So, I have made no secret of the fact that this is a tough time of year for me. Actually, I can pretty much come up with a reason for ANY time of the year to be tough…I don’t care if it’s the Chinese New Year or Martha Stewart’s birthday. I can find a way to tie anything into how much I miss my husband.
That is the gift that is widowhood. But this time I really mean it. July blows.
I’m hoping by next week, I will have gotten over what feels like the flu-like symptoms of extreme grieving. You know what I mean? I start feeling not quite right one day and by the next, I’m in full-blown “can’t get out of my bed” mode. My nose is runny and my eyes could probably water my entire lawn. My face is chapped and there are tissues all over my bedroom floor. And this time, for some reason, I feel like I’m starting to have grief hot-flashes.
But this afternoon, I started thinking about something my sister told me a long time ago: The only thing you can control in life is your attitude. And I’m going to run with it.
Yesterday, as I sat sniffling under my down comforter (even though it’s the middle of summer), feeling sorry for myself and everything I’ve been through, I really thought about what I’ve done and that I’m still here. And instead of thinking, “My Gosh, I’ve had a horrible life,” I started thinking, “I did all that? That was me?” And then I thought…
Damn, I’m good.
When I think about the time I spent in the hospital with my husband hooked up to every tube imaginable and learning that he would never be coming home, I can either let that memory bring me to my knees or I can think, “I stayed with him. I was calm (mostly) and held his hand. And when the time came, I still had the presence of mind to give life to others by permitting my husband to be an organ donor. I did that.”
When I think about coming home from the hospital to three small children, it always gives me a mini-nervous breakdown. The fact that I sat my five, three, and one year old children down and calmly told them that Daddy wasn’t going to come home anymore, still amazes me. But I’ve decided to take that bad amazement in turn it into good (‘cause that word can really be used either way).
Instead of imagining their little faces and thinking, “I sat down and told them the worst news they might ever hear,” I’ve decided to look at it another way. I’ve decided to think of it as, “I told my children terrible news in a calm, gentle way and they’re still okay. In fact, they’re doing really well. And I did that. I made it okay for them.”
When I think about going to a memorial service for my husband held at the Air Force Academy to honor those graduates who had died that year, I can’t believe that I did that. (For those of you who have not been to a military memorial…let me tell you…the slowness and precision of the service is one of the most excruciating things you can witness. Beautiful, but incredibly powerful.) I stood there alone while they called the names of each former cadet who had died and someone from their squadron yelled, “Absent, sir!” in front of the entire Homecoming crowd and the current student body
They called in order of age...from oldest to youngest. My husband was second to last.
I dug my fingernails into the palms of my hands, gritted my teeth, and stood still, waiting for my husband’s moment. And when I think back to that, I think, “I did that. I honored him by being there. And for better or for worse, it is a moment I will always remember.”
When I remember all of those hard times, I honestly wonder, “Who was that woman?” ‘Cause the woman looking back at me in the mirror with puffy eyes and dry lips doesn’t seem that brave. She doesn’t look like the kind of person who could take such a blow and still stand up. She doesn’t strike me as the kind of person who could have a conversation with her children without scarring them for the rest of their lives. She doesn’t seem like the kind of woman who could stand at that memorial without falling to the ground in a big sobbing heap of designer suit and Payless shoes.
But we’re both wrapped up in the same person. The woman who found the strength to go through all of that is still here. It’s the memory of that woman that makes things hard. Because when I’m feeling low, I feel like she’s on vacation. And I really need her here to give me a pep talk.
Or…maybe not. What if she turns out to be one of those bitches who just tells me to “get over it?”
© Catherine Tidd 2010