|Snapshot of yard and studio slot of old house, flat and shot on hearth tiles in new house.|
I found this snapshot in a pile a little while after Gavin died, doing that endless sorting of condolence cards and photos and to-do lists that widows do. I called the picture "halcyon days," using a mental tone of irony and fondness. Some griefy evenings I couldn't stop looking at it while the microwave hummed. See the view from our back porch, golden light one tolerable summer evening after hours of tilling for a new vegetable bed, and a shed whose 1000 pieces and predrilled misfit holes nearly drove us batty. Look at that past! It was pretty, and ordinary, and all that land was mine.
I'm selling the old house, the one we bought together, where I experienced boatloads of disappointment. More than that, it's hard for me to admit that I scuttled off so many dreams BEFORE Gavin died. Those are the ones I'm grieving now.
I'm some combination of steeped in sadness and serious avoidance mode, using the driving-backwards-fast, corner-cutting, curb-jumping skillz that I gained after loss, merely to survive.
Approaching the five year mark, I'm finding all kinds of others in the same year are having similar experiences: like any anniversary, all the tension is in the approach. At least, so far. Thinking about earlier losses and this house a bunch — the house we failed to build into our dream house, the one we could barely afford that is worth a bloody fortune now, where we built Kevin his perfect studio, where I went to grad school.
Going over our home with an agent yesterday reminds me of all the dreams I dropped long ago. Losing a spouse young is the death of so many futures, so many opportunities, but I hadn't taken those seriously. Now I can't forget the ideas I had of being a business genius, a gardener of the too lush (we had a huge lot), of being parents easily, of accepting so much together without the rest of the world butting in.
Infertility chopped away at us, then cancer butted in really hard, feet first, so it would hurt the most.
Nostalgia IS a disease. Look at the light… I thought I could conquer all those weeds (I did push back a huge bed of English ivy, hundreds of square feet). I remember, now, what life was like before I was a parent: a long garden day, working till the last glimmer of the sun fell, then taking a shower without interruption, going to bed whenever I felt like it. We used to make real dinners. Gavin did all the cooking, I hope you understand how this affected the bargains I made…
I'm reminded of our inertias and disappointments as a couple. I thought he was handy. He thought I had no ambitions. Maybe I thought that, too. Either way, we barely painted the walls, never fixed the catastrophic kitchen, and the weeds coexisted with the plants I liked and the ones he liked, happily or not, but sharing soil for years. A year after I've moved out, the weeds have taken over everything again, and that annoying shed is the perfect studio we built for him, and for me, that we opened just before his diagnosis and so, has lain mostly fallow too.
I made a lot of compromises those 15 years, but holding my breath the whole time: it's taken me this long to find out how much that hurt and how my true grain runs.
Avoidance and bitterness are crappy tools to use in the new future. I'm hoping I got some kind of discount on the midlife crisis when I got the grief and single parenting package. I can't afford to be macho and insist that losing futures is no big deal. I should still have a few futures left!
Here's to what's next, and being brave enough to see the golden light of tomorrow.