I derive a lot of inspiration reading the other writers here at Widow's Voice. They are all strong, beautiful people with individual stories of tragedy and living this life. I feel honored to be listed on the same page as they are.
Reading Michelle's post this week, Runner Up, made me stop and think. I don't write much about my boyfriend here. A few widowed friends of mine have commented on that fact. They notice. I told them, as I have been telling myself, that this blog is not about him. It's about Mike. Mike and me. Mike's death, and my journey through my grief.
But Michelle's boyfriend, whom she does love, told her he feels like second place. That he will always be second place. And it a terrible thing to hear, when your first love is gone forever, and you have found good things with a new person.
I have had that discussion multiple times with my boyfriend, in so many words. I have told him there are special things about him that are different from Mike. And there are. And he brings Mike up a lot. What would he have thought of this, or that. What would Mike have done. Whether Mike believed this or that. I know he is sensitive to my love for Mike, and always will be.
The fact is, Mike will never be gone from my life. Not completely. His body is gone. His presence is gone, in the sense that he will never laugh with us from across the table again. He will never give advice again. He will never share a meal again, or drive me around again, suggest an adventure again, or wrap his arms around me again and tell me how much he loves me.
But in another sense he will never leave. Mike's voice will always be in my head, and in my heart. I will always remember the saying he used to repeat, or some philosophy he believed in, to guide not just me, but others, in this life. He is here. He will always be here. He will always be with me.
What kind of place does another man have when my late husband's presence is so strong? When I continue to, over three years after getting together with my boyfriend, still think of myself as widowed, as having lost a great love...as having not replenished that part of my heart?
Because that part can never be filled again. It is, and always will be, filled with Mike. It doesn't mean I can't find happiness, of another kind, with someone else. It doesn't mean I can't share my life with another person. It doesn't mean I have to be alone, or be loveless.
Or does it? Is the fact that, as far as I am concerned at this moment, the greatest love I have ever known is dead and gone mean I will never experience that level of soulfulness with another person?
I love my boyfriend. My musician. He has his own issues, to be sure. As did Mike. But I do not involve myself the way I did with Mike. I am not married to my boyfriend. I have, this whole time, distanced myself enough so that I would not be caught in that trap of disappointment, were he to make a decision I did not agree with. That feeling of being a married couple, a life-long committed couple, how we rub off on one another, and how we treat others, how that comes back to the other partner. We have fun together, but we are separate. We are individual. Mike and I were not like that. We were like one person.
Reading Michelle's post makes me realize I feel distanced. I feel - well, I do not feel the same way about the life I have with the musician as I did with Mike. How could I? They are not the same person...this is not the same life...it's not even the same love. I have never even mentioned the musician by name in this blog. And I may never. So I wonder. What is the real truth for me, moving forward? Am I ruined forever? Seeing my dad in this catastrophic decline, I am about to turn 49...any man I am with, he will be older too, he will also get sick, and I will face death again, unless I go first...can I really live with that? Can I keep a relationship, a man, at arm's length, in fear of this? Can I live alone, without a partner, more happily, just because I am keeping death from my door yet again? Is this selfish? Am I doing myself a disservice? Or am I just keeping it simple? Am I protecting myself? Or is there maybe someone else out there I would be willing to go through this again for?
I care about my musician. I really, truly do. His appearance in my life, so relatively soon after Mike's death, kept me, I believe, from my own spiritual death, if not physical. I thought I would never live again, never enjoy life again...and through my musician, I have experienced beauty again. Love, music, joy.
Not the same joy as it was with Mike. But joy nonetheless. And thanks to my musician I know I can be strong. I can survive. I can find company, and enjoy it, if I want. There is a world filled with beauty, and beautiful people out there. Thanks to him I have met many wonderful, supportive friends.
Do I want to give myself to another person the way I did with Mike? Really, really not sure of that. Would my musician want to give himself to me if he knew he might be only the runner-up?
This is something I need to think about, heart deep, as I look forward the inevitable...moving away. Far, far, away. From Hawaii, back east. To be with my family, my mom, my dad, my brother, my grandkids. Maybe, it is time for me to dig deep and figure out what the right thing is. Because I really do not know.