I hate it when people refer to ages in weeks or months. Like why are babies “61 weeks” instead of a year? I’ll break my own rule and say it’s been 20 months since Tim died. That’s less than two years, more than a year and a half. Every month seems important, so I count them. Maybe it’s the same for weeks with babies. Maybe we measure massive growth in the most finite unite possible.
It’s surprising to me how much the acute grief has faded. I’ve written before about a constant lingering sadness, but that too is different these days. There is a constant sense I have of who Tim was and what he meant to me, and that seeps out into my life just as much as my own self. How could it not? He’s in me like oxygen in my lungs.
On Valentine’s day, I made his favorite food for dinner and heard him in the voice of my guests when they grabbed another bite and said, “Oh my god this is SO GOOD!”
At lunch a friend mentioned her daughter speaking french, and I tell them about how I used to beg Tim (who spoke quite a lot of French himself) to talk in his “French Pigeon” voice when we were traveling. Europe is covered in pigeons, and he used to speak for them in a heavy accent with a rolling coo to his voice, “Monsieur le pigeon, comment allez-vous aujourd’hui?” As I botch the story with my own terrible accent, I hear him in my head.
He’s always with me, but it’s not a constant sadness. I share what I can about him with people who are new in my life, because I want them to know him. I want everyone to know him. He was that special. The short version of my widowhood is harsh. My husband died of an accidental drug overdose when I was thirty years old. People hear that, and want to throw arrows at Tim. Addict. Depressed. Manipulative. Complicated. Diseased.
All of that is true, but there is so much more to the story. No one ever thinks badly of someone who dies of cancer, but the case isn’t the same for mental illness. People ask if I’m angry at him, but really I work to protect his memory. I keep it close to me. Nurture it.
Mostly my grief is just a companion in life, always present but typically silent. That part of me is a side of self that will never go away, and one that has side effects. I get so frustrated with people who don’t go after their own happiness. I’ve never been patient, but now it’s especially bad. Love and dreams, they are are fleeting things. When I see someone I care about stalled out, I want to kick them in the ass just so they can move forward. When I see myself stalled out, I get even crazier.
For the first year after losing Tim, part of my coping was filling my schedule with ALL OF THE THINGS. Sold a house. Bought a house. Rode all the time. Bought a second horse. Opened an Etsy store. Started a book. Took a writing class. Joined a writing group. Every night something. I pushed and pushed and moved and moved until I couldn’t move anymore. All the while, I knew what I was doing. You’ll read this and think, “God she was running away from her grief and choosing not to process what happened.” It does sound like that, but even though I ran I wasn’t running from something. I did all of those things while recognizing and thinking about what losing Tim meant for my life, but I kept myself busy because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t.
My manic need to keep busy all the time is gone now. I’m comfortable with myself again. I don’t need to re-tile a room or spend all day at a horse show so I’m not alone.
Approaching the two year mark, I’ve almost stopped feeling guilty for not spending every moment of every day pining for what I’ve lost. Almost. Now I can think about the future and what that might look like standing on my own two feet. I have the ability to make plans and follow through with them, whereas before I was pretty much shooting from the hip. This includes letting new people into my life, although that will be a process in itself. I’m told I have incredibly high standards, but I’m unwilling to bend them. After all, I know what the real deal is like.
This past weekend I spent some time cleaning my house, including a very overdue dusting of my wall of book shelves. After Tim died, I framed a ton of pictures of him and I around the house. I wanted to see his face everywhere. After dusting, I stood back and looked at the framed pictures on the shelves. It felt like too much. I printed out some pictures of my new life, and placed a new 4×6 still curled from the printer on top of the flat, stale pictures of us.
Simon and I with our reserve champion ribbons.
My close group of friends burning under the Austin sun at the ACL music festival.
Me and the dogs, wet and covered with mud after taking the swimming.
A group of us at Halloween dressed up like the cast from Archer.
4th of July 2016 – my best friend, her daughter and me giggling into a quickly shot selfie, our faces poking in from the edges of the screen.
Giant palms in Joshua tree with a few of us, sweaty from hiking, posing under the oasis.
I couldn’t replace them all. The picture of Tim scratching Simon’s face, grinning into his long nose. Him and Eliot looking over the North Carolina mountains. My best boys. I put those back on the shelf. There are moments where I allow myself to think about how much I loved Tim. When I open the door into our relationship, the way he was devoted to me and the life that we built together, I can’t help but mourn the loss. It’s a cut deeper than I ever thought capable of feeling. It never goes away.
One of the pictures that I tried to replace of Tim and I was printed on metallic paper. We’re sitting in a 3D Imax movie theater in DC making “lion faces.” He looks fierce and adorable. I look unwilling to commit to fully commit to the silly. It’s a picture I framed years ago when we lived in Massachusetts, and I haven’t opened the frame since then. When I tried to remove the picture, the front of the metallic paper had melted to the frame. All the time spent in a moving truck in Texas heat I guess. I looked back at the front of the glass, the picture now slightly warped and cracked from my attempt to remove it. I closed the frame, and put it back on the shelf.