Holding Vigil

This past week was the first anniversary of my husband’s death, inviting the protracted reliving of that horrible stretch of days last year. It was harder than I thought it would be.

He took (or, almost took) his life on a Friday. This past Friday, I dropped the kids off at school and went back home. My heart was racing. I let myself imagine even-worse-case scenarios that could have transpired that Friday last year. Luckily, I had a therapy appointment scheduled, so I got out of the house. The therapist let me know that I was panicking because I was fighting it. I gave in. I’d had a quick walk scheduled with a friend on her lunch break, so I didn’t need to give in alone. As we walked, it occurred to me that she missed him, too. This loss is not only my loss. Then, to endure the hour it actually happened, I met another friend at the Irish pub. We go there for the pesto pizza, but this time, we had a beer. I needed it, but she did, too.

The kitchen sink was clogged. I figured I could fix it. I cleared some gunk out, but I found that the clog was deep down in the external pipes. In putting the pipes back together under the kitchen sink, there was a small leak. I put a kitty litter box under the pipes to catch the drip. I ran the dishwasher and held vigil, sitting on the floor across from the sink, with a big dog nestled up to me, making sure that the draining of the dishwasher didn’t cause an explosion. It didn’t.

Last year, we spent the weekend traveling back and forth to the trauma center in nearby city. This year, we went back to that city, but, this time, for a horse show for daughter. (She was, of course, adorable.) I left son at home. He had some friends to check in with, but it was undeniable that he was alone, without a mother, without a father, with a clogged kitchen sink. He rode it out remarkably well. The worst he had to report was that he inadvertently locked the cat in the family room, so I should expect to find cat poop on the rug. *shrug* It’s a change from dog poop.

I called a plumber on Monday. They came when I got home from work. In half an hour, the guy fixed the kitchen sink as well as a bathroom sink that’s been giving me some trouble.

We seemed to approach the actual, formal anniversary okay. But it was final exam week in the local schools, and one of my kids was hit, hard, with anxiety, anxiety that couldn’t be alleviated until it was passed along, and absorbed, by the rest of the household. I found myself, one evening, sprawled on the kitchen floor, in tears. I sobbed in the shower, keening that widow’s wail. It felt like Summer 2012 all over again. Luckily, I’m such so seasoned in grief that I could recognize that I was tired, very tired.

I scheduled a hike midweek. Inexplicably, we got lost on a familiar trail. Our simple hike turned into a three-hour trek. I showed up to a noon meeting unshowered, sweaty, and dirty, with plantlife sticking to my socks and shoes. But, hey, I arrived on time. I allowed myself to laugh at myself. It was a nice change of pace to come across as goofy to my colleagues, rather than tragic. And the final race to the car was somewhat exhilarating.

I met a friend today and shared a few of the hardships of this week. (There were more. I’ve only shared a few of them here, but you get the idea.) I feel like I’m living in a fog. I function, but I’m not grounded. She assured me I could drop the kids off with her, whenever I need it.

I tried to rest this evening, my first Friday in the second year of widowhood. It went okay, for a little while, but when the kids had some kerfluffle that started to escalate, I couldn’t bear it. I found myself sprawled on top of the shoes in the front hallway, in tears. This is when I knew that I was tired, beyond tired. I thought about inviting one of my sisters to come stay with us, or calling a mom in town and packing up one or both kids to their place. Instead, daughter and I got in the car and drove around to look for food. I put on my sunglasses, so as not to allow my tear-stained, distressed face to give people something to gossip about. I couldn’t bear to sit in a restaurant, so I sent her into the bakery to buy a bag of locally-produced corn chips. Once home, I whipped up a pan of Migas (scrambled eggs + cheese + broken chips). *shrug* It has lots of protein, and the fat and salt are comforting. That’ll do.

I gave in to my masochistic tendencies and looked up people I’ve hidden on Facebook. Oh, such happy lives. I spotted a call for meals for a mom who recently had a baby. This isn’t just any mom. This mom has just had a baby, but in Winter 2012, her 3 year-old son died unexpectedly. I’d heard about it, but I didn’t know her at the time. In Summer 2012, she signed up to make a meal for us. When that meal arrived last summer, I explained to my kids that lots of people in town made meals for her when she lost her son, and now she was making a meal for us. My son asked if we would ever make a meal for someone who needed it. I sure hoped so.

This nice mom worked at our local bakery, and we became friendly. One day last summer, as she rung up my milk and eggs and bread, she asked me if she could give me a hug. I don’t know if I looked like I needed it that day, or if she needed it, or needed to give it. Who can know of such things?

Tonight, as I brushed off the dirt and dog hair on my shirt from this evening’s sprawl on the floor, as I wished for sleep but lingered in misery, I plotted what meal I could reciprocate for this lovely person. I planned a visit to the farmers market tomorrow. I thought about nice containers on my shelf. Maybe I could whip up an herbal iced tea, if it gets hot next week. I visited some of my favorite websites to find a poem to slip in a card. The poetry made me cry. I realized that a new mom doesn’t need a poem. I needed the poems. Poetry and meditation and yoga and visits with friends and cooking–these have all sustained me, grounded me, opened me up to possibility. I haven’t been able to grasp them these last few weeks, as much as I’ve tried. Tonight, as I sought to return a gift so freely given, to sustain the connection with someone who also harbors this terrible secret of loss, of hope, of life, I felt the glimmers, again, and I gratefully reached out to the simple act of giving. I hung on to it. Sure, this new mom could use a meal dropped off next week, but I really need to give it to her.

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One thought on “Holding Vigil

  1. Wow, your writing—so raw and honest—and the insight you bring into your grieving process brought tears to my eyes. Sad tears for what you and all widows go through with their first anniversary but also happy tears at seeing healing and hope taking root in your life.

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