This is the second time I’ve dreamed that Trey returned.
This is not a dream where he simply still lives. I have those every so often, but they are comforting rather than unsettling.
In this dream, the full reality of my life exists. He died, we had a funeral, I have been sorting through our stuff and painting our house in some sort of weird ‘nesting’ reaction to grief.
And then he walks in the door. As if nothing happened.
The last time I dreamed this, it was a month or so after his death. At that time, I had gotten rid of his underwear and some of his work clothes and papers. I dreamed he came down the stairs and I was crying with relief, “I was sure you were dead! What was all of that?” To which he responded, “Where are my clean underwear?”
This sounds hilarious, but in the dream it was distressing because I was afraid that he would feel like I was tossing out his stuff too soon after his death. Like, “Good Riddance to You! I’m moving on!” He was confused about why I would have thought he was dead, and I explained about finding him in the living room and the whole experience.
This time, the dream crushed me. In the dream, just like in real life, it was coming up on six months and he waltzes in the door like it is all normal. I freak smooth out. I’m crying and screaming, and he is calm and amused. I start yelling, “This isn’t okay! You died! I held your cold hand! We all did CPR! The medical examiner came! You can NOT come back and act like this is normal!”
I asked him where he had been, and how he could explain all of this. He told me just to trust him, that he was back, and that I didn’t need to know where he’d been. He looks around and sees the closet and the cabinets, and remarks on how they’d been cleaned out. He is again confused that so much of his stuff is missing. By now I have very few of his clothes left, and sold his speakers. I explain that he was dead. We’d scattered his ashes.
In the dream, I was afraid he would find out I’d gotten rid of a box full of his hats. He had an issue with hats. I believe this is a common trait among men. I must have three boxes full of his hats.
In the dream I was afraid and confused and angry. I was so angry at him for acting like everything was normal when I had been through so much.
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.
How many times have I attempted this? How many hours, nights, weeks have I looked at the screen, typed a few inadequate words, and abandoned the effort?
I have engaged in a nightly cycle of near-creation as I tried to find the words to express what it is to be a supporting player in your own life when the main character dies.
Trey was the life in our life. A whirlwind of spontaneous action and wild emotion, he drove our existence while I supported his efforts. He was fascinating and exuberant, dangerous and fun. I am boring and plain, safe and disappointing. I was the steady line to his sine wave. I was the calming influence on his fire. I was the straight man in our routine.
He was everything. I was a passenger.
How to express that? I couldn’t get the words out. I couldn’t express the loss of me as a person when he went. I couldn’t demonstrate being a non-entity without him.
Because it’s bullshit. It’s all bullshit.
I believed it all, with my entire being, throughout my entire life. I believed it after he died.
I believed it until I heard others say it. Until I realized that is what everyone believed. Heard from the mouths of others, the lie made itself known.
“So I guess you’ll be moving back to Oklahoma now.”
“Are the kids going to miss those spur of the moment trips to Portland?”
“Is it crazy to be stuck with that neon green Jeep? Are you selling it?”
Question after question, offhand comment after comment, all indicating our friends’ and families’ beliefs that everything notable about us was really just Trey. That I would shake off the trappings of interest and fun, and would live as the bore we all know me to be.
Bitch, I picked out that Jeep! I insisted on that color; Trey wanted black. We fought intenseley as we paid extra money for a rental car while we waited for this color to be available. I refused to drive a boring color while ‘hypergreen’ existed in the world. It did become Trey’s car. I told Trey I didn’t like to drive it. I told him I loved my truck too much. I did this so he could drive the new car. He didn’t like to drive the truck, and he had always wanted a Jeep. So I pretended that I was not interested much in it. The truth was that it was me who selected the car and waited for it and named it Herman. I bought nail polish to match it. I love it and have since the moment I saw it.
Every member of Trey’s family believes that Jeep is just another example of crazy awesome Trey doing something outlandish, and of how I’m such a good and supporting wife for indulging him.
Those trips? Those spontaneous trips? Trey didn’t know there was a replica of Stonehenge in northern Oregon. He didn’t know about the pirate landing. Or the sandcastle competition. I pushed these trips through when neither of us felt like doing anything, and we were the better for it.
Why would I move back to Oklahoma? I have no family of my own there. It is true I moved us back to Oklahoma when I was pregnant and my parents lived there. I panicked and needed comfort. I also moved us out of there as soon as I was ready to work again. I moved us. I found a job on the west coast, packed us up and moved us. I never wanted to raise our kids there. I grew up yearning for bigger places with more opportunities and the possibility of greater experiences. I wasn’t going to live my adulthood and my kids’ childhood in the place I always wanted to leave.
I wasn’t indulging or silently supporting my powerhouse of a husband. We were partners. I commanded the driver’s seat as often as he did, and actively navigated as a passenger.
It is true that he managed our social life. At events, he took the spotlight while I watched cozy from the background. He ensured we knew our neighbors and the other kids’ parents. He was the life of the party, the gracious host, the fun one. And he was welcome to it. That shit exhausts me.
As the years went by, however, he grew more reluctant to fill that role. He was content to binge watch Netflix and order takeout. It took quite a bit of coaxing to get him out of the house to do anything. He talked about his big regret – that he did not take me dancing anymore when we were younger.
-You could take me dancing now.
-No, we’re old and I’m too fat. It’s embarrassing. Let me get into better shape and then we’ll go.
Well, I guess that day never came. It would have been nice to go dancing. I don’t get embarrassed anymore.
That isn’t entirely accurate.
I don’t let embarrassment stop me from doing something that could make me happy. I got over that shit years ago. With Trey by my side it was easier to be spontaneous, to do mildly embarrassing things. Even if I had to push him. Even if he didn’t join in but would laugh at/with me. He would smile at my dorkiness and reinforce my belief that it is okay to be embarrassing.
He was my world. But he wasn’t the whole world.
I still exist. I am not a phantom. I am not useless, or plain, or dull. I am broken without my partner, yet I remain a whole person. I will remain in Washington, and will perhaps move to Florida later. I drive Herman and I walk the dog and I take the kids on trips to book signings and to watch a movie with a bunch of cats. I dance. I dance in my living room, and I also dance at the supermarket. I skin my knee trying to ride a bike. I meet the neighbors for game night.
And I cry. I cry and scream and beat the steering wheel and throw my phone. I’m lonely and forlorn and desperate and furious.
But I am not nothing, and it’s time I stop thinking of myself as nothing.
I have been hearing this from my boys for months now. May 5th. The opening of GOTG 2. It was big news in our house.
The movie is rated PG-13, and my kids are both seven. I realize it is a grown-up movie and my kids are kids. I therefore refused to bring them opening weekend. My kids and I are a hurricane blasting through wherever we go. I try to be respectful where I can, however, and one thing I can do is keep the littles out of the theater when it is filled with fans who went out of their way to see it opening weekend.
The movie has been open for a week now, today is Friday, and the kids have the day off school.
So we went.
And I wept.
If you have not seen this movie, I will not spoil anything but will say that some of the themes in the movie are a bit on-the-nose. (You will remember from the first movie that he grew up without a dad and that his mom died when he was young.) This, however, isn’t why the movie wrecked me. I have found that spouses/dads dying in movies does not evoke a huge emotional response from me. You would think that watching someone lose her husband or father would bring back my own memories and situation. It doesn’t. The truth is that losing him is so big — so fucking huge — it just has absolutely nothing to do with whatever is happening to a character in a movie. I could watch movies depicting parents and spouses dying all day long and it would not affect me.
THIS movie, though. This one. Guardians of the Galaxy vol.2. This movie wrecked me.
This movie — the one we had been planning to see as a family.
The one that is rated PG-13 but I can’t say no to the kids because Trey would have brought them.
The one for which Trey taught my kids to remember the opening date.
The one that has Kurt Russel. Kurt fucking Russell why did Kurt Motherfucking Russel make it into this movie? Trey had an unhealthy obsession with Mr. Russel. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve seen Overboard? We’re not talking about Escape from New York or Big Trouble in Little China. Every time Overboard comes on, we’re watching it. This is true of the other movies as well, but they don’t come on as much. Trey loved Kurt Russel. On his birthday this year I requested that friends and family post pictures of Kurt on Trey’s Facebook wall. Two months before he died.
Our family of four is now a family of three. Plans we made will never be fulfilled. We will not attend graduation together, or give girlfriends a hard time. We will never make the holiday Leavenworth trip a family tradition.
We will not see Guardians of the Galaxy 3.
My weeping began during the previews. Today previews were featured for the new Star Wars movie, Wonder Woman and Thor. All movies we knew were coming and we were planning to see.
The four of us.
Then the movie starts, and it is so amazing and he would have loved it. The kids are loving it and would have loved sharing it with him. And then Kurt Fucking Russel appears onscreen.
It was all over for me.
I laughed at the movie, and cheered and loved it. Through it all, though, I wept for all the dumb little plans we made that we will never fulfill.