AS IF…and Then
Nothing quite hits a person between the eyes the way a loss does. I suppose it does not have to be the loss of a person that one loves—it could be the loss of a job, a silly thing, some ideal, or just about anything that we cherish. But in my case, this has been the loss of my husband. Someone said that the loss of our mate leaves a hole shaped like that person, and truly, I believe it because a huge part of what I consider to be “me” has disappeared. The hole shaped like Lewis is large and the edges of the hole are still pretty raw. Eventually the edges may not be as painful, but until then, I am just having trouble with the “as ifs” in my life.
I have to act—or at least I try to act—as if anything matters. But nothing except the children, a few friends, a random stranger or two—these are the only ones that matter. And I have trouble even making myself want to be around anyone. Yet I am still as lonesome as the last flycatcher heading south. I try to make myself find something to do each day. The cat gets me up every morning—whether or not I want to does not matter to him. The dog follows me from room to room as if to be sure that I don’t need something he can do for me. I wonder about that. My friend Nan says that he senses my moods and knows that I need something. Maybe that is true. I still try, but I catch myself thinking: as if it matters!
I have lost two jobs in my lifetime. We lost a two-day old baby daughter, and then we had a miscarriage. Lewis lost his job—he called it being fired, and I guess it was, but basically the company finished out its agreement with Darr Equipment and let all the older men like Lewis go the day the agreement ended. He suffered terribly for a long time because of the way that they let him go and the fact that it was not his choice to leave. I hurt for him, but I had to keep telling him that it was probably for the best. These losses all hurt, but it seemed we held on to each other and had hugs, reassurances, and whatever we needed just because we loved each other. It is not the same now; he is not here to hold me when I cry.
He didn’t tell me not to cry. And danged if I don’t do a pretty good job of it once in a while. He came to our daughter in a dream and told her that I would be ok. I think he felt that way before he died. He seemed reassured for some reason when he found out that I would still be working with students as an editor and tutor. It wasn’t like I needed to go to work, but teaching keeps me from just sitting down and holding my hands like some little old lady. But keeping busy or reading, playing on the computer, or whatever I do toward keeping the house clean and orderly does not really serve to help me heal—or it does not seem to in my way of looking at things.
All the things I do bring me back to the “as ifs” in my attitude. As if it matters if I work or not, as if it matters if the house is clean, as if it matters if I go to services and sing with others: these are some of the tiny little things that don’t amount to a hill of beans. I try to eat decent food; I try to be sure that my clothes are clean; I try to talk to others with a cheerful attitude. But I feel as if I were on auto-pilot. I go through the motions and then see myself from a distance, as if I were not really there at all.
Folks who have been where I am—more or less—have told me that this experience—and that term irks me for some reason since “experience” has always seemed more like a choice—will take time. Healing takes time, they tell me. Yes, I have had some injuries and a pretty difficult healing from a surgery. But this does not even seem to compare. The pain stays with me in the background, welling up to grab me by the jaws and in my throat every once in a while about the time that I think I might be “getting better.” Getting better in this case means that I am not bawling and tearing up every time I am around someone. Getting better means I can take a deep breath and wait for the pain to subside while I duck my head and hold on to a better thought.
Sometimes I wish I had something that could keep my interest—something I could look forward to in anticipation. I thought that going to Scotland and Paris might be interesting, but now I just want something common—a good flower garden, a new roof, maybe a reorganizing of the junk in the storage and work sheds. I don’t mind getting dirty to keep me busy. I just don’t want to feel useless and empty—alone with the “as ifs” of life. I can’t have him back; I have to wait and go to him. And then maybe that damned hole will be filled with the love we had all those years.