I am no longer a couple. No longer are there two of us, nor can I say, "both of us" or "ours". I am now one. I cannot classify myself as single, no that’s not me. Single was me at age 38 after my divorce, then I was able to say I was a single person. It wasn’t easy but it somehow seemed easier than saying “I’m divorced”. Now is it easier for me to say, “I’m by myself” or “I’m alone” than call myself a widow? I suppose I knew, but never realized there was such pain in being one.
Going to the grocery store is now a whole new experience. Shopping for one is challenging. Dated things expire more quickly than one person can use them. Dairy products, orange juice, there’s always too much bread, why can’t I buy four pieces of bread like I can buy four pieces of fruit?
Then there’s the background music that plays continually in HEB (San Antonio’s only grocery store--Really?!?!) Songs like “Hello Again” by Neil Diamond or “You are the Sunshine of My Life” by Stevie Wonder. Don’t they know their store is filled with widows and widowers walking through their aisles listening to every word of those beautiful songs? Our hearts ache and rip just a little more with each note sung as we tighten the grip on our shopping carts and the food items blur through the tears slowly building in our eyes as we are driven to continue to walk up and down those long isles.
Dinner time...oh the dreaded sundown. What does one cook for a person? I have yet to solve this dilemma. Do I cook? Nah, too much trouble for one. Do I eat take-out food, well sometimes, but that gets rather old? Do I bring home extra food left over from lunch that I had with friends that day? That’s the best so far. Then there are those nights I simply open the frig and graze...for now this seems better than sitting at a table and having a meal by myself.
I have been so fortunate to have had many dinner invitations (this is NOT a plea for invitations, really!) with many of our (see I still can’t just call you my) couple friends. Here’s the scenario, the three of us walk into a restaurant. The host seats us at a tabletop for four, there are no three toppers. The waiter comes up and usually looks at me and asks, “Will there be another joining us tonight?” Knew it was coming. The poor couple looks aghast and as I have learned to do, I place an entirely too large and uncomfortable smile on my face and quickly say, “No, just three thank you” with my voice squeaking two octaves higher than normal. The waiter swiftly clears the fourth place setting and as Steve used to say, I know that waiter’s thinking, “Whoa, there’s a story here.”
That waiter would be right, there is a story here. Steve always made me laugh when making that statement. He would say it when a situation was a little unusual, or different from the norm, or when someone would say something quirky that caused you to wonder what in the world lead him to say such a thing? It was then Steve’s eyes would grow large and round, his eyebrows would go up and with that dry, flat tone he would look straight at me and out would come…”Whoa, there’s a story here!”
My story, is that I am one, alone not by choice but for reasons that will someday be made clear to me. I can’t say I’m single because I’m not. I still say "our home, our friends, our electric bill." Once said I find myself backtracking, flustered, embarrassed saying, “I mean my home, my friends, my bills.” There is no more ours, or is there?
I find I still sleep on my side of our bed. Steve’s side remains made, pillows in place and often I fill his side with whatever I’m reading or doing before going to sleep. Turning out the lights right before going to sleep is the hardest part of the day for me. It is here that I turn my thoughts to Steve. Telling him I had wished for him that day. That I wanted him with me when I played with our grandchildren. It is in the dark when I tell him he was the best and I was so fortunate to have had him in my life.
Stop! Rewind, strike through that last sentence. You see, I decided soon after Steve’s death that I will never use the past tense when I speak of Steve. I will always say I love Steve. I will always feel he is the best husband in the world and that I am so blessed that I can love him all my life. I will always tell our children and grandchildren how proud he is of them and how much he loves them. I want to always speak of Steve in the present, because of my faith Steve is simply on a different journey for now. One day I know I will be with him again and it will be as if we had never parted.
So for now I am one. I know there will be a time when I will grow more comfortable with that term. I will learn to say my and mine instead of us and ours. I am finding what it’s like to be one and while I have my moments...I also have my memories, a heart full of them. Memories that will enable me to never be alone, memories that cause me to smile, to laugh out loud and to know that my life is full. Memories that will and are enabling me to walk into the future knowing that being one is okay. Knowing that in time I will find my way, my purpose in being one and I am waiting patiently for God to show me where that path will lead.
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”