I am sitting here doing what I wanted to do all day – crying. Crying about what isn’t, what is gone. I am an emotional wreck because today was the first day of school. This would have been the first day of the new school year since Kevin retired. That fact really hit home when I went on Facebook and saw a picture of one of Kevin’s co-workers sitting in a lawnchair in her pjs, a cup of coffee in her hand, in front of the school that she taught at with Kevin. This was something he would have done, laughing and calling out at his friends as they went into the school. I woke up to this image and it brought back painfully how much I loved him, liked him and needed him – he was the centre of my world.
Unfortunately for my co-workers it also set the tone for the day. The self-talk that went through my head today was all negative. Nothing was good enough, right or made sense to me. It was a day where I should have worked in isolation, but instead had to interact at a level that was beyond my reach. Better to stay silent than say anything – which is exactly what I tried to do – put my head down and just get through. I just want this day over. How many times have I said that in the last 17 months. Far too many, too many days where I’d like to pull the bedsheets over my head and avoid everyone and everything.
It’s been almost a year and a half but that doesn’t make the hurt go away; it provides the time to compartmentalize, to package up the pain and hide it away so it is not bare and exposed, but it doesn’t go away. Like today, today it was in every thought I had. I saw no joy today, only sorrow.
Or at least it was. Yesterday I had my first birthday without my husband, Kevin, around. He was around for the last 33 of them. It was a day like any other day, which is how it needed to be. So how was it really? It went like this. I woke up in the morning and cried. Not body-racking sobs, just quiet tears of sadness. I got a few text messages from my kids and family, gentle and tentative reach-outs to let me know they hadn’t forgotten, but also that they were unsure. So was I. I debated whether or not I would be able to go to work. Could I keep it together? It would have been so easy to stay home. The last thing I wanted to do was see anyone.
I went to work. A few people were aware it was my birthday, and so I had a few well-wishers. I did what anyone would do, thanked them and then moved on. Mercifully, there was no fuss. It was a day like any other day. Except that I knew it wasn’t. The thing is not to think about it. Easier said than done, but when I was able to immerse myself in reading, I actually forgot for a while. It all came back though when it was time to head home.
Pulling into the driveway I was, again, crying – tears streaming down my face. There would be no one to greet me at the door. No one to question me about working on my birthday. Nothing bugged Kevin more than when I would work on my birthday. He was amazed that anyone would. Birthdays in his world were about being indulged and being indulgent. So if I worked on my birthday, I knew when I walked in the door he’d be telling me to think about getting ready to go out. He’d ‘splash the cash’ and take me and whichever of the kids were around out for a nice dinner. My daughter’s fiance is born on the same day as me. So we merged the celebrations and still Kevin paid – he was on the hook no matter what – and he was resigned to that fact and happily coughed up the cash.
So this year I came home to an empty house – no Kevin. It’s just so very sad. I did, however, have plans for dinner and so was only home for an hour or so and then back out for dinner with the ladies. A different group of ladies – the ones from my grief group. The night was really just a get-together as a final thank you to the facilitators and members of the group for sharing and caring through the eight weeks of the class. They did know it was my birthday and it was handled very well. They’ve faced these milestones before and understand that for this year, at least, it’s modified slightly. It’s not ‘Happy Birthday”; it may sound almost the same, but this year for me it’s ‘have a birthday’. That’s all it was, this year I have a birthday. Maybe next year it will be back to happy birthday, I am not sure. The year ahead is unknown, the birthdays are unrelenting – they come regardless of circumstance. It’s up to me I guess as to whether I have a birthday or I have a Happy Birthday.
So I cry, a lot. It’s probably pretty obvious by some of my posts. I don’t think I cry an inordinate amount anymore, but every day I cry. Contrary to popular opinion, crying doesn’t make me feel better – it actually makes me feel lousy. My sinuses fill up, my chest aches, and there is no point that I pass where I experience a sudden lifting of pressure. None. It is a painful fullness, a dull throbbing in my head and heart. I feel overfull – too many thoughts and emotions happening at the same time. The emotional response (crying) is like a small puncture in a balloon where the air seeps out slowly. I wish there was a quick release, but there’s not. It’s just that I am past capacity and something has to give. So I cry.
This weekend was another first to get through, and we did. My eldest grandson turned four. Wonderful, fabulous four. My husband, Kevin, would have loved it. Four is such a great age; any gift is a good gift as long as it is wrapped. My present to my four year old grandson was a bicycle. Not just any bicycle, but a lovely red and blue Spiderman bicycle complete with training wheels.
Kevin rode a bicycle; during all 31 years of our marriage he rode a bike. As long as the weather was half decent, he’d get the bike out and ride to the school where he taught. This was not a short cycle either; it was about eight kilometres one way and all hills. Kevin’s physique didn’t suggest athleticism and we would joke how he looked like Kermit the Frog on his bike with his long skinny legs and his round body. It’s an image that will stay with me and the kids for the rest of our lives.
Thus the purchase of a bicycle was more than a simple gift in my mind. I felt somehow like I had perpetuated a circle of life rite. It felt like Kevin shared in the giving with me. I cried when I bought the darn thing, I cried when my grandson left with it. And I cry right now as I think about how my grandson will ride his bike and his grandfather will not be here to see it. Ah, the dull throbbing associated with emotions slips over me again.