I suppose no matter who you are, if you have a chance to escape, take a break, travel, take time off…that moment when you return to your regular life (assuming it was a good break of course) can be a bit of a letdown. For me, being widowed, my recent trip brought up so many additional feelings I think I will be sorting them out for a long time.
It was a wonderful journey, for the most part. The musician and I took the train around the UK and there were plenty of castles and cathedrals. We also visited with his mother, saw his grandmother in the nursing home, and made it to Scotland, which was a big goal for me. I was sorely disappointed that a visit with Tricia, one of other writers here at Widow’s Voice who lives in England, didn’t work out. The musician’s mother had health problems and so in order to coordinate a proper visit with her we had to change things around - and traveling by train rather than car, a last minute decision, also limited our excursions and made it more difficult to coordinate. But I fully intend to return and seek Tricia out another time.
As you can well imagine Mike was always there in my thoughts. I kept wishing he could see what I was seeing…I had so many regrets that he and I didn’t travel together like this. But at one point, a rush of realization rained down upon me as I was sitting on the train watching the landscape rush past, lost in my thoughts.
Even when I met him, when he was only 45, Mike was already having problems getting around. At first is was a terrible plantar fasciitis and a bad knee…he had had knee surgery years before but he talked about doing it again because it bothered him so much. And as the years wore on it became other foot problems, minor but enough that it pained him to ever walk very far. Not to mention his weight made him out of breath, something I was always harping at him to do something about. He just got tired so easily and it was very worrisome.
So it was one of those sad, sudden realizations…Mike could not have done this trip with me, the way we did it. He could not have walked long treks through train stations and airports, sauntered for hours through urban centers…well, he might have really tried, for me, if I’d pushed him, but I never did. He didn’t really want to leave Hawaii much to begin with, but I wonder whether a lot of it was because of the difficulty he had getting around. And he hated being stuck in airplane seats for hours, being the big, tall guy that he was. Even the jobs he took during the time we were together put a strain on him, I know, as they required him to travel and then be on his feet a lot.
Mike and I simply could not have done this sort of trip together. That thought makes me incredibly sad…and yet also somehow grateful that I’ve had the chance to go now…which makes me feel guilty. On the other hand, seeing the world was not such a priority when he was here. I don’t know. So many conflicting feelings it’s hard to sort out.
I had one pretty big breakdown in Inverness, Scotland. Mike and I shared the adoration of the Outlander series of books which was set there, at least in the beginning. And the first night there I couldn’t stop the tears. The musician tried to console me as best he could but let’s face it: these emotions are proprietary to us widows. They are as individual as our personalities and experiences. Too hard to explain and often too complicated for others to really understand. I found myself in the bathroom of an Indian restaurant for over 15 minutes trying to calm the hiccuping sobs and dry my eyes. I missed him so desperately, missed being able to talk to him about the characters, the place…so sad he never saw Scotland, even if he could not have tolerated the actual traveling very well.
The day before we left the musician got the call that his grandmother had passed away. She had been in a terrible state in a nursing home in Wales for nearly two years after several strokes, so her passing was a blessing in that regard, but even so it brought up a lot of emotion and family issues for him. I tried to console him too but - again, it was his own personal experiences, so I could only listen and just be there for him. We are certainly glad we got to see her again that week before, but at the end, to have a death punctuate our trip like that was hard.
As we were finally landing in Hawaii again after the enormously long trek back, I watched the city lights come into view and my thoughts rushed back to the moment Mike and I landed here in late July of 2001 to move to our new home. That whole adventure was just so exciting. To be starting a new life in this special place together - I will never regret that, and will always remember how thrilled we were to see the island come into view from the plane. But this time, I was arriving back to Mike’s island love without him, and instead of excitement, or even that feeling of relief we often have when we finally get home again to a place we love, I felt almost as if I’d left part of my heart out there in the world. I wondered…what does this place mean to me now? It holds so many memories, and certainly a lot of friendships. But can I imagine living here forever in such a remote place? What are my own priorities? Who am I now that Mike is gone from my physical world? What does Stephanie want out of life now that things are so changed? Where does she want to be during the time she has left? I read Sarah’s last post here with a sort of longing…as hard as it is to make big moves like she is planning, I found myself wishing for such a change to come my way too, one day…for me, perhaps, living abroad would be finally putting stock into Stephanie’s own wishes and dreams. And the other consideration of simply being so remote from some family members who may need my help one day factors in largely.
These thoughts are both practical and, in a sense, spiritual, or philosophical…I must think about my own path now, and I feel both sad and excited at the same time. Sad that my life with Mike was but a relatively brief chapter in the book of my life…and excited that I may have the chance to write another one myself, somewhat as Sarah described as she looks towards her own potential move.
It also dawns on me that much of the staggering grief, the kind that keeps you gasping in that horrible darkness, has faded, other than the occasional breakdown. Now, I often look around at all the changes since he died with a kind of resignation. This is my life now. I’m doing the best I can…and I have options I didn’t imagine before.
It’s all a very mixed bag, this coming home.