Five months in and we were madly in love. Listening to the best music, Springsteen, Zevon, Clapton, Eagles, Ronstadt, Jackson, listening to music you were creating with Ed in the studio that held nighttime adventures. We saw every new movie and ate at Chinese restaurants that no longer exist. We drove the streets of Hollywood, Santa Monica, Venice and Woodland Hills and we drove the highways to Yosemite, up the coast exploring, spending late afternoons at the beach watching surfers and sunsets.
Five months in and our families were meeting. Could this be serious? We didn’t let a day go by without spending at least a part of it together because separation was not possible. We became part of a bigger circle of friends and possibilities seemed endless as our futures began to merge, becoming entwined.
Five months out and I miss the love, and the music. The shared dinners at our favorite places no longer exist and sitting in the movies holding hands is a retreating memory. I drive the streets alone with Google Maps for company. Driving highways triggers memories, but also creates new memories with my daughters along. The beach with its salty air, endless waves and pelicans provides familiar solace.
Five months out and our little family grieves, not sure of our new formation, not sure about the approaching holidays and the new traditions we will begin to create. This is serious. A text thread miles long connects us now and if a day goes by without contact my heart aches for the loss of our intact family. I am grateful to be part of a community and an expanding circle of friends but I don’t know what the possibilities are or what my future will look like. The unwinding of two lives, braided together over time is an unfamiliar painful process.
Five months ago my world stopped with your heart and the unrequested resuscitation failed us all. I wake up many nights at 2:59 or 3:30. The time your heart stopped, the time they declared you were officially gone. I look at the clock as I turn out the light at night, 11:11 p.m. and I startle awake from dreams of you at 1:11 a.m. Is it a message? Can you show me a sign that is easy to read, more transparent, less symbolic? Hotel rooms numbered 303, an entourage of Honda Pilots, I am grasping for meaning and trying to comprehend the incomprehensible. I was told the other day, that there is no rhyme or reason and even with our best efforts to live healthy lives the best we can hope for is good luck. Five months in we had it. Five months ago yours ran out. Five months out and luck is a mystery.
A sign and a reminder.
The hours between 4:00 and 7:00 p.m. when twilight approaches and the daylight hours are coming to an end bring a shadow of melancholy. The daytime is busy with work, errands, exercise and occasional plans with friends. Then twilight encroaches with stillness and quiet. I am not preparing dinner or readying a welcoming home as I have done for most of my life. There are not children here needing to be driven to lessons or supervise homework for. I come home to the house as it was when I left in the morning, put away my school things, lunch bag, and change into fresh clothes. I take care of “business” answering emails, bringing in the mail, paying bills, washing daytime dishes, and watering plants. The night looms ahead with it’s empty hours and solitary dinner.
I used to look forward to some quiet time after the energy filled day of teaching and being surrounded by so many people. I came home and enjoyed a couple of hours decompressing and finding my voice again. I enjoyed planning meals, surprising Gary with something healthy and delicious when he arrived home or better yet, cooking together, and looked forward to settling in on the couch to unwind together watching TV, or back in the days of Charlie, going for an evening walk. We went to movies frequently (I have seen one movie in the past five months) and loved to go out to our favorite restaurants. That is all in the past now.
I look for new ways to fill the twilight hours, so I can get to the evening, when I can retreat to old habits of reading, writing or my new habit of watching mindless TV. A few times a week I go to yoga class and find comfort on the mat, in the repetition of familiar postures and in the energy of others seeking solace. Occasionally I have an early dinner with a friend and relax in the company of conversation. I attend my grief support group and share with others traveling this uncertain road. Nothing replaces the familiar routines of my life though. Creating a new routine is trial and error with some things bringing relief and others bringing a new onslaught of loneliness and sadness.
The days are bearable, and the evenings a welcome relief, but the twilight is painful with its solitude. I wonder how people adjust to being one, instead of two (or more). I look out at the lights twinkling in the Valley and think about all of the people alone in their homes and wonder about this new phase of my life. I’ve been cheering others on in my role as an encourager for most of my life, providing support and positive affirmations, celebrating successes and reassurance in times of struggle. I have not practiced doing this for myself. My life now can be anything I want it to be, I just never really thought about what I wanted before now.
A life-changing event occurred this week when my granddaughter was born. It has been such a bittersweet time filled with equal bursts of joy and sorrow. Anticipating a joyous birth while grieving the loss of my husband has left me feeling a little confused. When grieving, I welcomed the images of my lovely daughter, expecting my granddaughter and so filled with the natural feelings of bliss, terror, excitement and anticipation. When I got consumed with the bubbling-over excitement of my impending grandmother status I felt the drips of sadness that Gary will not be sharing the joys of being a grandparent with me and so angry at the unfairness of it all. He would have loved holding her and watching her grow. I am sure he would have spoiled her with attention and introduced her to the drums, perhaps with a little drum of her own. He would have loved to take her to the mountains and watch her little face gaze at the giant trees.
Birth is a celebration and a confirmation that life does flow in a circle of seasons. While some are just beginning and others have gone, there are those of us here, traveling this circle and considering all that life is. I look at that lovely little face, the cheeks chubby and her serene eyes. She is an old soul. I already want to nickname her Buddha. She is the joy we have been waiting for and an amazing tribute not only to my mother, her namesake, but also to all of the women in our respective families who move forward in strength through the times we think we can never survive.
I heard a TED talk today that talked about different lives. We think we are living one life, but really we have many lives. My family is starting a new life now and it is a life without Gary, but a life with little Marjorie. Even though my dad and my mother, the original Marjorie, are not here, we are. We are here to take part in this journey and to share in the excitement of our growing family and the love we all share.
Mothers have a tie to their children that is so strong it can be felt long after birth. There is a physical feeling connected to any separation that I still feel and an ache in my heart when my daughters are not nearby. It is not depressing, or debilitating, but still a very real sensation. It’s amazing and overwhelming when I think about creating a living being and how women get that honor and tremendous responsibility. It is even more incredible to see that continue with my own daughter’s entrance into motherhood. I look forward to watching them both grow and develop their own tie, the kind that binds women together.