I feel as if I’m living life with each foot in a different world. One is still firmly planted in the life I shared with Mike. The imprint, not just of Mike himself, but of the life we had together, the World of Mike and Steph, is always there. I never stop wondering what we would be doing now were he still alive…I never stop referring to him, either out loud or just to myself, in regards to so many little situations that arise…oh Mike would have said this, or thought that. And all the little pieces of him around me…pictures, a few of his belongings…simply being in the house we shared together, the dishes he used, the appliances he bought…a memory erupts every time I touch one. The old world comes surging back and I can’t stop it.
But the other foot seems to have a life of its own. It keeps pulling me forward into this unknown future. It keeps walking ahead, even if I try to resist it…even if I try to call back and float in the memory of what was, I cannot ignore what is. And I know this is a good thing. It has to be. The alternative is impossible…I can’t live in Mike’s world all the time anymore. I know it’s unhealthy not to be moving forward, even though there are definitely moments when I really don’t want to have to.
The first six months after he died were horrific. It was like being suffocated in a dark, alien fog. But since then, a little over two years later, my life without Mike has slowly been becoming less and less strange. I no longer feel the sharp pang of shock that Mike is dead, though the moment I found him like that will always haunt me. I think about that horrible morning every single day. I guess I probably always will. But perhaps in order to function, our psyches begin to learn new pathways. Life simply enters in, somehow. One day leads to another, and I can’t stop it. Over time little adjustments begin to take root and before I realize it, I am in a new routine. I miss Mike so much. But I am surprised to find I do have things - and people - to look forward to. I sometimes sit and ponder this with sheer amazement how I can be sad and happy at the same time. The human condition must simply contain the ability to feel multiple emotions simultaneously. But it’s all still a new enough adjustment that I feel eerily like I’m living in two worlds.
We all carry our memories with us, happy and sad, though the triggers that bring them up are all our own. For me, the experience is almost constant. If each such memory elicited an audible pop I would literally be a walking sound effect. It’s as if a hologram of my past life with Mike is superimposed upon my now. Riding in the car with the musician on the way to a gig, I chat with him while at the same time find myself gazing out over the ocean and remembering how Mike would always gleefully rubberneck that view, searching for evidence that the surf was up, or admiring the sunsets. Sitting at a restaurant talking to a friend I remember what table Mike and I sat in the last time we ate there together, and in my mind’s eye I see him sitting across from me, smiling. Drinking my morning coffee, I am thinking about how Mike so loved to sit in this rocking chair on our lanai watching the birds, while simultaneously checking my messages and preparing for my day.
I flip on the TV and pass one of the newer Hobbit movies, a series dear to Mike’s heart, and remember that haunting dwarf song he was learning to sing when he died. I wonder sadly if I will ever be able to bring myself to watch the ones that were released since his death. I quickly scroll by to find an easy rom-com instead, something comforting to get lost in.
Down in my workshop I search for a tool to fix the musician’s suitcase (yes, I’m handy like that, though I haven’t spent much time down there the past couple of years), which handle snapped during our recent trip, and come across boxes and piles of whatchamacallits that Mike collected over the years - bits and bobs of broken gadgets and charging adapters to long-lost and forgotten gadgets, dried out glues and nearly empty metal varnish jars and lug nuts and broken dowel rods and zip ties and straps and all kinds of things I will never use, and after I fix the case, I go through and fill two garbage bags for the dump, and put usable bits and redundant tools in a separate drawer, thinking maybe someone might want them at a garage sale one day. I pause for a moment remembering how he would stand at the table down there sanding rust off an old sword or fiddling with a broken arrow, but then the musician pulls in the driveway. I proudly show him the results of his suitcase repair and for the moment, Mike’s presence fades back while I focus again on the day at hand.
So off I go to make dinner and change the laundry. At the exact same moment I am thinking what sort of meal to prepare with the musician, who enjoys broccoli, I am remembering Mike’s vehement protests against the vegetable, and I smile a small, sad smile to myself.That triggers the memory that he didn’t like ketchup either, something I could never fathom, but the musician is a big fan - he also loves HP sauce, popular in the UK, which is kind of like ketchup mixed with A-1. The musician was thrilled to learn we could order it on Amazon, and every time he uses it I wonder whether Mike would have liked it, as I know he did like A-1.
As I head down to the laundry room I startle about a dozen wild chickens pecking at the grass in my front yard and think how Mike the bird-lover would have probably tried to follow them around with feed, clucking to them. As I transfer the wash to the dryer I think about the colorful aloha shirts I used to wash for Mike, which are no longer even in the house, which makes me sad. When I carry the laundry basket, which I note now contains only my own clothes, down the hall and pass the guest room which used to be Mike’s room, I flash on what it used to look like with all his things in there, and him sitting at his desk happily playing video games…and I head into the other room where the musician is happily watching his soccer.
Pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. This is how I process nearly every single moment of my waking life. I wonder how long it will be like that.