Thursday, February 14, 2008

Plus ca change

Lots 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.



At 10:27 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sorry I did not write yesterday. I switched firms during the past year and much of my current work requires me to be out of the office much of the day or madly preparing for the time I must be away from the office. However, my thoughts and sincerest hopes for happiness rested upon you lately as Valentine's Day approached. Again, I send virtual flowers that you may know there are many people who feel fondly towards you and your daughter and truly desire your success and happiness throughout your lives. Though my language is weak, I know, with your vivid imagination and glass half full attitude, you will envision my virtual bouquet as all that is beautiful and good upon this earth. I hope this small token is demonstrative that dark grey clouds have brilliant platinum linings, and every thorn, thistle and briar possess comforting blooms.

It appears you gained some degree of comfort over the past year, and grew in strength and hope as you and your daughter continued your journey through the wilderness of life. I use the terms "journey" and "wilderness" because we are all travelers trying to make our way back home.

One of these days, I am going to purchase a new vehicle. I have my eye on one of those well engineered Bavarian models. Even though such may give one the appearance of an "obnoxious suburban poseur," they are well made, dependable and actually practical, if you can afford one. However, I may have to settle for a Japanese model for now.

If possible, take as many pictures of your old car before they take it away. The old car "impressed" you in a very relevant manner regarding your husband's honorable characteristics. I am sure you are, whether by example or otherwise, teaching and impressing upon your daughter characteristics and traits she should hold mandatory in any man she will associate, when the time comes, of course. You express yourself well, however, a visual is a valuable teaching tool, especially in this age of mass media.

If you did not cry yesterday, it is not a bad thing. Moreover, it does not mean your husband's importance and value in your life has decreased or lost meaning. Many times, tears are shed in sorrow. However, many times, tears are shed in anger, depression or self pity. At this time, I get the impression your confidence and will to live life, improve yourself and your daughter, and seek out the good life offers has increased beyond measure over the past year. There may be no need to cry. Therefore, do not feel bad if you did not cry. By the same token, do not feel bad if you did. I am sure you had a valid reason.

Do not get rid of everything that reminds you of your husband. Before it is all "replaced, or lost, or broken," review everything and set aside a few choice items you can pass on to your daughter.

I must go until next year. Please take care. Happiness can be found in all circumstances. Sometimes it just takes a different perspective to turn defeat and sorrow into victory and joy.

At 3:31 PM , Blogger OTRgirl said...

I thought about being deep, but I think anonymous covered most of that territory!

Just checking in to say hi.

My Mom bought a used Saab a few years before she died. We joked that she loved that car more than any of us. She'd wash and wax it almost every weekend and never let us eat in it. I'm glad she gave herself something like that to enjoy. It was fun to tease her about it.

At 7:29 AM , Blogger Julia said...

I am sorry to have missed your anniversary. I hope the day was good to you, overall.
Do you have the chocolate mousse recipe? If you do, it might be something to do with your daughter on that day.

At 11:21 AM , Blogger Yankee, Transferred said...

Sending you my deepest hope for peace. I'm still so sorry.

At 1:09 PM , Blogger Marguerite said...

I love and miss you, darling.

At 11:43 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Su Tung-P'O

Remembering My Wife

Ten years ago you died.
And my life ceased.
Even when I don't think of you,
I grieve. And with your grave
a thousand miles away,
there is no place for me
to give my grief a voice.
You wouldn't know me
if you saw me now,
me with snowy hair
and a dusty face.

I dreamed myself home
last night, and saw you
through a window
combing out your hair.
When you saw me,
we were speechless
till we burst into silent tears.
Year after year,
I recall that moonlit night
we spent alone together
among hills of stunted pine.


And for accompaniment ...

Fred Benedetti on acoustic guitar
"My Heart Will Go On"
from the Album "Dream Voyage"

or ...

Ole Staveteig
again on acoustic guitar
"Wish You Were Here"
from the Album "The Best of Tap"


You've written that your late husband was the computer tender, but Apple Itunes really really really makes it easy to sample and buy one song for $.99.

And in solitude I find nothing carries me quite so softly as the music and poetry of the world around me, and the expressions of those who have felt these things before me.

Softly and respectfully,



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