His eyes would catch mine across a crowded room and he would wink at me. It connected us through the energy of all those other people. I loved when he winked at me.
We danced everywhere. In the kitchen, in the hallways, in our gardens outside, and on the side of the road in Death Valley. Not in the way that people who really know how to dance do, but in a way that was perfect and romantic for us. He’d take my hand in his and put his arm around my waist and pull me into him and turn and move and I’d rest my head against his shoulder or pull back to whisper something to him. He’d hum along with whatever music was on, even though he admitted he had no voice for singing. And, with perfect timing, when the music ended, he’d tip me back in his arms and kiss me, then swing me to my feet again and kiss my hand, making me dizzy. I loved dancing with him.
I felt safe with him in my world. He was retired Air Force and did anti-terrorism training and knew how to defend himself. After 9/11 he’d tell me whenever we’d fly that, if something happened and the plane was taken over by terrorists, he’d be one of the ones fighting. Of course, I’d tell him. And I’ll be right at your side. Because we spent our last 4 years together traveling the country and were always in new places, he’d have safety plans in mind for when we went exercise walking. If we’re ever confronted with an assailant, he’d tell me, I’ll fight and you will immediately take off so that you won’t be hurt. He’d make me promise that to him. Of course I’d promise, and he’d see the glint in my eyes and say I mean it, and I’d say You expect me to just take off and leave you? I’ll fight right alongside of you and I certainly won’t dance around the sidelines like you see the stupid women do on TV. I’ll get right in there to help you! Promise me, he’d say and I’d say, well, okay. With the glint still in my eye so that he absolutely knew that I’d be right by his side and never leave him.
He wanted to open doors for me. I’d been in a bad marriage previously, a single parent for many years, dated quite a few idiots, and was accustomed to doing for myself and I honestly didn’t stop to think when it came to doors but opened them automatically if I was ahead of him. In our 20th year of marriage, he finally said one day Do you MIND if I open doors for you? Can you maybe have some patience and LET me open doors for you? Put that way, I said well, of course. But I had to practice stepping back and letting him open those doors. It only took me 20 years to let him do that. And I miss it more than anything since he died.
He had my back and I had his. In the short but forever time that he was in the hospital, after finding that cancer was eating him up and as we decided on hospice, I told him that I’d do whatever was needed to ensure that the pain was managed, that I’d make sure he was as okay as he could be. He held up his hand, swollen already from the edema that was already present, and tipped out his pinkie finger and I put my pinkie in his and he said pinkie swear which he’d never done ever before and I promised, promised, promised. And then he went into hospice and the cancer ate him up and even though he didn’t want to be heavily medicated, he still had to be on enough that his mind wasn’t as focused as he wanted to be. And, in that hospice time, many of you know how family can be and there was shit that went down that haunted me for months and months after he died and efforts were made to take him away from me, to take who I knew he was, away from me and horrible, devastating, things were said to me and it took me more than the year after his death to find a place for all that happened, for what I knew to be the truth but what couldn’t get through to my mind because of the fucking trauma of his death to finally settle in my heart. But what finally got through and stuck and will always be what I know to be true, finally, truly, got through to me and that was that this man…my husband…oh, how we danced in our 24 years together! I remembered how he walked on my right side because the hearing in his right ear was bad and because it was old habit from his military days and how he would gently blow into my ears when I had an earache because that was the only thing that brought relief and how at night, once menopause set in for me and my body would let off so much heat that it would basically singe him so he’d wrap himself around me for as long as both of us could stand and then we’d separate and twist our pinkie fingers together and fall asleep that way. I remembered how I’d overcome my fear of heights to follow him up rocks or jump over crevasses when we hiked together. How he’d smile at me from across the room and my body would go electric, as if he’d touched me.
Oh, how we danced in so many ways over the years… with our bodies, with our spirits, with all the love we had for each other, with all the passion we felt for each other that never went away. We danced through the rhythms of life; raising a blended family, his Air Force career, the deaths of family members, selling our house, ridding ourselves of belongings, going out on the road and sitting 2 feet across from one another for 4 years…
Oh, how we danced that dance until we could dance no more…
And now…now…this dance of grief and life without him, trying to find him again somehow.