This is part six of an 11-part series of blog excerpts written by Bea V. Larsen, JD, Center for Resolution of Disputes. These eleven blogs also appeared in Care Management Journals, Volume 15, Number 1, 2014. Full sample downloads of this journal are available here.
Should I write of this? Of uninvited, unwelcome images that intrude as I lose my hold on purposeful thought.
The anniversary of Len’s death is near.
Ten years ago, as summer was ending, the man who was my love, my companion for more than 50 years, left me. Sometimes that is exactly how it feels. And each year as August approaches I tell myself: Not this time, gloom will not have a place at my table. Surely I am wise enough and strong enough not to succumb to these unbidden thoughts.
During that last year, even as his health steadily declined, we shared an incomparable intimacy. Caring for the body so well known and loved. Touching him, being touched by him, pretending we had many years to go. Sadness and joy so entwined.
Our marriage was perfect.
Our marriage was imperfect.
Exquisite times of closeness
Brooding times of silence.
We were bound but free.
At the end of that August, as soon as my family departed, I returned to my world of work, and at home welcomed solitude and long postponed relaxed times with close friends began again. I busied myself with the tasks that attend such a loss. Notifications sent. Accounts closed. Books, papers, clothing sorted and disposed of or gifted. To one son the music collection, to another the tools, and to a grandson the fishing rods and lures. Kept for myself the treasured letters and a few favorite warm shirts.
Then, as the first anniversary of his death approached, my steps slowed, my throat tightened, and my quiet times became more somber.
Disbelieving, I silently wailed: Why should this foreboding of the calendar cast me down? But it did, and it has each August since. Can it be that I’m not the wise and strong person I insist I am? Unable to rise above this annual malaise?
I consult with a counselor and she says: The very angle of the sun as the same date approaches, casts shadows reminiscent of the days you choose to forget. The leafiness of the trees, the heat, the hour of first morning light, all of these images appear unbidden, and take you back to the heartbeat of that time.
This I can understand and accept. And can share with others whose intimate losses are known to me. For them too, anniversaries presage low times.
And I tell them that I now mark the anniversary each year in a significant way. I do not let it pass unnoticed, as once I hoped it would.
A picnic with friends in the park we used to go to as a young family. Revisiting art galleries we wandered together. A special dinner with an intimate. Breakfast at the home of dear friends with some old pictures in hand.
Len and I seldom gave each other gifts, although we often urged the other to buy something yearned for, but that would not be purchased without a push. A painting. An airplane!
So each year, as the day approaches, I buy myself an anniversary gift, a thing of beauty:
A small sculpture of a horse’s head
A Marino glass sphere
Beautiful Italian soup bowls
A tiny Netsuke cat
It is a new home this year, which I am molding to please my aesthetic eye.
He would have insisted.