I had been hoping I'd felt the worst of this- willing to go along with societal pressures to hurry up and grieve and get going again. Even though other widows told me it would get worse once the shock wore off, I wanted to believe that maybe I was just stronger than them- in those earlier days when I was functioning in emergency mode, but functioning- because I didn't get it at all yet.
It was the same when I was attempting natural child birth. I wanted so much to believe that since I'd had painful cramps my whole life, labor would be easier for me. I dropped to my knees in pain as we were getting to the hospital, but still found it bearable, and was hoping to find I was at least half way there. I was one centimeter dilated- not even close.
This morning Audrey and I were talking about her upcoming birthday at breakfast. "I'm TOOO," she says. You would've loved the way she says it hon. But I began to cry as I realized you truly wouldn't be there- because I'd known it before, but now I felt it.
I opened another bag of photos we'd never unpacked from our last apartment- took out one large photo of us looking into each other's eyes on our wedding day. Then I found a small oval, etched, mirrored frame tied with a thick black ribbon that I'd placed our wedding vows in. I typed them up and aged the paper I printed them on with tea bags. "til death separates us," I see. "for richer or poorer"- I remember we looked at each other and laughed at that point in the vows because we both thought we were always going to be on the poor side. I placed the mirrored frame on the table with all of your photos and leaned it up against the vase of flowers tenderly.
I decided since we had no plan, Monday could be our "walk to Whole Foods and get mac and cheese for lunch day"- keep it consistent and simple- as few decisions to be made as possible. On the way there, I saw an old man across the street. Cried again imagining how handsome you would've been as an older man.
On our walk I thought about a lot of things- and was thankful for once, that Audrey's stroller was facing the other way. It seems to be a day where every stage of grief attacks at once. I have felt it all so far today. Denial: I try to imagine there is still some way for the outcome of your swim to change. I enter negotiations- I wish for you to see me now- how your death has changed me- I'm no longer the woman you left here on June 29th. Guilt: I feel guilt for the first time specifically relating to your death. What if I had called you that morning and we'd talked for a while? What if you hadn't met up with that friend? You might have still went in the water a bit, but surely not as far out on your own. Why didn't I call? I was doing my own thing- trying to keep us busy because it was so hard- because I missed you so much- every moment. Every day. But I didn't bother calling. I thought when I came inside from the pool and that dreadful phone rang- I thought that was you calling me. I think about when I saw your suitcase laid out on the floor the night before you left. I noticed your tan and striped bathing suit in there. I almost said to you, "Why are you packing your bathing suit? You're not going on vacation?" because I was resentful that I'd be alone and you might be swimming. Then I stopped myself. I thought you'd get really angry, take the suit out, and say "Fine, I won't take it!" And then I'd feel bad. Why didn't I just say something? How dramatically different our lives might have been had I just nagged one more time.
Last night Audrey was up at 4 am screaming for a while- I tried to ignore it but it didn't stop, so I had to go in, give her some water, and sit for a while. After that I couldn't fall asleep. Anger: This is when the anger comes in. Another widow tells me it was when things in her house broke down. For me, it is in the middle of the night when Audrey is screaming and I am tired and alone. "How could you leave me like this?" "Look at this!" I think or say out loud.
At Whole Foods, I made conversation with a young mom who I see there often working as a cashier. I asked about her son- "Two boys," she said. She told me about how one was upset with her for putting something off she said she'd help him with on the computer. "I'm a single mom," she said.
"I am too," I answered back...trying it out...surprising myself. It felt false and I hated it.
Audrey and I walked all the way down the path by the river even though it was very hot in the sun. I felt like walking, but I walked very slowly pushing the stroller. I forgot to put sun-tan lotion on Audrey and I know you would've said something. Even if she was in the sun a little bit, you'd position your body as we walked to shade her as she sat in the stroller. I look for your shadow.
And then I recall how also, in the cold winter, on windy days- you'd insist on walking in front of me and make your shoulders wider- to shield me from the cold.