Mike always did enjoy the little things, when we were together. I think - no, I know - in days past he looked for the bigger thrills, but by the time he got to me, he had gotten to a point of really appreciating the simple pleasures of life. I am glad of that, and these days it continues to resonate for me. One of them, of course, was a meal out enjoying his favorite foods. I will always be glad we shared our most favorite sushi dinner together just 48 hours before I saw him last.
But Mexican food was always big for him too, having grown up with a mixed Spanish and Mexican Indian heritage (though his Mom was Irish and he loved his corned beef too). So he loved making tacos and remembered fresh tortillas and homemade menudo from his childhood with great fondness.
So every once in awhile we’d head out to our local Mexican joint here in Kona for a spicy, ooey gooey plate. His was usually either carne asada or a burrito with the works. Mine was either a chili relleno or cheese enchilada. Shortly after he died over two years ago now, my parents took me to that restaurant at my request for an early birthday before they flew back to the mainland after his memorial, and I remember sitting at a table I had shared with Mike, tears pooling in my eyes, almost unable to even taste the food from the shock of grief.
My life is so much changed now. I commented to my mom recently how much it is even changed from one year ago. One year ago I still felt panicky, not wanting to be alone, unable to conceive of what my future might be…living in the moments of the past rather than appreciating not just my future, but the idea of now. There was no now for me, a year ago, even though, looking back, I was already in the midst of creating a new life for myself. I just wasn’t aware of it.
But today, my life has become full and busy of small bits of things, different jobs, new friends and new things to look forward to. It kind of happened before I realized it. I guess just slowly but surely, little opportunities and relationships have taken root, budded, branched off and become the life I find myself in. A sense of real empowerment accompanies it all, and that realization came into full view as I write this.
My new guy, who is a musician, had a big job the other day so he wasn’t around…and I could have gone with him. I could have gone out and surrounded myself with people, something I would have fled to a year ago…but I chose to stay at home instead. Granted I had a long list of things to do..taxes (argh) not to mention laundry, errands, and of course, getting some words down for this blog. But in the midst of it all I suddenly thought…I want Mexican food. I could almost hear Mike’s voice in my head shouting, yessss!!!!!
I spent some time thinking of friends to call to join me but it was truly spur of the moment and I even realized I kind of wanted it to be just me…which is huge, because as you all know, one of the many difficult things about being widowed is eating alone. But I took myself on downtown, sat at the bar by myself, and ordered everything I wanted, including that favorite chili relleno, even though I knew I’d never finish it all. I had a margarita. I chatted with the bartender and laughed with him as the story of my amazing late husband came out. I was there in his honor, I said. And I was.
There was a wistful feeling, looking at a plate of food I had shared so often with Mike. I miss him to the depths of my soul. I looked at the empty seat next to me, imagining him sitting there with me, telling stories. But this time, I told the stories…and I was glad I had them to tell.
After he died I remember reading a lot about these strong, vibrant widows who went back in the world and made good. I wished I could someday be one of them, but it seemed a pipe dream. And make no mistake. I’m so not there yet. I still doubt myself, and have lots of fears and tears. But this night, I did feel strong. Independent. Like maybe, I was going to be ok. Like I can navigate these waters with both paddles myself, however challenging it may seem at times.
I surprised even myself, in this little moment of now.