Plus ca changeLots of changes chez nous. Since Christmas, I've acquired a new car (okay, new to me)--an out of character (I hope) euro-beast that my husband would certainly have a love/hate relationship with. He'd love the fine European design elements, and the ride, and hate the fact that I look like an obnoxious suburban poseur driving it. He'd also hate the fact that I care that ours is no longer the cheapest car in the preschool parking lot. I am torn about equally between self-loathing (the car is pretentious! It's wasteful! It's more car than my daughter and I need! why didn't I buy a hybrid?) and celebration (it handles beautifully in our awful winter weather! It's safe! It has a 6-CD changer, a working defroster, and a heater. And a rear-windshield wiper!) Tomorrow, they are coming to take away my husband's old car; the inexpensive and practical sedan he drove when I met him, the car that impressed me precisely because it expressed my husband's deep disinterest in using his car to define or advertise his identity. It's never really "fit" me; it gets great mileage, but was always uncomfortable for me to sit in.
It's one more step on the road away from him, as is the fact that I have yet to cry today. I've never been a fan of Valentine's Day, but for us, it was our de jure "first date" anniversary. We'd never been able to remember or designate the date at which our relationship "changed," but it was before Valentine's Day, because on that Valentine's day in 1997, he made me his special chocolate mousse. He wasn't one for romantic gestures--especially the "canned" kind demanded by holidays or movie plots. So that mousse was one for the record books. But I still haven't cried today.
Gradually, the reminders of him are disappearing from our house. The things he and I bought get replaced, or lost, or broken. I find a new picture to hang in place of the one he and I chose. I don't do this very often; in fact, I tend to leave things in place just because we (back when there was a "we") put them there, or because we chose them. The changes just....happen. My daughter and I feel, to me, like a family of two now; once, we were a family of three. I miss those days as much as ever; but it's a new kind of missing, one that's less immediate and desperate. I can no longer imagine my husband simply returning and taking up his central place in our lives. He lives, more and more, only in the past, when my daughter was a toddler, not the articulate, fully-human presence she is now. He's never been to most of the places we go; he hasn't met a lot of the people we see. He's never seen my daughter do ballet, or write her own name. I'm getting older, and he's not. That's perhaps the second-loneliest thing; the loneliest is having to make all my decisions about my daughter, celebrate all her triumphs, and weather all her storms alone. There is no making up for what she lost in him, and he in her.
Now I'm visiting kindergartens, talking to principals, checking out test scores and demographics, free lunches and extracurriculars. She could stay at the same school, but in an elementary program that doesn't offer some of what I love about her current program. She could go to either of two very likely public schools, one of which offers tons of arts enrichment, the other of which has an active parent network to supplement the classrooms. Or she could attend my personal dream school, with computers, outdoor nature lessons, music, and Spanish--if, that is, I am willing to go back to spending an hour-plus in the car every day.
When I was married, I got lazy. I was one of those wives who wanted her husband to do "his share." But when he was doing "his share," I frequently did...nothing. Now that I have no one to rely on, or fall back on, I have to do it all. And I can't let myself get too put out about it, because that makes it even more unbearable. So I work harder, do better, resent the daily hassles less--in part, of course, because there is so little outside of them.
I'm not sure that "widowed" is always my most salient characteristic. Most of the time, yes. But not always; not anymore.
Labels: real life