I’m doing okay as a widow. Occasionally, it feels like a prison sentence where I’m locked up in solitary. Other days, I’m released early for good behavior. What took a while to manage was my ability to stand alone, metaphorically. Even grumpy couples might not notice how they’ve leaned in over the years. It weakens their ability to stand alone, but that’s how it should be.
There’s the kind of leaning where responsibilities have been divided and then taken for granted. This way of life is like a dance. If one partner stumbles, the other notices. “You forgot the box in the car? I thought you were bringing it in! Yes, now!!” That kind of thing. Or there’s my kind of stumble. I was driving around Winnipeg during rush hour, missed a turnoff and ended up in a parking lot. My husband didn’t make a single snarky remark. I don’t think I’d have been as nice.
Something I miss is the check in. There were times I wanted to push the button and set off a nuclear war on Facebook, but he’d always say, what for? If you ever see a post from me that is startlingly rude or extremely aggressive, please know that he is feeling badly about it. I never published blogs without my husband giving me thumbs up or down, until he died. He would never have gone for the one I wrote a few weeks ago titled, ‘How to Make a Porno.’
‘You don’t need to celebrate every dumb move,’ he might say. Also, (this might surprise his friends) he could be very straight laced. In some ways, when I do something I think he might not approve of, there’s a small part of me that feels a bit vengeful. ‘You died, so take that.’
There are humorous moments where one partner acts as goalie on a two person hockey team. Once, while attending a teacher’s dance, a woman walked straight up to me on the dance floor. Her husband, in this instance, was the goalie. He took his eye off the puck for just a moment and his wife took the chance to score. She put her hands on my breasts, and gave them a resounding squeeze. ‘Are these real?” she asked. ‘Why yes, they are,” I replied, happy I’d worn my sister’s black dress that was ‘cross your heart’ supportive. I felt very complimented. A few minutes later her husband came rushing up, her coat over his arm. ‘I’m so sorry about that!’ We can’t catch every crazy move our partners make, or monitor every drink. I have teased my friend about this incident more than once.
Your partner can also be your reality check. For example, in the interest of reducing plastic and embracing my inner earth goddess, I’m using a deodorant that’s just a salt rock. You wet it and rub it on. (It was a gift from the breast squeezer…we’re much closer, now.)The problem is, I can’t tell if it’s working or not. It’s very hard to check yourself out. My friends are all too nice to tell me if I’m getting a little funky. My husband would take one sniff and say, ‘By God, that’s not working.’ Although really, he didn’t have a great sense of smell, so who knows?
It’s very easy to lose track of the times we receive support from our partner because we’re too busy nitpicking over the things that bother us. My husband could clean the driveway and shovel the sidewalks and the first thing out of my mouth would be, ‘You’re not wearing that old coat anywhere else! (He loved decrepit looking barn coats.)
It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate everything he did. It was just that we’d been leaning in for so long, I took a lot of things for granted. And when he went on his forever journey, it took a while for me to stop falling over.
My point is, notice the moments when your partner holds you up. The times when they rush in to rescue you from a potentially embarrassing situation. It’s good to stand on your own two feet, but even better to lean in and let someone else hold you up when the going gets tough. Happy Valentines Day to all the love birds out there. And also to mine, who’s busy giving everyone in the next life a good laugh. Honey, I’ll try not to criticize your heavenly outfit when I see you again.