Our children. How they reach out across the chasm you left and toward each other, and me.
Your family and how they did not let me float away. They have held me tightly.
That loose linen shirt that brought out the ocean blue of your eyes (which you definitely knew) and brings you back to me now. I roll the sleeves up. I won’t wreck it.
I became a worker bee. The pump is new, at the cottage. We can drink the water, a bit timidly still. I don’t know how it all works but Vince and Adrienne do. They asked annoying questions of the plumbers on my behalf, in my absence.
In your absence, friends (old, young, new) have been present. It’s been hard for people to know what to do with us, demolished. They hung pictures, sat speechless, held hands, touched my hair, cleaned the kitchen, fixed the car door, called again, sat in our messy room when I hurt my back (right on the bed, which would have embarrassed you).
Our basement is such a mess and I let people go down there, recklessly. I can’t care about that, and that’s been good. It’s okay.
There has been the good of the slow dissolving of the terror that I would only remember you in the hospital, and all of that. But you have returned to me almost in your fullness, in my dreams, at my desk, on the couch, behind me, beside me, when I walk. Younger. Freer. All those years of you and me and us. They outweigh, outnumber, and I see now outlast those final weeks.
Our children. That love. These people we helped make. Thank you sweetheart.
It is good to have your picture beside me on our one remaining nightstand. It’s the shot I took of you rumpled at the cottage, wearing the Stay Wild t-shirt I bought you for your last birthday. Maybe you were sleepy. I don’t think you saw that picture printed out. You did see that I saw you clearly, though. Your silver hair is a mess and you lean over the Elvis Parsley cutting board, which you tolerated, in the way that you made space for weird little things over all our years. You’re smiling the way you smiled when it was me taking your picture (or so I like to think).
I have held so many pictures in my hands. I do not turn away from them. And I believe that I took most of the best ones there are of you, because you’re looking at me and I see the love in your eyes. (Maybe our kids feel the same way about pictures they took). We could not hide it, and we never tried.
And it’s been good to walk and walk and walk. I used to cajole you to come with me. I struck deals with you. Now you come with me on all my walks. I’ve cried as I walked, sometimes like my arm was cut off just before I set out. I’m a wailer, as it has turned out (and that did surprise me a little). You would have absolutely preferred a little more dignity. Now, more often than not, I walk without weeping. “That’s good,” you would say to me.
Chris from next door crawled through our window when we locked ourselves out twice in one day. Jodi knows a guy and he built us a deck. When I told him I was a widow, he said, “That is a shame.” Yes.
Our neighbours have been good. It is good to have neighbours. That is on my list. I can see that.
I finished that horrible little back room. That is good too. You would believe me now, that good idea. I have filled two new bookcases with books. Books = good. Writing = help.
I’ve needed a lot of help. We weren’t used to that. We’re the helpers, not the ones crumpled up on the floor. It’s been good to ask. Good to receive. What has been good is when church guys help, I believe they are saying some kind of ‘thank you’ to you and ‘I’m sorry,’ to me, when they hammer and lift and fix and adjust and speculate and unclog and discuss how to solve a problem that is intractable to me and is sweeping me out to sea. And they just solve things. That’s been good, for all of us I think.
You would like Russell the dog. I let him lay on the rugs, and he’s been on our bed and then I decided on my own that was too much.
I sleep in the middle of the bed sometimes now, instead of off to the one side, barely on the mattress. Without even noticing I have stretched out a small amount, on some nights at least. I still look to what I think was your pillow, although the original might have been lost in the melee. I should have been more careful, and kept better track of its whereabouts. (You were so passionate about that pillow, and protective). But I am writing now about the good things that I can count, which really is a miracle in the face of your goneness. The good we can see is the kind of miracle we can find. You would tell us to do that.”Good! Good,” you would say.
And I hear your voice as clear as a bell one thousand times and you are telling me, “You can do this K.”
I joined a line dancing class this week, the very week of the anniversary of your death. Beth, the friend who I believe brought us six meals (I finally told her to stop); she told me about it and so I signed up. The teacher is an old, tall man who made me long for my dad. (I know. I know). He stood in front, long back to us, facing the mirror (he smiled a lot), teaching Cab Driver with extreme patience.
“Count the steps, or you will get lost,” he said, and he counted in French. I found myself counting in French too, which I bet I haven’t done since grade three. “Voila!” he said, a few times. His petite wife of 60 years or more (guessing), danced beside him and a few feet away, in little bright red heels. At first he called out the moves and told us exactly what to do and when to do it, and then sometimes he just used his hands to point in the right direction. That felt good, to get it even just a little bit as we followed, clumsy, messy, intent.