For almost two years, I have kept a small, hand picked assortment of condiments in my freezer. The content of these containers have long expired; but, still, I can not bring myself to throw them out because they are from the recent past - when Mike was alive.
These common containers are anything but ordinary. To me, they are stale, sticky, well used time capsules. These bottles cue me to remember the life we shared together. And, I am just not ready to throw out these visual reminders because they bring to life so many heartfelt memories.
Logically, I know that the bottles should be recycled.
But, they are not refuse to me. Instead, they are dreamy treasures from our past. Many times, these containers were casually set out on our kitchen table where they quietly witnessed our conversations. These simple bottles stood watch over us during many shared meals. These containers silently observed all the love and laughter in our home. And, I just don’t have the heart to part with them because they were present when the happiest days of my life unfolded.
To me, these simple bottles are sentries
who bore witness to my life with the man I love.
Mike is gone from here, so now our shared memories feel lopsided because the other person who was present,
is now absent. When the other rememberer dies, they can not share in the recall of our memories. It is a further loss.
Therefore, out of necessity,
I have developed a strange kinship with these stale condiments because they were present when Mike was alive.
These bottles have become somewhat holy to me
because they are inanimate bystanders who witnessed the love between us.
They were present in the past; and, unlike Mike,
they are still physically here.
I know that these partially used bottles of sauce are unlikely relics. But, nonetheless, these condiments have become sacred to me because the sight of them takes me back to another time - a time when Mike was still alive.
And, no, I’m not crazy.
I understand that some people will not understand my attachment to outdated condiments.
They are fortunate to be in the enviable position that they can not understand my life.
For me, these familiar bottles serve as a power visual prompt.
Still, after all this time, I can clearly picture Mike coming through the back door, carrying a tray of ribeye steaks. I have memorized the perfect grill marks he seared into the meat. If I am still in my thoughts, I can actually smell the slightly charred steaks. Then, I can hear him cover the steaks with tinfoil to “tent the meat” like he always did. And, in the middle of this memory, if I hold my breath, I can faintly hear Mike open the oven door and excitedly hold up a steaming baked potato. Then, Mike predictably announcing “Awww, Honey, the potatoes are perfect” jolts me from my reverie.
My memory feels so real.
It feels like this dinner took place yesterday
- not two years ago.
I struggle to accept that we will never have another meal together.
Sometimes I just can not believe that Mike actually died.
It all seems surreal some moments.
In my memories, Mike comes back to life.
I see him slathering way too much butter on his baked potato. And, I hear the bag crinkle as he pours bacon bits onto the sea of butter that is drowning his potato.
I pause and smile - remembering.
I can smell the Mum’s hot sauce as he carefully pours it from the bottle - like I saw him do so many times before. I think to myself, Mike can not be dead because when I close my eyes I can still see him sitting across from me. I see him cutting into his medium rare steak.
I can watch the juices running out of the meat onto his plate.
All of this really happened.
He can't be dead.
Mike was real.
He was alive.
At the table, he sat across from me.
Holding his knife and fork,
He ate his food.
Dammit, this all happened.
Mike was alive.
This was reality.
And, now it isn’t.
Mike’s place in time, is over.
Now, after nearly two years of being absent, Mike feels far away from me. Most of the time I am unaware of his “presence”. My memories remain vivid; but, my sense of him being around me has dulled. And, now the space in time when we shared our lives with one another feels like a life time ago.
Since Mike died, my sense of Time has become distorted. (I think this is fairly normal in grief.)
There are moments when it feels like he was alive yesterday; and, at other times, it feels like he has been lost from me for years and years. And, at times like this, when I feel particularly out of sorts, these familiar bottles of outdated condiments rescue me from my confusion. These ordinary bottles prove to me that Mike was really here. They are the evidence I need.
I tenderly touch them and I know that I am not imagining our life together. This motley assortment of half used sauces remind me of the many good moments shared between us. And, remembering Mike and these moments is good for my Soul. My memories fill me with gratitude for what was. And, it is this deep, genuine gratitude for what was that is saving me from the ugliness of grief.
In truth, the farfetched artifacts I keep in my freezer are far more powerful than they look. They represent part of my shared history with Mike. He touched the lids of these actual containers so now they feel sort of holy to me. The sight of these ordinary jars transports me back to our life together. When I close my eyes, I can see Mike happily using these condiments while we shared an ordinary, everyday meal. When I am walking through the grocery store, I pause in the aisle, and I can “see” Mike reaching for the Mississippi honey mustard because it was his “favorite”.
In my kitchen, when I stand holding the bottle of Mum’s Hot Sauce, I remember the exact Sunday morning that he discovered this sauce at our favourite greasy spoon. I can hear Mike excitedly saying “holy sh*t this is good” as he poured more of the sauce on his sausage patty and skillet fried potatoes. This little bottle takes me back to the feeling of that particular morning. It makes it so that I can taste the coffee. And, on a good day, I can almost feel Mike sitting across from me.
This ordinary bottle creates a portal in time.
I can travel back to a morning long ago when Mike and I were at our favourite Diner. I can feel his hand casually reach for mine. I can remember how it felt when his thick, strong fingers interlocked with mine. And, if I hold my breath and close my eyes I can stay there in this moment. And, when I slowly open my eyes, I can see Mike’s kind blue eyes looking back at me. All of this feels like it is happening right this moment. It feels like I am in our Diner - sitting across from Mike. Except, I’m not.
Our little Diner is nothing fancy to look at. It is a very modest, perhaps somewhat shabby building. But, it was comfortable to us. It comes with proud owners who serve simple, home cooked meals; and, while they go about doing this they treat you like family. It is a welcoming and homey place. And, I liked everything about it - I still do. But, having a meal there has never felt the same to me without Mike. It’s just not as cozy and comfortable anymore.
And, in truth, nothing in my life has that feeling any longer.