One of the hardest things about losing my husband was missing the person I felt completely comfortable with. You know…that person you can hang out with in ripped, paint spattered sweatpants with your hair in a scrunchy that you’ve held on to since the 80s. That person who will tell you when you have spinach in your teeth.
That person who will just flat-out say when you’re doing something dumb and you won’t hesitate to extend them the same courtesy.
Now, most people don’t think about this. But when you’re left to start all over, all you’re left with are a lot of people you have to be polite to. And you really don’t miss that level of rude honestly until it’s gone.
Like, I can’t say to my friend, “You’re going out in that?” Or I guess I could but I bet I would find myself friendless before too long. I can’t say to my dog, “For God’s sake, brush your teeth in the morning before you kiss me.” Because she really doesn’t care. And if I’m out on a date for the first time, I can’t just blurt out, “That’s nice. But wait until you hear about my day” because he could really probably give a crap about what’s going on with me.
I missed having that person around that I could talk to and say, “You know what? You look like someone who shopped out of the bargain section of a dumpster today. But I love you anyway.” And he would return the compliment.
I don’t know if any of you achieved that level of honesty with your spouse and, to be quite honest, it took me awhile to get there with mine. But after 13 years together, we had finally gotten to the point where we could just really let ‘er rip. And now I’m always worrying about everyone’s feelings and whether or not I’ve said the right thing in the right tone of voice with the right look on my face.
I remember, not long after my husband died, having a conversation with my mother about how I had lost the only person I felt like I could be completely honest with. How it had taken me years to get to the point where I could successfully tell someone “like it is” without worrying that he would pack his duffle bag and hit the road. I think back to a conversation we had years ago that, at the time, didn’t seem important. But now, it’s like a benchmark for the start of every relationship I have.
It was my birthday. My husband had very thoughtfully taken the kids out to choose a birthday cake for me and when they came home, they presented me with a beautifully decorated ice cream cake.
But I hated ice cream cake.
As I sat through a lovely dinner and the traditional blowing of the candles, I thought to myself, “Should I just let this slide, or should I tell him?”
I finally came to the conclusion, after we had put the kids to bed, that I should just come clean and tell him that I wasn’t crazy about ice cream cake. After all, it was possible that we could be married for another 60 years and I didn’t want another 60 ice cream cakes. I reconciled this with my conscience by thinking that I was actually doing him a favor by telling him the truth. I told myself that it would be like I was lying to him if I didn’t.
The conversation went something like this:
“Sweetie…I just wanted to let you know…I’m not crazy about ice cream cake.”
“No…ice cream cake is your favorite. Not mine. I like regular cake.”
“Really? Well, I’ve never really liked your chicken parmesan.”
After years of making the same recipe that I thought he loved, I found out that he hated it.
We then proceeded to have a conversation for the next half hour about all of the things we had been doing that the other person disliked. There were no hard feelings. There were no tears. And I stopped making the dreaded chicken parmesan.
When I told my mother about it later, she couldn’t believe that we had actually done that. And, after he was gone and I was forced to acclimate myself to more “civilized” relationships, I couldn’t believe it either.
I mean…how many women tell their husbands they don’t like a dessert?
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© Catherine Tidd 2010