You think you will be destroyed by the enormity of the situation.
By the knowledge that he will never see his kids graduate or marry.
That he will never be a grandfather.
That you will not grow old together.
This, however, you can survive.
It is the little things that crush you.
The little things rob you of your breath and sting your eyes.
Requesting a table for three.
Sorting laundry without his clothes.
The stockpile of hot sauce that only he liked.
Feeding his cat.
The unused passenger seat in the car.
Getting rid of things we kept out of habit.
Keeping that hideous Scarface poster he loved.
Moving the lamp to my side of the bed.
Helping the kids with their math.
Baking cookies using his recipe.
The empty half of the dining table.
Taking the kids on their first plane ride with my dad instead of with theirs.
Leaving his token in the box when we play board games.
Putting away the Cards Against Humanity we used to play in the evenings.
Watching our favorite shows in silence, alone.
Coming home from the store.
Fourth of July fireworks.
Watching previews for movies we were going to see together, movies that still have not come out because it was so recently that we were sitting together planning our summer.
It’s the daily details that get you, not the grand plans.
We miss you.
I may have mentioned this, but Trey and I were more or less hermits. We were those people who always say, “We should get together sometime” but never do. We like people, but we liked the comfort of an evening in PJs on the sofa even more.
It felt acceptable when there were two of us — four of us.
Now that I am the sole adult here, I don’t want my kids to grow up with a mom who is a hermit. I think it may be damaging to them to see me home alone every night, going places with just them on the weekends. In order for them to build healthy relationships, they need to see me experiencing healthy friendships.
Or maybe I just need to keep busy in order to escape emotional quicksand.
In any case, I invited our neighbors over for a game night. My neighbors are a couple that are my age – early 40s – and their 16 year old daughter. They are delightful and fun, and Trey and I always meant to have them over.
They came and we ordered Chinese food and played card games they brought with them. One involved throwing virtual poop at one another, which was a resounding success with my seven year old boys.
Then the unexpected happened.
The kids started talking about their dad.
It began with K, telling H to not mention what happened to their dad. K doesn’t like people to know or to talk about it, because he doesn’t like the pity or how uncomfortable it makes people. H responded by asking why K didn’t want people to know that dad is dead.
Bless her, the neighbor then told my sons that her father died, too. K just opened up — asking her questions and telling her about his experience. Meanwhile, H was talking to me and to the husband and daughter.
H was describing in detail what Trey looked like when he was dead.
I had been hoping that I had shielded their view of it. I knew they had seen, but I was hoping their young eyes only saw someone passed out or sleeping, even though it was obvious to me that something was very wrong.
I tried to get them out of the room quickly, without alarming them. I tried. I thought I succeeded. But I didn’t. I didn’t succeed at all. H saw, and knew it wasn’t right.
So he started saying what it was like to come home and find his dad dead. He described the events of the evening. I listened intently, giving him all of my focus. The most important thing in my world was making sure that he could unburden, and that he knew I heard him.
I glanced at my neighbors, to find their eyes thick with tears. They, too, were focusing on him, letting him talk, letting him get it off his chest.
I am grateful to them — more grateful than I can say. I tried to apologize to them later. It was meant to be an evening of fun, and I hadn’t intended to lay all of that on them. They assured me that it was fine and not unexpected. Of course, they knew my husband had died and were prepared for the potential of this conversation.