Saturday, November 17, 2012
I was looking at my personal page on Facebook the other day (something I haven't done much in 2012 thanks to the election) and I saw a post from my friend Karen Turner, Founder of ASK (Acts of Simple Kindness) that said:
"Today, I'm grateful that I have a ♥ home ♥ -- not just a house. When Steve died, our house felt like four walls on a rocky foundation -- he brought such life and energy and when he died, it was just so quiet and empty. Over the past five years, it's become a home again thanks to a crazy kitten, a puppy with way too much energy and a tornado of a happy and healthy boy. It's taken some work, physically and emotionally, but it's also gone from 'our' house to 'my' house which has been bittersweet but necessary to move forward."
I sat there at my computer for a minute and thought, "Good for her."
And then I sat up when I realized, "Wait. Me too!"
I don't know when it happened. I mean, I know exactly when my house stopped becoming my home and became just a structure that kept us warm (something that I'm always grateful for). It was the day that death walked in the front door and sucker-punched us, leaving us all breathless. But...when did it become a home again?
How could something so important - so monumental - happen in a way that I didn't even notice?
Well, I guess it must have been gradually.
I've passed the 5 year mark. I got through it this summer. On Monday I will celebrate my husband's 6th birthday without him, a day that is usually filled with adventure because I take my kids out of school and we do completely frivolous, mind-numbing, junk-food-eating-til-we're-sick stuff all day in order to celebrate his life. (I'm sure he would approve.) And I've chosen the word "adventure" because otherwise I would have to say "this day really sucks and makes me want to crawl into a hole with my favorite sweats, a box of Puffs plus, and a family-size bag of Doritos."
I tried to do that one year but I didn't have the energy to actually dig the hole.
Anyway, I've learned throughout the years that most of the changes we go through in the widdahood are so jarring that it takes us months to realize what has actually happened. But, as we move forward, changes actually take months and it's the realization that's jarring. So when Karen published that post, it took me by surprise. Because I suddenly realized I felt the same way.
I know that I'm one of the lucky ones. I wasn't forced to move from my home right after my husband's death and for that I'll always be grateful. I remember my realtor telling me once, "There's nothing more stressful than moving, except maybe death or taxes."
So what happens if you hit the trifecta?
The truth is that right after my husband died, I was itching to move. Actually...I was itching to do just about anything as long as it kept me from thinking about what had happened. For some reason I thought what I needed was change and I rationalized that moving made sense. But deep down I think I knew that I was just trying to run away. Trying to break free from the grief I felt I had suddenly become a slave to.
Trying to get away from the walls that contained so many dreams that would never be realized.
But I didn't move. I asked for a sign one day and said, "If I'm supposed to move tell me now."
I won't tell you what the sign was, but it came about 5 minutes after my request and took no interpretation: STAY WHERE YOU ARE.
So I stayed in the house that was no longer a home and I changed a few things. I changed my bedroom. I painted here and there. I bought a new TV. I, in an act of defiance, put a chair in a place that I knew my husband wouldn't approve of. I took what we had and slowly made it mine.
Actually, I made it ours. But not the "ours" that we were before. I took this house and made it home - for the family fate forced us to be.
And then there were the "stuck" years. The years that the house tied me so tightly to my husband I felt I could never break the bond. The years when I actually envisioned being in this house alone because I would choose it over anyone who came my way. The years that made my house a territory to be protected - which is much different than a home.
In the last few months, I've started entertaining again. I stopped doing that for a while and I'm not sure why. It could be that in the first couple of years, I entertained non-stop trying to convince myself of something I didn't quite feel yet. And it could be that in the last couple of years, I stopped entertaining because it seemed so empty - I knew that bringing our friends here would not bring him back.
And that didn't just make me helpless. It made me feel hopeless. And, in a spiritual way, homeless.
But now. My house is filled with laughter. Filled with hope. Filled with the faith that comes from knowing that we are a family, even if our original vision of "family" may never be realized. It's warm and comforting with my husband's old leather chair in the corner and the kids' most recent artwork on the walls. This house is a part of my husband because I can look around and see all of the things he's fixed. All of the things he's painted. And all of the things that we have kept because we love him.
But I can also see things that we, the family we never thought we would be, have done. I can look at things I've fixed. And I can see the things that are broken that will make me call a repair man (and curse my husband's absence while I'm doing it). I can look at his picture, still hanging on the wall even though recently I've been thinking of taking it down because I'm ready to.
And then I know.
Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of www.theWiddahood.com and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014). She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.