Do I have to say how much I miss you? Wherever you are, if you can hear me, you must know this, because I say it all the time. Speaking into the ether, perhaps into a void, not knowing if it is received on your end, but always imagining it is, hoping it is.
I see signs from you. At least that is how I choose to interpret the birds that swoop over my path in certain moments, the grasshopper on my door or in my house that appears just when my heart is clenched from a painful memory of what I have lost. That particular song that comes on the radio at that exact right time, and the shooting star that streaks across the heavens at the exact moment I look up into the night sky, thinking of you.
Yesterday, August 9th, would have been our 18th wedding anniversary. Can it really be so long since that day we said our vows on that beach in Maui? He died before we made 14. I hear of people married 25 years, 40 years, 55 years…we never got that. But I am grateful for the years we did have. Believe me.
One of Mike’s best friends died recently here in Kona. Tabo and his family were endearingly important to our happy welcome to this island when we moved here in 2001. We shared so many meals together, holidays, birthdays. His wife Lani taught me to weave ti plant leis and to pick the flowers from our native Ohia trees…I remember she told me the legend that if you picked an Ohia flower, it would rain, and the day we first did that together, it did indeed start to rain. That time was just purely magical for us, becoming part of life here on this remote island with its rich history.
That moment when you think you see him. The same shirt, the same belly, the same hair…from a distance, without your glasses, you really, truly think it’s him. Your heart lurches…you look again more closely, and even for the next moment, knowing it couldn’t possibly be him, it still looks so much like him your heart continues to pound.
You don’t want to put your glasses on, you don’t want to let your brain be rational, you just don’t want to remember just for another long moment, that it’s not him. Just for another second, please be him.
Imagine a tree. Any kind of tree you like. Oak, elm, evergreen, lemon, plumeria. That tree is your life.
It began when the seed was created by its parents, like you were. It began to sprout. It began to root. It made a small, tiny leaf, followed by another small, tiny leaf. It threw out one small tentative tendril of root, followed by another, and another.
You began to grow, adding cells, becoming a human. You grew slowly, like the tree. Each new branch, each new leaf, each new root, each new layer of bark. Each new memory, each new milestone, each new layer of skin, each new and stronger, longer bone.
To be honest, nothing much rattles me these days. I think I used to get more wound up about things before Mike died. I was younger, and lacked perspective. And there is something to the idea that I have gone through such a difficult experience, losing him, that nothing much compares, so I take things more in stride.
Losing my house, planning a move to a place and on a timetable yet undecided, meager finances, starting a new career, going through the catastrophe of my dad’s condition last year…people often ask me how I am dealing with it all. I just shrug. What can I do? Why get twisted? It does no good. Grief is plenty enough. Worry is a completely wasted energy. That was something Mike was always trying to teach me. Well, I think I finally get it, at least for the big stuff.
I was just remembering that book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, and chuckling to myself. This was a week of comparatively small stuff.
Sometimes I feel like I’m just going through the motions. I’ve had that recurring thought/feeling quite often recently. It will hit me when I’m doing routine tasks like brushing my teeth or vacuuming. Like a big internal sigh. It all seems meaningless sometimes. I just couldn’t quite put my finger on that feeling. How to describe it without sounding suicidal (which I am definitely not).
In a few hours I will have to brush my teeth again. In a day or two I will have to vacuum again. Why bother? I know teeth and floors need to stay clean, using those tasks as examples. For the same reason. Hygiene. But they both just get dirty again. Dogs expel hair, we eat more food.
I got a new fridge this week. Well, new to me. My old one just stopped defrosting itself and a repairman told me it wasn’t worth the cost of repair. So once a week we were standing there with a hairdryer. A friend of mine was redoing her condo and needed to get rid of a fridge, so I hired a handyman to move it to my house and take the old one to the dump.
I had that old fridge at least 12 years. My parents bought it for us back in the days when we had our school here in Kona when money was tight. So a lot of memories of Mike pulling those doors open to search for snacks. A lot of pictures of him and other people we’ve lost on the side of it. Kind of like a memorial fridge, it became.
What’s going on in the life of this widow this week? It’s been four years, four months, and 11 days. Some things are changed very much, and some not so much.
I still look out over the same view, from the same lanai, in the same house we shared together for 12 years. I still drive through the little town in Hawaii we both fell in love with together every day. I pass shops, restaurants, churches, beaches, and yes, even trees, I know he saw, and loved. Seriously one time this week I was sitting at a traffic light admiring this big, beautiful tree in the median strip and thought, Mike saw this tree. I’m looking at a tree he also saw, probably many many times. I don’t know why I thought that but I did.
For anyone new to this blog, my husband Mike died in 2013 of a heart attack in his sleep. Finding him the next morning is a horrific memory I will carry with me always.
He had heart problems, to be sure, but I didn’t really know the extent of it. I’m not sure whether he did either. He hated doctors and hospitals, and I often wonder if he had sought good regular care he might have had a longer life. I also often wonder if I had known more about his condition and what to do in terms of diet and supplementation whether it would have made any difference.
Did you know "post-traumatic growth" is actually a thing? A friend mentioned the concept to me recently and I made note of it, thinking it was a clever concept invented by us grief sufferers, but when I typed it in a search online, a bunch of very real psychological studies came up.
Mike used to say, repeating an oft-used phrase, that what doesn't kill us makes us stronger. After he died I rebelled against this well-meaning wisdom he often delivered with a smirk, preferring instead, in those early days, to be dead myself, as you might understand, thinking in no way could I ever want to be any stronger, the grief being so dire.