting, our daughter's "long hair," or even of each other. Okay, maybe there was a little good-natured teasing. I wish you could have been there. I missed our eye-rolls when your dad said something Dad-ish, and your presence during the inevitable "we have to feed the kids weird kid food because they couldn't ever eat real food like we eat" ordeal. And I missed your playing driver when our daughter left Blankie behind and we had to return 30 minutes up the freeway to retrieve it, while she yelled all the while. But then, I pretty much miss you all the time.

If you were still here, would your family have learned this kind of niceness anyway? Do they hold each other a little closer because of what you taught us, because of what we have lost? I like to think so--that they recognize the magnitude of your loss--, but I know how you'd react to that kind of sentimentality. Still, I think your mom gets nervous; she likes to know where all her "chicks" are at any time, as if she could keep them all safe. And I am amazed that I can every let our little girl out of my sight; sometimes I get freaky and want to hole up in the basement with her and a year's provisions and a lifetime of "Law & Order." I won't do it--at least I don't think I am serious yet.

I'm becoming one of those crazy lonely women who talks to the pizza delivery guy and the bank teller because she has no one to listen to her mundane adventures. I talk to you in my head, too, of course; Goddammit, babe, why don't you answer me, even one time? It would help a lot. Really--a communique from the afterlife, even if you are drinking too much beer and watching autoracing, or spending all your time on Andrew Sullivan's blog trying to fathom the conservative mindset, would be much appreciated. Get on that, would you?

Loving you and missing you,
Your wife.

Friday, July 28, 2006

(Un)happy Anniversary

Four years ago today, I got married. Not so long at all, but many, many lifetimes ago. The weather today is very similar to what it was on our wedding day--slightly gray and overcast. But today I don't have the feeling that the sun is about to come out.

My love,
Every day we had together was a beautiful surprise. Sometimes it's hard to believe there was a time when I didn't feel lonely, sad, or numb. I miss you everywhere I go, and every minute that I exist.
If you were here, we'd go out to lunch, and hold hands, and talk about what a miracle it was that we found each other, and how we never expected the kind of happiness our marriage had brought us.
I love you always.
Your wife.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Hell, yes I am...

Of course, you'd think that I of all people would realize what a cruel hoax the illusion of "control" is...

Thanks, Badger.

You Are 76% Control Freak

You are a pretty major control freak, though you may not know it.
While your confidence is inspiring, your bossy ways tend to scare people off.
Are You A Control Freak?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Counting the Days

Tomorrow it will be eight months since my husband's death and the end of the life we had planned together. It's amazing that it has gone by so quickly, since each day feels so bleak and endless.

I seem to have moved into a new phase of grief; widowhood--never a dull moment, huh? Up to this point, I've mostly missed the sick man whose final years I shared, and focused on the memories (and there are many, many happy ones) of the time we spent living with his illness. His wit and self-deprecating humor meant that even the bleakest setbacks were rendered ludicrous and even funny at times.

This past weekend, I saw a man at the public pool who reminded me in no very literal way of my husband as he was Before—finely built, with a slender frame, slim but well-defined arms, pale skin and hair so dark it was nearly black. This man was paddling a small child around with him, and even though he was probably 10 years younger than my husband, tattooed and long-haired in a way that was totally unfamiliar, I had a powerful urge to reach out and touch him. I felt that just touching his arm would connect me to my husband, and that however improbably he would meet my gaze with my husband's beautiful brown eyes. I kept my distance, of course. I didn't want my daughter caught up in the drama of having her pathetic widowed mother fondling strange men at public pools. And if I had gone over to him, I know his face would have been wrong, and his eyes could never have met mine with the unspoken shared thoughts that marriage brings.

I'm finding myself recalling my husband's eyes, and the pleasure it brought me to meet his gaze, and to know that we were thinking the same thing. He had the most gorgeous eyes, and I miss them looking back at me.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Insult to Injury

Why is it that one can never have hummus and pita bread in the house together for more than a day? Why must they run out at different times, and why must the acceptable brands come from completely different stores? Grrrrrrr.
I guess this is the blue-state version of the old hot dog vs. bun conflict.

Saturday, July 8, 2006

More Losses

I've just discovered the screaming downside to my fantastic job luck (that would be, landing a t-t job at the delightful university where I now teach, which is some 30 miles from grad school city, and where I had been on visiting appointments [not the gory adjunct piecemeal route] during my final years in grad program). That downside is that my marriage is/was bizarrely congruent with my graduate school experience; I met my husband the first month of my doctoral program, married him during a potentially permanent lull in the dissertation; our daughter arrived early in his cancer and the week following my official campus visit; I received my t-t offer from the school while still in China; my husband died four months after my dissertation defense.

And like that grad school experience, our life together is coming to yet another end. As of August 1st, all of the friends who knew and loved US, the couple we were, the family we became, will have left grad school city and its environs. In many ways, it is the natural dispersal that occurs after graduate school; many of my friends are lucky enough to have good jobs in different parts of the country, while others moved back to be nearer to family, and still others are having entirely different adventures. But these natural patterns mean that soon I will be surrounded entirely by friends who never really knew "us"--who didn't socialize with the pair of us, didn't get to know his dry wit and endless enthusiasm, never dined at the cozy little house where we were so happy, didn't come to our wedding. Even my colleagues, who know of my marriage didn't really know my husband; we lived too far away; my job was only temporary (so we all thought), so why get too attached? And then, of course, he was too sick.

The final two pieces of that brief and happy world are leaving; one friend is taking a post-doc, and, most painful of all, another couple is departing to experience the glamour of life in a European capitol. These latter friends really define the good parts of the last ten years of my life--graduate school and marriage--and with their departure, I am losing a vast and irreplaceable part of my heart. I don't doubt the staying power of our friendship. But their home was one of our most frequent destinations when my husband and I were dating, engaged, married. The four of us sipped exquisite wine (okay, it was often more gulping than sipping, but it was invariably exquisite) together, and they fed us and nourished us, body and soul, through the dark days of academic trials, and then throughout my husband's illness. Even now, they are the only ones I know who automatically make a space for my husband at our now sadly infrequent gatherings. There is always a glass of wine for him, a toast in his honor, a memory of him that we can share. Everywhere else I go, I am the one who has to do the remembering. Nothing means more to me than their willingness to remember with me, and for me.

Their marriage was the inspiration for my own--in them I saw living proof that two could be stronger and happier than one. She saw my engagement ring before my husband did (it came in the mail; he was at work). She helped to plan every aspect of my wedding, thus making it possible for us to serve the finest reception food and wine ever. Had the weather not been cooperative, we would have been married in their home. They were among the first to meet our daughter. They were in every hospital room we had throughout his illness. And at the bitter end, the two of them put together a memorial service that was beautifully reminiscent of my husband, of our wedding, and of the happy times the four of us had.

So I feel that I am starting over, in ways I desperately don't want to. The people (the ones I cared most about) for whom my husband was a living, breathing, joking, loving entity are all gone away. Instead, I have his family (who didn't know him or appreciate him, and with whom I have infrequent contact...all to the good), and my solo friends: those who are supportive, caring, and wonderful, but for whom he is only a narrative I have to introduce over and over again. To them, it must seem strange that I am constantly bringing him up and trying to explain him, explain our life, explain what I was like back when I was happy. They are too kind to say anything, but they are to be forgiven if they occasionally wish I would give widowhood a rest, or if they wonder why I have to tell everyone I meet that I used to be married to the best man in the world, and that I used to be happy, and that I didn't always have this pinched and bitter look. It's like the high school prom queen who has gone to seed, but never stops reminding people that she used to be thin and gorgeous. It never works; all anyone sees is the fat frump she has become. In my case, all that's left is the widow--not what it was that I lost. That can't be explained.

It's hard work, in these circumstances, to keep him with me. Too many things in my life have no relation to him, or to our life together--the life that I wanted to have forever. I can't keep him alive by myself, and even if there are people who still love him, they will all soon be far away. In too many ways, it feels as though he never existed. I thought nothing could hurt more than losing him, but this second wave of loss comes close.

Saturday, July 1, 2006

News from Home

Hi Love,
The Tour looks to be totally imploding this year; depressing as all hell. I know you had such hopes (however unrealistic, as you were always first to admit) for Basso. And what is it with Ullrich? Hey, at least he doesn't appear to have porked up this year...How irritatingly ironic that instead of getting to ride the Tour route some day during the off season, as you once dreamed, you ended up requiring the very blood-boosting compounds that they are accused of using, just to keep you alive.

Your daughter is now the tap-dancing queen. I have tried--really I have--to keep her pure and unexposed to the ravages of "kid-music," but she shows an unholy affinity for things like "Old MacDonald," especially when sung without any sense of pitch by precocious, pre-Star-Search-and-then-god-help-us-American-Idol kiddie voices. Believe me, you can't be as sorry as I am.

And there is a reason we LOVE Anthony Lane. He concludes his review of the newest "Superman" franchise film (I KNOW!) with what I suspect is and is not a rhetorical question:

Mind you, if Superman is such a paragon, how come he wants to save a species so universally dumb that not a single member of it recognizes him when he puts on a pair of glasses?

I love you, as always.