Today, it’s been six months since I last heard your voice. Since I last saw you smile at me. Since you last squeezed my hand back. Since you last told me you love me. Since you last saw your children.
A few days later when I was on the phone with your company benefits trying to arrange short term disability coverage for you, they started talking to me about long term disability, saying that it sets in in 180 days. So, November. On that hot May day, November seemed a lifetime away. Which I guess it is…. but how is it that today is November 16th? How is it still possible that you are never coming home?
Six months later, what do I want to tell you? So much. Every thing. All the things. There is not enough room even on the internet to write it all. There is not enough time.
You didn’t have enough time. We didn’t have enough time with you.
I want you to know first and most importantly that I miss you every day, every minute. I carry you everywhere I go. I know, in theory, I don’t have to wear my wedding rings anymore… and I do catch people looking at them sometimes. But I can not take them off. Also, the day you died, I put your wedding ring like a charm on that heart necklace you bought me in Boulder… It’s heavy, so heavy,but it feels good to rub it between my fingers a couple times a day. A small piece of you. Your death, the fact that you are not here for me to speak to, to hug, to fall asleep beside, to lean on your shoulder, to talk about everything, it doesn’t change the fact that I am still in love with you. I know that I promised “until death do us part” but I had no idea that would be so soon, and I was not ready. I am not ready. I carry the weight in my heart always. I am always sad. Sometimes, I fear that the sad is contagious.
I can imagine you having two reactions to this: 1) You telling me I’m not really sad – I’m fine. I’m a rockstar, your rockstar, a pillar of strength. There is nothing I can not do. I need no one. But that is not true. I need you. 2) You teasing me about “liking to be sad” with my listening to sad music, or my Jodi Piccoult novels. And I can imagine you ending that teasing by reminding me I can’t be sad all the time, because the kids need me.
I’ll tell you this: I don’t think its obvious that I’m always sad. It’s not that I specifically am trying to hide it from others. It’s just that I smile. I try to be “normal.” I look for the silver linings. I try. I try to do all the things you would want me to do. I try to be both mom and dad for the kids. I try to pour into them all the love that they would have gotten from you. Even if I am falling short of all the sports they’d have had in their lives with you.
I want you to know I bought T Swift’s new CD this week. You would have ordered it on Amazon the day it was released. So that you could have it on your Amazon playlist, but pretend it was for me for the car… I saw it in the checkout at Target and just had to pick it up. I want you to know I took A to Mason Madness this year. I want you to know that last week on election day, our state really made history. Unlike last year, it was in a GOOD way!… Danica Roem became the first elected openly transgender candidate to serve in the Virginia House of Delegates. (And she beat out Bob Marshall, who would not debate her an earlier this year advocated for a bathroom bill! ) Kathy Tran became the first Asian-American woman elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, and she had been a refugee – her parents fleeing with her from Vietnam at 7 months old. Our state elected the first two Hispanic women to the Virginia House of Delegates: Elizabeth Guzmán and Hala Ayala. Hala Ayala is a cyber-security specialist, and helped to organize the Women’s March. Finally, (and the only one we were eligible to vote for) Justin Fairfax was elected lieutenant governor as the second ever African-American to hold a state-wide office in Virginia. (And yes, for real his last name is Fairfax.) I think you would have really enjoyed the results of this year’s election.
I want you to know I am doing all the things that I think you are supposed to do. Counseling, counseling for the kids (“play therapy” they call it), a support group (YES, I joined a support group, can you believe that?), I even joined the “hot young widows club”! I think you would really enjoy that.
I want you to know that I went to my first parent-teacher conference without you. It didn’t hit me until I was sitting in that chair, that you had gone to every single conference with me since they started them in daycare at 2 years old!! And as I was thinking of what you would say – the results were very similar to the one we had with the kindergarten teacher in May – it occurred to me that it was the first one without you. I hadn’t prepared myself for that and I nearly cried all over the teacher’s desk. For behavior, she told me A listens, is respectful, and caring. Whatever else my concerns may be, how could I ask for more? Above all, our girl is a good human. She was the apple of your eye, and you would be so proud of her. I am so proud of her.
I want you to know that for our sensitive flower, as you would expect, this has all been very difficult. As you know, she is wise beyond her years, she FEELS, she goes through life with her heart on her sleeve. And this is the hardest of the hard things to experience as a child. To lose one of the two people who mean the most to you. She loves to wear her locket and look at your picture. (Caroline got the girls amazing always in my heart lockets with your photo inside.) She loves to talk about you. Though sometimes they are made up stories. She has had true fear and anxiety about me disappearing too… but it is slowly getting better.
And I want you to know that D is still a joy. I am sure this will have a profound effect on his life – never knowing you, but for now, he is so wonderful. We have a large canvas print of the two of you from last October on his wall, and he looks at it and says “Dada” – which both warms my heart, and breaks it at the same time. That its all he has of you. That he won’t remember you beyond a face in a photo. He is walking now. He is no longer nursing. Which gives me more flexibility, but he is still Momma’s boy! You told me not to spoil him because he’s the baby. But… I don’t know that that is a doable-do now. Oh, but you’ll be happy to know the hockey sticks are his favorite toy…closely followed by a broom, lacrosse sticks, or a wiffle bat..and a ball. I can not wait to watch him grow, even as I want him to slow down!
Mostly, I think you’d be very proud of me. In small ways, I think you’d be disappointed in me. When I have those moments, I try to redirect. I’m doing the very best I can.
I want you to know about the village. You wouldn’t even believe it. All the people who showed up. All the people who stepped up. My experience with loss now has taught me what many say – which is that tragedy allows people to show their true colors. And sometimes this will be very disappointing. But I must say in only VERY extremely rare cases has this been disappointing. On the whole, I have been absolutely amazed by the kindness, generosity and magnanimity of our friends, neighbors, family, friends of friends, and the list goes on… You would have said this was because I’m a good person. But the truth is, it has a LOT to do with you! The outpouring of love for you, and for the four of us because of your love for us would have amazed you. Your family has embraced us as their own. All of it…It is truly humbling.
I want to thank you for all the gifts you gave me. The obvious ones – A, R and D. But the less obvious too. The gift of you. And of being such an open book that I knew you so well, I am almost never truly wondering what you would have thought, what you would have said. I always know. Its like I wear a “WWTD” bracelet. But its around my heart. And I try to (nearly) always act accordingly. (Admittedly, there are times when I have to agree to disagree with you and remind you that much as you would have hated it – I get the last word here. Because I am here.) You are my north star. My morale compass. You are still my partner in parenting even though you are not here.
That may be the hardest thing. The parenting without you. You were such a presence. You were so dedicated to being Dad. In the last 6 months you tried to take over a lot more of the responsibilities. We balanced each other so well in parenting. When one of us was about to lose it, the other stepped in. Truthfully, you flew off the handle more than I did… but now… when I am about to lose it with one of the kids…. there is no one there to step in for me. It’s always me. The only parent. I am always in charge.
Today was A’s school Thanksgiving lunch. Remember when we both went last year? I asked neighbors how it works – should I pack her lunch? What should we do? This year, I let her buy. And I bought the Thanksgiving lunch myself too. That was interesting! She has been obsessed with the school yearbook lately. It came out after you got sick. A photo of you and our A on your Watch Dog day is right in the centerfold. And you and A and I are all pictured on the Thanksgiving luncheon page. So I had to go. After lunch, I went back to her classroom. She made a turkey of the things she is thankful for. At the end, she said, “wait, Mommy where is the hand I listed you on?” (The hands were the turkey’s feathers.) Then she wrote Daddy on that same hand. You may have been an after thought, but she did not forget. She is thankful for you.
In summary, I can’t believe it’s been 6 months since May 16th, when I took you to the ER, when you were admitted to the ICU, when you asked me if I brought a book. When my life changed forever. I want you to know that I miss you constantly, with every breath I take. I am trying hard to keep your memory alive in the hearts of our children always. And I want you to know that I’ve got the kids… and I am doing the absolute best that I can. And I will keep trying. Every day. Forgive me on the day I get things wrong, OK? I miss you. And I love you.
Love always, MaryBeth