I remember reading on widow boards that it might not be the holidays or anniversaries you're dreading that get you...you'll have prepared for those emotionally- expecting the pain. But instead, that the pain would hit you when you least expect it, on the ordinary hum-drum days- at the grocery store, in the car, when a certain song comes on the radio.
But...I haven't had that experience yet, because as I've explained there has been no contrast- no space for grief to sneak up on me or coming and going so that I might feel those "waves" of grief everyone talks about it. It has abided with me, day and night- even while I slept. In a sick way- I was protected from those surprise attacks.
But now, with the contrast- come the waves- and I found this week- the sudden pain completely unannounced.
Halloween morning. I hadn't given a lot of thought to Dan missing seeing Audrey dressed up- maybe because he wasn't home for a single Halloween of her life. The first he was working until she was asleep. The second he was away on tour. By the third, he was dead. So I guess it's always been just me and her. Also, we'd been traveling and only gotten back to the snow covered Northeast late Sunday evening so I was tired on Monday morning, got Audrey dressed in her fairy wings, grabbed her orange plastic pumpkin and drove to preschool without much thought.
I knew parents were allowed to stay a few minutes later than usual to take photos of all the three-year olds in their costumes, but I hadn't expected so many dads to come. Ambushed. Blindsided. Women introducing husbands to other women. "This is my husband..." "Oh, this is my husband..." Couples. Father and Mother smiling at their child.
I took a few pictures of Audrey waving her star wand, hugging a ladybug, and fluttering her best fairy flutter, and found out she didn't need the orange pumpkin for their trick or treating to the few other classrooms. "Bye!" the couples say to me. I walk quickly to my car but the tears are already coming. How strange, I think, that during what is possibly the loneliest moment of my life, I am walking across a snow-covered playground holding a bright orange plastic pumpkin.