The New Normal
I wish there was a “Miss Manners” book on grieving or at a minimum a grieving “For Dummies”; a checklist, a ‘step by step’, a ‘how to’ or even guidelines, but there aren’t any. There is no plan, no map, nothing to help you chart the course and get through this ‘journey’ you unwillingly embarked on. Everyone will tell you, “you grieve at your own pace”, “there is no right or wrong”, “you grieve how you need to”, but is that really true?
Is it really true when the onlookers, who are also grieving this immense loss, care so much for the unbelievably broken and sad widow that they don’t know what to do or say? Do people give the grieving space and let them process if they think that going back to work half days, a week after the funeral, is too soon? That taking the planned trip for spring break is running away and you should be home? Is it letting the process unfold if they think it is time for her to start removing his clothes that still hang in her closet? What about his toothbrush and razor, which remain untouched, as if he will be using them tomorrow morning? What if it bothers them that his shoes and coat are by the door as if he will be coming back or stepping out at any moment? What if they ask if she can afford to stay in the same house or tell her not to make any major decisions for six months to a year? Perhaps they think she is crazy for staying in said house because they certainly could not do it. Will you go to counseling? Are you taking the children to a support group? Honey, are you going to church? Ask when she will wear color again because “quite frankly, all this black is…depressing and (in a whisper add) “no one wears black anymore during mourning.” How about if they tell her they think she’s young enough to go on with her life and that she should find someone new, or ask and encourage she date or ask if she will be keeping his name?
YES, YES, YES!! People who care for the grieving ask this and more, and almost every single person who asked something or gave me their opinion did it because they cared. They wanted to make sure I wasn’t getting lost in my own head, in my own thoughts and that the loneliness wasn’t killing me and that I was processing. They were making sure I wasn’t doing something stupid. But, there were the occasional acquaintances who really were just curios. Death is a part of life and with that comes the dreaded grieving, none of which we talk about because it makes us uncomfortable, but somehow, I apparently made it easy to ask or accept the comments.
Of all the questions and curiosities the hardest part was honestly answering them or preemptively blurting out an excuse for why something was somewhere or why I didn’t want something moved (I went through a period of leaving everything exactly as he had left it) and of course trying to not sound like I was crazy. Aside from not being the town nut-job my biggest fear became, that I wasn’t meeting expectations of how I should be handling a situation, the kids or myself. Trying to figure out what people were thinking and the need to not be judged or talked about became my daily burden. All the while, somewhere inside was the real me, the girl who stopped caring about what people thought somewhere at about age 9. My internal battle became who was I turning into, what was happening and why did I care? I was completely involved in what I was “supposed” to be, so when the questions came I answered as expected or let people say what they needed and let them put me in a box with a pretty little label, and wether they intended to or not, they judged my decisions. Sometimes I met the expectations and many times I know I did not.
I grew up Catholic, a religion with traditions and customs that many don’t understand, and Latina to boot. My circle doesn’t include many like me, and let’s face it, who’s could? But it added another layer for wondering and questioning. I grew up with the tradition of wearing no color when you are in mourning; black, dark grey or white. Attending mass for the first 9 days, a priest presiding at the burial (which of course is preceded by a mass in the Church) a monthly mass for the first year and then mass on the deceased birthday and death anniversary. All this is intended, I suppose, to bring peace and healing to the grievers, and to be done out of respect for the deceased and for their legacy.
I didn’t do any of that. I didn’t do the traditional American visitation at the funeral home, the traditional viewing in the casket, I did what Brett requested I do, with the exception of an immediate burial. I wasn’t able to bury Brett’s ashes for three months because the ground was frozen solid in February and we had to wait until the spring thaw. I did have a pastor presiding and at that moment I realized, none of this was for Brett. This was all for us, the ones left behind. I had never done any of this before. I didn’t know what to do, I did ask some but with my being guarded and stand-offish, they didn’t offer much in the way of this is what is traditionally done or this is what I can help you with. So I did what I thought was right given what I had to work with.
We buried Brett on the 3rd of May. The last day I wore my wedding ring, fully intending to bury it with him, I didn’t. I couldn’t. I simply took it off…and with it went all that it symbolized and my beliefs in so many things that a marriage is supposed to keep bound. What that simple action brought? More questions from people and so many of my own.
I realized quickly that there is a lot of sympathy for those who grieve but not always empathy. Sympathy seems to ooze from people’s every pore, but empathy, empathy is a much more difficult trait to find. It is very hard for someone to think about what they would do and how they would act if they were in this situation. I did what I needed to do, I wore black, I took my ring off and went on with this new life I didn’t know how to manage. I was scared.
I wore black honestly because it was what I was taught to do. The most important person in my life died and my attire seemed to be a shock. It became a topic with those around me; family, friends and at work. Those closest to me struggled and I didn’t understand why. My closet has always been filled with black clothes, wearing black is easy and I’m pretty disorganized. Black matches anything, especially when you’re two weeks out on laundry, you’re not a morning person or a night before “what will I wear tomorrow” person. I’m more of a grab and go kind of a girl. But it’s also easy. It was one less thing to think about when I had the weight of the world falling on me like a mud slide creeping up to my chin, knowing that soon I wouldn’t be able to breathe. What I’ve reflected on the most is that when I was asked about it, it wasn’t with the intention to understand but rather, they asked with the intention of wanting me to stop.
And then, one day, I did. I went back to mostly black with some color and I realized immediately that people began to act differently. They went back to normal, joking and not feeling sorry for me. Their discomfort was with how my mourning made them feel, uncomfortable. Nothing in my life was normal anymore but people went back to being normal. So many wanted to see me happy, an emotion I couldn’t even relate to anymore and all I wanted to do was crawl in a hole. I was learning how to pay bills on time, select the right insurance coverage for the kids through work, how to mix gas for the lawn mower which is different that for the weed whacker and stories of widows who had remarried and how soon thereafter they had begun dating began to surface. My appearance began to be important to people, I felt 15 sometimes, you know that awkward stage in life when all of a sudden your relatives ask, “so, do you have a boyfriend?” If I spoke about a man, it was met with raised eyebrows and I had to decipher is this a good thing or bad? Is this a person who would approve of my dating or not? I was pulled over well over a year after Brett died and people asked me if the cop was single. My horror was that I was pulled over, their interest was did I land a date!
It has taken me quite some time to make peace with my “Morticia” attire and to be ok with it being what I needed to do at that moment. I reference her first because of the Wednesday Addams quote in the title and because like her, I have evolved to making all of my family’s decisions, am fiercely protective of them, am authentic, and spend most of my time with the people I love most.
My only learning and advice that I am grateful for is, “they are going to talk about you anyway”. Do what you need to do and what will get you through the moment or the day.
I am not sure where 3 years have gone, 37 months have passed and I still grieve. I still have bad days; really bad shitty, knock you on your ass kind of days and good, even great days. The good days out number the bad, but winter days seem to be the toughest. The holidays, our birthdays and his anniversary all happen during this miserable season. So, I decided to travel this winter and I realized that every time I take a trip, I take a breath to be able to keep going. I learned that when I leave and go off somewhere, with the kids or without, I come back with a new learning of how to be by myself.
The day, the actual day of Brett’s anniversary I stayed put, I made the decision to stay for the kids, to be here for them in case they needed me, but at 10:30PM as they layed in their beds, I kissed them good night and headed for the airport. I literally chose the flight vs fight instinct. As the airplane was barreling down the runway, as the wheels lifted off the ground, I was forced back into my seat, I breathed relief and we took to the air. I looked out the window, at the lights of the city below fade beneath my feet, becoming smaller and smaller. I realized it was midnight, I turned 41. I was not here and not there. It was perfect…the darkness of the plane, the hum of the engines, I leaned my head onto the seat back, onto the plane’s left side and fell asleep.
For this brief moment I felt peace. This past year was difficult, this past year I learned that I cannot do everything, I cannot do it all, not by myself. What a piercing one-two punch to the solar plexus and jaw of my ego. The type of punches that alone can cause immediate knockouts by making the diaphragm spasm and force the wind out, followed by a hit to the sweet spot of the jaw, jarring the brain with such force that the only response is unconsciousness. I took the blows, got back up and learned to accept. Not to say that I didn’t get knocked out, but, not long enough for them to end my fight. I still try to do it all but it’s ok when I can’t, when I shouldn’t and when I need help. I left the master’s program, I accept the kids help around the house and don’t feel guilty or ashamed that I rely on them or ask as much of them as I do. I ask Jay and family to help pick up and drop off Elle if I’m in the office. So many little things that I used to not even think about before because there were two of us, two parents, a marriage.
It took me three years, therapy and a lot of good friendly advice to find the word acceptance. I had been told to let go, surrender, have faith, let myself be vulnerable, fall into the unknown. Umm…excuse me, what? None of those were words, concepts or definitions that I could relate to. I associated all of those words with the torn up battle field (my life) and me with a little white flag waving at chest level, ashamed of having lost. Acceptance on the other hand , acceptance is something I do. I accept people and situations for who and what they are, why couldn’t I accept this, embrace it and move on? What had taken me so long to find this word, this concept? I had gone an entire three years trying to surrender, trying to get to the point where I was supposed to tap the mat and give up. I couldn’t do it, and the harder I tried the worse things got. Last year in this constant struggle to let go, I found panic attacks. I was hanging on so tight, fighting against myself to find the balance of hanging on enough to let go or let go enough to continue hanging on. Either way it wasn’t working. Luckily I know enough that at onset of the panic I can work my way through them, but boy do they suck. Mine are minor, but are yet another occurrence which leads me to question why, and yet another reason to be more reflective, introspective and open.
This past year felt like that old quote, “the beatings will continue until morale improves”. Well, I hope acceptance is the morale improvement that will stop the beatings. I’ve gone from being numb, watching everything I had dreamed and hoped for fall apart while going through the motions of that first year to being full of overwhelming sadness and insecurity of the second year. Then I found that I completely lost who I was, I lost my identity and I found anger; anger and fear, welcome year three. Many have asked repeatedly why I stopped writing, I didn’t stop. My writing was angry and who wants to read that? You see anger I can work with, anger can push you to do amazing things, but fear? My fear is paralyzing and I was afraid to publish.
This is where my journey of grief, and self-discovery through it, evolves.
The quote in its entirety is, “You embrace the suck. You move the fuck forward. What other choice do we have?” I heard it in a movie, turns out to be a military quote about sucking it up or giving up. I thought it to be quite fitting and very apropos today. Today I am in Northern Minnesota, embarking on a two day 150 mile bike ride to St Paul. Elle is on an airplane heading to Washington DC with her eighth grade class and Jay is driving to Atlanta with my Dad.
One year ago the three of us were heading west with a tent, three cots, an empty cooler and no reservations. Apparently we begin the summer with travel. Last year’s travel was me running away. I was trying to escape the sadness, the loneliness, the pressure and the responsibility of it all but I couldn’t bear to be without my kids. We drove through nine states in nineteen days. It turned out to be the camping trip of a lifetime.
This year we are all heading in different directions but it’s more about achieving and becoming independent.
Elle will experience traveling without family, she’s rooming with friends and the chaperones are teachers, no parents. Elle’s first trip.
Jay is driving, on interstates (gulp) and will be flying home by himself, as my Dad is staying in Atlanta for work. Jay’s first flight, alone.
I look at them and can’t believe how much they’ve grown, how much they’ve matured and how they are still my li’l ones. They’ve surpassed my shoe size and my height and yet they are still little in many ways. So many milestones, so many memories and we haven’t stayed in the same place or have we?
We remain in the same house, the very one we thought was our dream home ten long years ago. The very one that holds the kids growth marks on the wall, the very one I longed to come home to when Brett was alive and the very one I dread to come home to, now that he is gone. It’s a shell of a house to me a place that houses the most beautiful and painful of memories but uprooting the kids right now is not an option. To them it’s the only home they’ve ever known because it’s the only one they remember. In sharp contrast, by the time I was my son’s age I had lived in two countries, four states and twelve houses. Needless to say we moved a lot when I was growing up, countries, cities and states were all interchangeable to me, and still are, but not to my kids. So we stay.
The journey of grieving is a long and difficult one and for some reason I wanted (still want) it to be linear and progressive with a checklist attached. It doesn’t work that way. There are good days and bad. At first all days are bad. The good day intertwines itself somewhere therein making you realize just how awful reality really is and then one day you realize you hate the bad days not because of the sadness or whatever happened but because there have been more good days than bad. And so the ability to heal appears.
We are experiencing the third year without Brett, my third birthday without him, a milestone. I’m forty. Third Mother’s Day, third last day day of school and second trip to DC, not to mention all the kid’s big moments, Jay is driving and Elle is going to highschool this fall.
People are extremely complimentary, they talk of strength and courage but really for me it’s endurance. I’ve learned this as I’ve taken up working out as a way to cope. At first people encouraged me to go back to yoga, but when the yogi would say clear your mind the tears would stream down my face. I couldn’t take it. One day over chicken wings and beer with Brett’s brother, I found a boxing club. I punched the heavy bag an hour at a time for months. I learned to work out after dinner so all I could do was shower and collapse into sleep. I punched and kick boxed my way out of anger. I began to run, I am running myself out of fear and doubt. I started biking, I am biking my way out of trying to control the process.
Everyone has their own path and journey. I don’t think I’m doing anything different than anyone else would do in my situation. I still have shit ass bad days, I’m still learning to be an independent adult, I’m still learning to raise two kids by myself. At forty I’m still learning all of this. It’s all about putting one foot in front of the next, sometimes putting both together, pausing and putting one foot in front of the next. I have failed, stumbled, fallen, been pushed and also succeeded. I’m not the person I was twenty eight months ago but I’m also not the same I was yesterday. I watch my kids evolve and grow. We cry sometimes and miss the family we used to be but are glad we still have enough pieces and great memories to be the family that we are. We have “embraced the suck” and are learning to move forward, even though we miss Brett everyday.
November 29th, 2013, it was the day after Thanksgiving, I had volunteered to work that day and Brett had the day off. It had been a pretty slow and uneventful day so at 2:00 when the clinic closed I decided to go home. As I pulled in the driveway, I saw Brett and the kids putting up Christmas lights. It was a tender moment, one that had not happened the year before because Brett had broken his shoulder. I parked the car and snapped a few pictures, I posted them to FaceBook stating “All is well with the world. I came home to find Xmas lights going up AFTER Thanksgiving. I fully understand these are just the first lights to go on and there are many, many more to come Mr. Grizwold, but these look great!”
Brett would proceed to add many strings of lights to our trees, the bushes, the front porch and even trees in the back yard. If it stood still, was tall enough and an extension cord could reach it, he would light it up. He decorated the windows from the inside, not a big ladder guy. But not only would he outline the frame, there would also be some light up figurine in the window. He loved lights. He was so proud one year when our street’s holiday party voted our house as having the best lights. He would look out the front window and beam with pride as passing cars would slow down and admire his work. These were our good times before the business and obligations of the season.
Little did we know 2013 would be the last time the kids would string up lights with their Dad. Little did we know that I would need help in taking all those lights down the following spring without him. I am so glad I took the pictures.
Last year the holidays were awful. Brett had not been gone a year, the kids didn’t want much of anything to do with anything and frankly I simply wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out. But I didn’t although we didn’t put up a single light, a single decoration and our tree was a tree we decorated in the cemetery. It was sad but appropriate for how we felt.
This year, the weather has been unseasonably warm. Kids were in shorts into November; unheard of in these parts. By now we’ve usually felt the temps dip into the 30’s and seen a dusting of snow.
“It’s 50 degrees already, do you want to put lights up outside?” I asked during breakfast. They looked at me as if I had tattooed my face. “Well, do you want to or not?”
I really didn’t care either way, ours could certainly be the dark house again this year but somehow I wanted to honor Brett’s love of lights. Pass onto them that it would be ok to do. Jay didn’t care, he’s fifteen, his answer for everything these days comes with a shoulder shrug and an “I don’t care, sure, whatever.” But Elle, wanted to put up a few, just a few. So after breakfast Jay and I headed into the attic. There they were, nine paper grocery bags full of lights and in the first bag a diagram of where the lights were and which belonged in which section. Overcome with emotion and eyes full of tears, tears we would not allow roll down our cheeks, we grabbed the map and decided we would only do the small tree and the banister on the porch. Armed with a plan and bags in hand we set out to put up lights, only Jay turned to me and barked, “I would rather do anything right now than do this with you.”
Hurtful punk! “Fine! Go do your homework.” I scolded back and I knew and he knew neither one was really mad just…missing Brett. This was not our thing, this was not the way it used to be. He stayed and helped me wrap the trunk of the tree just outside our door. We argued the entire time and finally he just went inside. Elle then walked over with more lights and without a word started placing then in the branches. We put lights on the banister and to her request decorated another tree trunk, but with both of standing at 5’2″ we couldn’t reach the branches so out came the ladder and Jay (he’s just over 5’7″). “I thought you were only doing one tree.” he said.
He strung up lights into the branches of the second tree and left us once more. Elle did a third tree and proceeded to go into the attic for the light up inflatables, a 7 ft. polar bear, a 4 ft. Santa and a 4 ft. snowman. She plugged them in and they quickly were inflated. Jay came out once more and placed candy canes on the porch fence. It was one of the hardest projects we have taken on but we did it.
We are keeping Brett’s memory alive and continuing his traditions. All will never be well with the world again, we will not win the best Christmas lights award but we will not be the dark house on the street either.
Brett’s dying would forever change the way I looked at everything. Life, the future, my children and not only my birthday but everyone’s birthdays that first year.
I remember as his time in the hospital grew longer and I knew he was dying but hoping and pleading he wouldn’t, I told my friend “He won’t die on my birthday, he wouldn’t do that to me…” as if any of this was ever within our control, what arrogance. But he didn’t, he didn’t die on the day but rather a day before and all I know now is that I don’t even want the day mentioned. I stopped celebrating my birthday the day before I turned 38, if only the birthday’s had stopped coming.
We are all marked by a birthday and inevitably a death-day, and I can’t help but wonder if the Universe didn’t simply just want us bound deeper than we already were. I still look for reasons and signs for everything, it is simply in my nature to question and really I would so desperately like an explanation. What is the point of another year, more wisdom (one hopes), fine lines that turn to creases, and hair that turns silver? In the end we all become a memory and if you are lucky you remain a true one, not one that did it all perfectly.
It has been a hell of an 18 months. I learned how to stand on my own two feet with a ton of emotional support and very little hand holding, yes, there is a difference. A least there is a difference in my world. My circle of friends has evolved, I’m friends with people that I would have never considered more than an acquaintance in the past while some have faded into the background as oer the norm and some have chosen to leave and some I simply walked away from. I’ve done a lot of walking. I walked away from a 14 year career that took me twenty years to build and in the end I don’t know if I will be ok, but still today and in that moment it was the right decision and one that I had to make. I learned a lot about me, my friends, society, women and men.
Today I find myself half way around the world in Delhi India, in a stifling heat with two kids in tow. Both last year and this year I’ve been wished a happy half birthday and as I reflect, all I can say for certain is, I miss my life. The closest around me know it and try to help me see the good, like perhaps celebrating a half vs a full birthday, and for them…all of them I am so very grateful. I continue my journey of self discovery but what I really want is to be home-sick. I want to miss one thing, anything that makes me want to go home! The house I live in, the way of life without Brett. Unfortunately I am so fucking adaptable that I can make anywhere work, but my kids need to be home. They need to feel normal in their known surroundings with their normal things while I suffocate in that world. My comfort? I have 4 years and 10 months until Elle, the youngest graduates, goes to college and I sell the house.
When I turned 39, the only thing I hoped for was that it would be better than 38. 38 brought widowhood and unemployment! What would 39 bring? First and foremost my own company, I launched Mayer-Hack companies. Best described as a company with diverse subsidiaries. One such being health/wellness programs and education. I assist individuals and businesses implement wellness programs to improve or maintain health or loose weight.
The second thing that 39 brought was acceptance into an MBA program.
Finally, it also brought travel. As soon as school let out this past June, I packed a tent, 3 cots with sleeping bags and an empty cooler. We had clothes for about 7 days and off we went. 19 nights, 6,000 miles and 9 states later, we came home. Not once was I homesick! It was actually the opposite, I dreaded getting home. Now, three weeks before the start of the school year we are in India.
What do I hope to find? Me.
A few Sunday evenings ago I went to the awards banquet for the boys tennis team.
This was Jay’s second banquet of the year, the first was to commemorate the end of the Nordic Ski season, so one would think that I would be completely ready for this one. Well, at least that is what I figured.
By chance a friend spent the day with us and I have to admit it helped tremendously. I would have stressed all day about this banquet because unlike the first, this one was on a Sunday. The drive to the golf course where the banquet was being held was pretty and rainy and although Jay talked and talked, my mind drifted. Here we were, once again, another event where I would be walking in beside him and Brett not beside me.
Overall the JV team did great! They finished strong at 6 & 3. Jay did very well. Coach described him as “a great guy, first to volunteer if anyone needs anything. Very fun, would do anything for anyone and always has a smile on his face. He’s showing great improvement and finding his stride.” She refers to him as the first half of the DreamTeam; Drake, a junior who was Jay’s doubles partner is the second half
You don’t realize that both parents are present when you’re married, even if one of you can’t make an event you don’t look to see who is sitting by themselves. You don’t look to your children’s faces in search for any expression of sadness because one of you isn’t there and you certainly don’t try to be more that just a Mom because you know that Dad’s at home or wherever. I remember as a small child wanting to have two parents present and asking my Mom for a Dad. Thankfully my kids are older and they won’t suffer through that exact scenario, although theirs may even be worse. Mine was an idea of someone, but they miss their Dad, the Brett that they were fortunate to get to know, love and will always remember. He will always be there in the shadows of all achievements and all disappointments. I’m not sure how one maneuvers through some of this and then advises them accordingly. Specifically for me it’s the constant playing of the roles of both mother and father but not equipped or prepared to do so. It’s that balance of being stern but not too stern, compassionate while not letting them get away with murder, which let’s face it if you know me you know that I tend to not be balanced. Brett was that, our balance. He was the good cop, he kissed the boo-boo’s and had a gentle touch while I, the one who would make sure that the punishment ensured they learned a lesson. I suppose in the end you can’t be all things to everyone and this banquet wasn’t as difficult for me but it did have it’s poignant moment.
We happened to walk in with another team mate and his Mom, we introduced ourselves and her and I sat at one of the parent’s tables where we introduced ourselves to a couple. After learning that the couple lived in my neighborhood, the wife said to me, “I’m so sorry about Brett, I knew him you know.”
I gulped, took a deep breath and braced myself. No, I didn’t know. I didn’t expect condolences today. I hate the words “I’m sorry”. I don’t know what to say, am I supposed to say me too or thank you? Regardless of what I say, to me it sounds ridiculous and it makes he swallow hard, push back tears and want to run. My face must have shown my surprise because she added she worked with him.
What a relief! I immediately asked her about work, her team, Brett’s team and how they support her. It was no longer personal, well, not personal for me. As we were dismissed from our table to join the buffet line, I took the long way, I was opposite from her as we served our meals but it didn’t stop her. “Brett was a wonderful man and he is missed.”
Ugh, it took every bit of composure to not let my face crumple and the tears fall, so I smiled instead and meant the thank you I couldn’t say but mouthed silently. She knew it so she added, “I won’t say anything more I just had to let you know.”
It was odd, I immediately went from scared that I would show emotion to feeling Brett was letting me know he was there. I’ve stated before I believe in signs and am completely aware that it could be my way of dealing with my grief but what are the odds? Is it sheer coincidence that I sat at a table with his coworker? It could be, but for now, I will take comfort and solace in the signs.
Today marks the fourteenth month without Brett. It was a typical day, typical for the new normal, you could even say a good day, it’s earth day. The sun came out today. It had been a few days since the sun was out so although it was windy and unseasonably cold, I was glad to be wearing sunglasses. I dropped Elle off at school this morning and Jay took the bus. The morning was ordinary, I had lunch with a colleague, made and ate dinner with the kids. I thought of Brett today and how I needed to get to the cemetery but things just kept coming up and the minutes kept slipping by.
I had an old TV to get rid of and today was the day that I had help taking it to the recycling center, so the cemetery would wait. On our way there I simply asked, “After this do you mind if we stop at the cemetery? I’ve been out everyday, I’m waiting for our headstone and Brett’s marker to be put in.” Our headstone, what a weird statement.
The response was “Of course, I heaven’t been out to the cemetery in a while.”
Funny, I’ve been out there almost daily since I was told the bench (headstone) and marker would be going in. But everyday I’ve grown more and more dissapointed.
It was a little past 8PM when we pulled in and right away from the entrance I could tell the stakes that were placed to mark the location, the ones that had been there for over a week were gone. I got so excited I accelerated just a little bit so I could get there just a little faster. I didn’t even turn the car off, I just put it in park, opened the door and got out. There it was. The headstone I had to special order, since green is not a common color used in cemeteries. But I didn’t care green was his favorite color and I didn’t want it to look just like everyone else’s.
When I ordered it, it was fall, it was my father in-law’s wedding anniversary. The owner told me it would not get here until spring and now September seems like a lifetime ago. I remember the long exhausting, pretty drive home. The colors were changing, I left work early and told the kids I had an appointment, I couldn’t bear to tell them. It was a warm September day and my windows where rolled down. On my way home I left a message on my in-law’s answering machine wishing them a happy anniversary and I remember my voice cracking as I thought that I would never have another and how lucky they were to have one to celebrate.
So here I stand, in front of this green granite bench, the sun setting, the brisk spring air blowing. The bench is centered over two graves. His and mine. It is our headstone and it is both sobering and mortifying to think that one day I will be buried there, that I will have a place in the ground, and I hate it but I’ve grown to accept it and find a weird comfort in it, but I don’t love it.
It’s a quote from the story of Peter Pan. I chose it because when we were dating he would buy me Disney movies as soon as they were released on video (VHS) and I just felt it fit. Some boys give girls flowers and candy, Brett gave me fairy tales…