Buzz Cut

Yes, indeed. I am mortal (in case any of us forgot). Just had my hair cut. And it took me down a notch. What was that story about Samson? He lost all of his strength when his hair was cut?

It’s been almost a year since I was last at the salon. I remember, because it was not long after my husband died, and at the time I couldn’t bring myself to tell my stylist. And today? Same thing. I couldn’t say it. There were a few moments in the conversation where I could have said it, but I felt my throat choke up, and it didn’t come out.

Why does it matter? Does she need to know? Kind of. I’ve been going to her for years. We chit-chat. When I leave out the truth, there’s not much else to say. My weekends are not full of adventures, my nights are not spent trying new restaurants. Any trips coming up? Why yes, I’m going to “Camp Widow”! That would have at least gotten the conversation started.

And those who do know, try. How are you holding up? You look good. Hanging in there? Yes. Not bad. Fine. Hanging in there. But they will never get it, and I don’t expect them to. I’m walking around like a “normal” person, upright, holding conversations steady. Keeping to the safe zone. But every day, there lies the potential for something to completely slay me. Boom. At the knees. Chopped down before I can even say splat. Continue reading

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Happy Birthday dear Pisces.

It’s been sitting in the same place for months. The beautiful ceramic container. I dust it. I put my hands on it. Sometimes I say a few words. I like to place flowers next to it, offerings of chocolate. A bear-claw pastry and tulips for his birthday.

My best friend flew out from California, to stay with me after my husband died. She and I wandered the little galleries and shops until I found the “container” that would become his urn. When I saw it, my heart welled up. I could barely speak. The earthen tones, the round soft shape, and the lid, it had a fish on it. For my nature-loving Pisces.

The container was heavy even before it contained his remains. But when I held it for the first time at the funeral home, I was shaking. The weight of it. Both physical and emotional, I wasn’t sure I could carry it forward, let alone out of the funeral home. Continue reading

An altered landscape

GovNelPrairieThere are a lot of things you are forced to accept when someone dies.

One of the more confounding things is that other people will mourn differently. Most of them in their own quiet way, not able to share their experience of the loss with you. Perhaps because they are afraid to, or they don’t know how. When we grieve, we learn about ourselves. Though grief is brought on by the loss of someone else, when you are thrust into grief, you spend a lot of time trying to comprehend your own reaction to it.

There is a park that I drive past often, my husband and I used to run there, we’d take the dog to the lake, we’d photograph prairie plants. It’s a vast park with woodland and prairie trails, and it lies along a scenic, but busy country highway.

I remember several years ago noticing a dead tree that stood on its own, near the road. It punctuated the top of the hill as you drove past the park, it was such a lovely silhouette. I told my husband that I wanted to photograph it. It was one of those things you say, but never do. It would have been hard to photograph, it would have to be done from the road, there wasn’t really a good place to stop, it was dangerous, last year a cyclist was hit and killed. And really, I have always thought, not everything has to become a photo, right? Some things should just be experienced.

Well, one day we came over the crest of the hill and the tree was gone. It had crumbled, or fallen, perhaps taken down in a storm. As we zipped past (going at least 55mph, as is the posted speed limit), I could see the remnants, how the tree had fallen, on its natural way to decomposition. On this busy commuter road, probably no other soul even noticed. But I have often wondered, did anyone else notice?

I noticed. Every time I drove past the park, it bothered me! I mourned it, the old landscape. The striking view, that was once worthy of a snapshot, had lost its star performer. This singular element gave the whole scene meaning, tied everything together. Like my life. My marriage, my partnership. The Fred, of Fred and Ginger, gone.

That is one of my greatest anxieties now. The worry, and frustration, that I am the only one who remembers there was once a beautiful and unique tree, completing the hillside, completing the picture of our life. The other commuters continue on, busy with their lives, too consumed with their own comfort to stop and take note of a landscape forever changed. But that is an assumption. And I hope it’s wrong.

I know he wasn’t “everything” to “everyone”. But he was everything to me. And his death has altered me, my view, and viewpoint. And even though I have slowly gotten used to the landscape at the park, I have accepted its softer silhouette, I will never be able to look at it without feeling the absence of the tree, without missing what once was.

And those who knew him, I can only hope that they too will remember him, that he will forever be a part of the landscape of their lives, even in his absence. They probably don’t realize that every time they mention him, or mention their grief, it’s a treasure to me, it helps diffuse the burden, the weight, the worry that I am the only one working on the scrapbook, desperately trying to keep the pieces together, every single story, every memory, like dots of ink on paper, building to create the complete picture, a snapshot of a life once lived.

A light dusting…

20130202-123152.jpgIt’s been quieter around here. I’ve been going to yoga, working on my strength. Healing my body. Calming my mind. Trying to take it one day at a time, keeping anxiety at bay. Like the light dusting of snow just barely covering the sidewalk this morning, just barely covering the dangerous icy patches underneath, I am lightly treading the path of grief…for now.

This time of year is tough in the Midwest. Everyone else is posting pictures of spring, the catalogs show women wearing sandals…we’re getting a snow storm. The simple act of stepping out your front door is treacherous, there’s black ice on the sidewalks, you can’t decipher wet from slick. Most people don’t even walk their dogs. The worst part is that your body remains in a constant state of anticipation, hunched over from the cold, wound tight like a spring ready to absorb a fall. I haven’t been able to turn my head to the left for months. Though I am not sure who to blame, winter, grief, or my job. Continue reading