4×6

There are days when I want to burn them all. Every single flat, one-dimensional photo that I have of him. Because I hate that it’s all I have. I hate that I can’t feel the stubble on his face, only run my fingers across the high-gloss sheen of a 4×6 from Walgreens. Is that all you’ve got for me? A shiny fake finish on a life that was so much more? It’s not enough to fill the void. Not. Enough.

Actually, hold on, we can frame it differently if you’d like, we give him 4-6 months. How do those dimensions work for you? 4-6? 4×6? More like getting smacked in the chest with a 2×4.

I never thanked his oncologist. I think it’s because she was the one who said those words. She wasn’t to blame; she tried to help. But it was on that day that I felt the floor give out from under us, and down the rabbit hole we went. It was infuriating and sickening to look up and see them all watching helplessly, with pity in their eyes, knowing there was nothing they could do. But 4 months is more than some people get. And cancer? I guess I can be thankful that I have a convenient enemy to direct my anger at.

And so I continue to flop around, some days thankful, other days resentful. Surrounded by photos, and his folded t-shirts. Memories. A drawer full of socks. His shoes, sitting in the closet, empty, never to be filled again. And the photos, a precious, precious facsimile, but devilish in their trickery. I hate them and love them. The reminder of everything I had, and everything I lost.

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.

It’s just data.

DSC03153-effect“I’m afraid to say, that what we have here is a complete hard drive failure.”

God damn it! If I’m not careful, I am going to go into a “complete emotional failure”. An epic widow melt-down. Breathe. Process this news s l o w l y.

See, on my most wonderful, “joyous” birthday in December, my computer crashed. Died. The IT guys at work couldn’t fix it, so, after much procrastination (obviously, as it’s now February), I took it to a specialist. Which is where I got the diagnosis. He explained that there was still hope for retrieving the data, by sending it to a data recovery service. But it would cost me. How much? I vaguely heard him say, possibly $600, going up to a thousand, as my mind started freaking out. Continue reading