I still feel like Mike’s girl. When he was alive, he’d tell perfectly good strangers about me. Anyone he encountered throughout his day was sure to find out about me in short order. The cashiers at the neighborhood grocery store knew of me because he proudly gushed about me while they wrapped the red roses he’d buy me every time he did his weekly shopping. Mike went from being a single guy buying obscene quantities of frozen meat pies -when they were on sale – to the man who carefully selected extra chocolate milk and certain juices because he knew my boys liked them. Mike was so happy and his love for me and my boys was revealed in everything he did. Mike showed all of us what true love looks like, and sounds like. And, for me, he showed me what true love feels like.
Looking back, our love story served as a live lecture on love. If you were a student of love you would have filled your notebook full with our ‘love notes’. Together, we made love look easy. The way we spoke to each other had the rhythm of respect. Our tone was pianissimo, reflecting our gentle love. In our voices you could hear the harmony of happiness. The way we looked at one another reflected mutual admiration. We loved how love is supposed to be. The way he held me close to him; and, the way he pushed me to soar were both acts of genuine love. We unknowingly provided an education about love for anyone who stopped long enough to take notice. When we walked hand in hand I remember that strangers would look up and smile when my eye caught theirs. Our love was tangible. You could feel it in the air around us. People smiled at me because they felt the love they witnessed walking by.
Love is the little, shared nuances.
The small, familiar gestures between lovers.
The rituals that are thoughtfully developed between two Souls.
These intimate expressions are what we all desperately miss.
These are the things that keep us awake at night.
These are the intimacies we all want back.
Maybe Mike and I were so good at love because this wasn’t our first attempt at it. We had practiced love before with mediocre results. And, finally, with three failed relationships behind us, we figured it out. Together, we were good at love. And, in my heart, and in my mind, I will always be Mike’s “Beautiful Wife to Be”. I have the
text messages to prove it. His message saying just this is hanging casually beside my fridge because it reminds me that I was his. It proves to me that once upon a time I was loved beyond measure.
I have a thousand memories that remind me that I was the love of his life. But, they are just memories. I don’t have him anymore so, I spend my day endlessly remembering everything about him. The obvious things like: his touch, his voice, his laugh, and his smile. I think of his eyes, his hands, and the way he stood. I remember his crazy one-liners. The remembering is relentless. His memory catches me around every corner. And, now 16 months later, I am emotionally exhausted from the continuous reminders of days gone by.
All through the day, I get lost in my thoughts. I often go to this sacred place in my mind where I keep Mike alive. Here, I recall his signature characteristics and behaviors. The things only the woman he was going to marry would notice and remember. I think of the way he unknowingly rubbed his ear out of habit. I remember how he’d purse his lips and how his hands held a wine bottle when he twisted it open. In my mind, I hear the exact sound of his hum. I could pick out his hum anywhere, on any street in the world. Sometimes I listen for it when I’m out because part of me is hoping that I will find him.
I still remember the way he put on his jacket, and I recall how he sat on the edge of the bed to pull up his police issue socks. Every night, I imagine him rinsing out his wine glass and turning off the music speaker. I know how he precisely arranged his wallet and keys so they would be ready for the next morning. I remember how he would carefully survey the kitchen; and how he would always leave a certain light on when we went up to bed. I also remember how he would hum “do, doo” as he held the banister and walked up to our bedroom. In my mind, I see how Mike would strategically hang his jeans and shirt on the end board of our bed. Sometimes I purposefully run my fingers across the wooden end board because I know that he once touched it; and, I want my fingers to trace where his once were.
Even though he has not kissed me goodnight for more than sixteen months, in my mind, I go through his routines everyday. I wonder when this will change? I wonder when I will live without endless reminders of him? I know in my heart, this day will come; and, until then, I need to find my footing and keep some kind of momentum.
I think we all cherish the tangible things and the intimate details of our person because these artifacts remind us that they existed. Once upon a time they were real and they were physically here on planet earth with us. We cling to the past because it is familiar and comfortable. Yet, as time passes; and, I am forced to live without him, I realize that although so much has changed, there are still many things that remain the same.
Since he died I am still the same person in many ways. I still crave life. I want to live moments that take my breath away. I am the person who believes that ordinary moments are the ones that matter most. I am the woman with a wanderlust heart. I am the one who daydreams of far away places while she stands at the stove and cooks dinner. I am the crazy lady who screams at spiders and the one who hates olives on her pizza. None of this has changed since he died.
I am the reason Mike had a spring in his step. I am the woman with whimsy in her heart and a sparkle in her eye. The one who believes in magic. I am the person who loves a room full of people. And, I am his last lover. His last kiss. I am the human being who made Mike feel like he was the only person in the room. I am the woman he loved. I made his heart flutter when I stood on my tip toes to kiss him. And, he is the man who made my heart skip a beat when he looked at me and spoke my name. All these things are still true – even without him here to say so.
I am the one he winked at across the room because I was his, and he could. On Friday nights I was the girl who fell asleep on the couch; and, countless times I’d wake up and he’d be knelling over me, softly brushing the hair from my face. Mike would wait until I opened my eyes then he’d whisper, “you are so beautiful” – in a tone he reserved only for me. Every time, he’d look at me, like it was the first time he ever laid his eyes on me. Then, he would kiss me like I’d been gone forever. That’s how I was loved. And, I will miss his love for the rest of my life.
I was his person. The one who carried his wallet, keys, glasses and cell phone in my purse because he asked me if I could. I was his. I was the woman he asked to be his wife. And, still, I feel like I am waiting to marry him… Our engagement was not called off. He just died. Logically, I know that I am not engaged anymore because only one of us is alive. But, I still feel like his fiancee. I still feel like his Wife to be. I know that this will change one day; but, for now, I like how it feels to still be his.
Even though he has died I haven’t lost all of me. I might not be his fiancee anymore, but so many things about me still remain the same. I am still the woman who uses the good dishes everyday because I cherish the ordinary days as much as the fancy ones. I am the one who thinks we should finish the bottle of wine – even though it’s Tuesday night. I am the one who thinks that going to the ocean is always a good idea if we can catch the sun setting.
I am the woman who stood in the kitchen, beside the sink, eating grilled cheese sandwiches with him – even though there was a perfectly good table behind us. In that quiet, ordinary moment there was nowhere in the world that I would rather be. In a New York minute, I’d go back there, to be by his side. If I could, I’d stay there forever.
I am the woman who stopped to look at him, in the middle of the grocery store. Yes, I stopped myself right there in the aisle; and I closed my eyes because I could not believe how much I loved him. There was something about that moment; I knew it then, and I know it still. I can feel everything about it. I can be there again – anytime I close my eyes. I loved being in love with him. And, I loved being loved by him. We had a charmed life. I miss him and the life we had together. I likely always will.
I believe in fate, and love and all things good. In spite of his death, I love life and I continue to believe good always wins over bad. His death can’t change these things about me. I am an eternal optimist. He loved this about me. In truth, there are a million little things that Mike loved about me. And, I am proud to say, I still have many of these qualities.
I know that my identity isn’t wholly defined by Mike. It never was. I am very much my own person. I always have been. I understand that no one person is responsible for my happiness, not even Mike. I realize that I was a bunch of good things before he came into my life, and I know that I need to gather up these pieces of myself. The parts of me that survived his death will become the blueprints for my re-birth. These things that make me who I am will form the foundation on which I will build my changed life.
But, here is the thing, I am tired. Actually, I am beyond tired. At the moment, I don’t have momentum. And, I am disappointed in myself for not living life the way I know I should. I am tired of being empty. I am tired of skimming along, touching the surface of everything, and not digging into life. I am restless with myself and I am so damn sick of feeling hollow inside. I know that no one can fix this for me. No one can rescue me. And, really, I don’t want to be rescued. This is my life and my road to travel. I just have to move. The momentum will follow. I have to pick up where I left off. I have to re-enter life. I want to live a beautiful life. And, I know that I will do this because all that I was when Mike was alive; and, all that I am still, is too much to be contained in sadness forever.
I am going be the woman he loved again. This new version of me is going to be all that I was – and even more. I can’t wait to meet the new me. I already know that I will like her. And, I know that the new woman I am becoming is someone he will love too.
With a heart full of Hope,