The holiday cards I ordered arrived. Maybe this year I’ll get them sent out.
For the past three years or so, I’ve gotten around to ordering them but never mailed them. I wasn’t able to get my shit together. I ordered them mid-December, paid extra for super rush shipping, and then was too caught up in last minute holiday preparations to send them out.
This year I’ll make it.
I like the cards — I think.
When I sent them to the printer’s, I was certain they were exactly what I wanted. When I started to think about them, however, I wondered if they are wrong somehow.
There are no pictures of Trey.
All of the pictures are of the boys and me. Mostly the boys. A couple with me. But none of Trey.
Will people think that is disrespectful? Will his family want to have a card with his photo on it? Maybe I should have included a picture of us at the Oregon Stonehenge, or our wedding photo, or that picture of him with the kids on Bring Your Own Cup day at 7-11. Maybe there should be some sort of visual remembrance of him.
For the words, however, I worry that I talk about him too much. People don’t want to think of death when reading their holiday cards, right? This is what I wrote:
I started with some general holiday pleasantries . . . hope this card finds you well, etc.
“This was a hard year for us, but we have family, friends and each other to see us through it. As we make our way through the fog, we learn to love deeply, to hold on fiercely, and to be each other’s strength even while we feel weak. We learn the strength of family, that it can be badly damaged and yet remain. We learn that sadness may be with us, but joy is as well. There is no end to the joy that can be experienced if you leave yourself open to it. While we will always feel his absence, Trey’s love will be part of our hearts and of our lives forever. We carry him with us as we continue our journey of love and life and joy. We bid a loud “good riddance” to 2017 as we look forward, hand in hand, to the new year.”
After that is the usual accounting of our lives — what grades and activities the kids are in, what I am doing for work, blah blah blah.
Is that too much? Is it too sappy? Did it make our card too much about death? I tried to make it about looking forward and continuing on life’s adventure, but maybe it is too depressing.
Here I am, then, in a typical widow’s conundrum. Did I say too much? Did I say too little? Will people think I’m dwelling too much on the loss? Will people think I am not grieving enough?
Should I have included photos of Trey? Should I have not mentioned him at all? Should I have sent out plain store bought cards, and avoided this altogether?
I am happy with the cards, save some awkward wordings. I look at it and I’d like to revise, but I had a hard time putting that together so I did not have a chance to edit it. I feel like it would be a disservice to what we are going through to not mention it at all, but I didn’t want this to be a memorial to him.
I suppose some people will think it should have been a memorial, and they will be unhappy. Others will think that my words are overly emotional and improper and they will be unhappy.
I am happy. I am happy to be getting cards out this year. Hopefully I will start receiving cards again. (It’s a two way street. You have to send them to get them.) I am happy to have such lovely photos of us — if they are a bit overly touched up for my taste. And I am happy with the message in these cards.
I suppose people who have a problem with it can kiss my jolly ass.
So it begins . . . Our first holiday season as a threesome.
I cannot even tell you how not okay this is.
I bought three pumpkins. Well, six. I bought three big pumpkins for carving, and three pie pumpkins for painting. Not for pie. Gross. I’m not someone who gets all jazzed about pumpkin spice. I don’t even understand why people thing this is delicious or smells good or anything.
But I digress. I was about to tell you how I almost wept in the arms of a sweet elderly lady at the grocery store. Perhaps I shouldn’t use the word ‘elderly.’ I’m no spring chicken, and I do not know how old she is. She’s older than me, though. She commented on my cart full of pumpkins, and reminisced about carving pumpkins with her kids when they were young, and again with her grandkids. I talked about how my boys won’t go near the pumpkin guts so I have to clean the pumpkins out before they will even consider having anything to do with the whole thing.
It was on the tip of my tongue, what had been on my mind all day:
“This will be our first Halloween since my husband died.”
I didn’t say it. I almost said it. I wanted to say it. I didn’t.
Why didn’t I? Part of it was that voice inside my head telling me that she doesn’t want to hear about it. She’s having a lovely memory and doesn’t need my sadness invading her space. It’s what keeps me from mentioning it wherever I go, even though I feel like it’s branded on my forehead.
“This will be our first Halloween without my husband.”
I kept it in. The other reason? I knew that if I said the words out loud, I would cry. I would cry, and I would not stop. I would slobber big snotty drooly tears all over this poor unsuspecting stranger. In the middle of Safeway. On a Monday afternoon.
Instead, I continued the pleasantries, swapping stories of trick or treat and candy bellyaches. I loaded up the six pumkins
six, not eight
and sat in my car and sobbed.
I thought of the missing pumpkins, about family costumes in years past, of the couple’s costume we had planned for the next time we had a grown up party to go to. I remembered his idea to dress up the twins as Daft Punk this year and how he was going to help them build their helmets. I tried to maintain that concept, but none of us had our hearts in it and it fizzled. I remembered how much work he put into helping H with his costume last year. I thought about how Halloween is not so far from February, and how last Halloween we absolutely had no idea the end was coming. How we were still getting settled into our neighborhood and how we were using this as a reason to meet the neighbors. How he insisted on getting full sized candy bars.
I looked to the future Halloweens, all of them with pumpkins in multiples of three. The kids and I may do a family costume, but there are no couple’s costumes in my future.
I sobbed and sobbed until my eyes felt like they were bleeding. I must have sat in that parking lot for 45 minutes trying to get a hold of myself enough to drive home.
I wish I had told that stranger. Maybe if I had told her, I’d have wished I hadn’t. But I think it would have felt better to say it to someone. The holidays. Wow. It is going to be harder than I anticipated. I knew they would be difficult; I’m not an idiot. But Trey was a real grinch about the holidays. I mean, once the boys were born he upgraded from Full-On-Grinch to Grudging-Good-Sport. He recognized the importance of holidays for the kids.
It was always me, however, making the holidays happen, bulldozing them into our lives whether anybody else wanted them or not. Trey liked Halloween, but even then his enthusiasm was limited to selecting a costume. I put out the decorations, and shopped for more. I made costumes. I carved pumpkins. I put together Halloween crafts for the kids. I played Halloween music and watched scary movies. He treated the holidays like they were any other day, as much as he could in the midst of my obsessions. I therefore thought that his presence would not be missed much more than it is any other day.
That’s a nopefish.
This is horrifying — going through the holidays without him.
We went to the school carnival, where my mom accompanied us and watched the kids while I volunteered at a booth. We went to the Boy Scouts Halloween party with my parents, but we didn’t know anyone else so we collectively posted up at a table. We went trick or treating with my mom. There was nobody at our house to hand out candy. Finally, yesterday I went to a grown ups Halloween party where I only knew the host.
It was fun, but also lonely.
What is the rest of the holiday going to look like?
Thanksgiving is coming. Thank goodness, my parents host T-day. All I will have to do is get the kids dressed and show up for dinner. Trey didn’t like turkey, or stuffing, or cranberries. He didn’t care for going somewhere to eat. He’d rather stay home. He was always friendly about it, however, coming with me and eating too much and falling asleep in a chair like the other men. He was also there to do the driving so I could have slightly too much wine. It will be so odd not having him there.
Then, Christmas. Holy shit. Christmas we host at our house.
Once again, he was a grinch. He didn’t participate in the decorating or the planning, or in much of the cooking. But he indulged me. He was there to help put the decorations near the top of the tree. He was there to help lug boxes in and out of the garage, and to help me find extension cords, because they are never where you think you left them. When he really shone was Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
He would spend the entire month of December specifically pretending it wasn’t Christmas. I did the decorating and the shopping and the gift selecting and wrapping. I would handle the cards and the lights and the menu and the guest list. I would watch Christmas movies, above the loud protests of my family. On Christmas Eve, however, he would bake cookies for Santa. He would sit on the floor with me all night, as we assembled whatever nonsense I decided to get for the kids that was made of a million small pieces with a single sheet of instructions. We’d each take one item and race to see who could get it assembled first. He would help hang the stockings and we would share some scotch to congratulate ourselves on successfully preparing for Christmas, before falling into bed at three a.m.
On Christmas Day, he was glorious. Excited to see the kids get excited, he would wake at about five — or perhaps he never slept — and would WAKE THE KIDS. Who does that? Then as guest after guest (mostly my family, but sometimes some of his) entered our home, he was the perfect host. Hosting is not my strong suit. Planning is. Once people are in my home I come dangerously close to falling apart. He always stepped up, offering drinks and cooking some sort of appetizer he had decided at the last minute that he needed to cook.
What will this year be like, without him?
Halloween was fun. But it was also sad. I have not cried as much this month as I did the first month after he died, but I have cried at least half that much, and that is a LOT.
I don’t know how the rest of the holidays are going to go. I’ve ordered Christmas cards and will be sending those out. They have lovely photos of, you know, the three of us. I could write a whole post about that. Maybe I will.