I had a good day today. It was a nice day that I was lucky enough to spend with really good, really dear friends.
My own family is 4 hours away in another state, so getting to them over Thanksgiving isnt usually possible, due to the short time off I have from work. So, for the past few years, it has become almost a new tradition for me to spend this day with my old college friends, and their family, in their home. While I was there, I was happy. I had a nice time. We laughed, we had great food and conversation, and we took the time to remember the ones who have died and honor them with words and a toast. It was a really lovely holiday.
And then I got back to my apartment.
That is always the hardest part for me. It has always been the hardest part since my husband’s sudden death. Going out, and then coming home. When I have a really great time being out with friends, the commute home is always very lonely. Sometimes Im driving, but usually Im on a subway or train, and then walking from the train station to my apartment. When you are half of a married or serious couple, and you go out together, the ride home or the travel home is always the best part. Its the “winding down” session. It’s when you and your husband break down the evening’s events, dissect everything that went on, and gossip about the time you had. Then you get home, and you fall into the casualness and comfort and familiarity of each other, and of the night. You do your nightly routine of getting ready for bed, and then, if you are anything like me and my husband Don, you often hold hands while lying in bed, and talk and laugh about life into the “wee small hours of the morning”, as Carly Simon says in that song that he and I loved so much. Eventually, you fall asleep with the mutual knowing of each other’s breath and heartbeat – and you feel safe in the world around you.
Tonight, after a perfectly awesome and wonderful day with loving friends, I found myself sitting in the echoes of my apartment, with nobody to dissect the day’s events with. It was just me, alone, with my kitties and my thoughts. It didnt take very long for my joy to turn to sadness, and for me to start thinking back to the Thanksgiving evening traditions that had become a part of me and my husband’s life together. Each year, after the noise of company had died down, when we were alone in our apartment, we would watch our favorite Thanksgiving movie: “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”, with Johny Candy and Steve Martin. Then, we would make hot chocolate and put up and decorate our Christmas tree. Most years, we only had a super tiny table fake tree that we would get lights for and call it our “Charlie Brown tree.” But it was so “us.”
And now, tonight, I still have our tree. I took it out of its box and put the lights on it, and plugged it in so the colored lights lit up. I sat down in my husband’s recliner chair, and I made myself a plate of the leftovers from Thanksgiving earlier today that I had brought home. And then in an instant, something about eating my leftovers alone in my husband’s chair out of a paper plate – it just felt so, so awful. Like the most pathetic thing in the world, really. And so I contemplated watching our movie alone. But that didnt sound like any fun to me, and I wasnt in the mood for laughing anymore. I just couldnt deal with feeling any more alone or pathetic , in this insane quest to recreate something that can never be again.
All of a sudden, I just missed him like mad, and I started to cry.
I hate grief. I hate death.
And I hate the days that are wonderful, that then turn into the nights
– the lonely, awful nights.