A day of my undivided attention. That was the idea anyhow. The month following his death I allowed each of my kids a mental health day. One filled with the activities of their choosing, and time to talk or cry or deny or just be. Kyndall had planned a day filled with art museums in the city, and shopping. We started with breakfast at First Watch. In looking back, I imagine we looked completely normal. No one would suspect that our world had crumbled around us weeks before, and it was nothing short of a miracle that we managed clean clothes and makeup. We were conversational, and certainly didn’t look half orphaned and widowed. The lady the hostess had just seated at the table adjacent to us, now she was the picture of a widow. She was old, really old. Age had bent her body and she shuffled slowly to her table and sat alone. My world stopped spinning. Tears sprung to my eyes. I came up with half a dozen scenarios of what her life might possibly be within a matter of minutes, and all of them were tragic, pitiful, lonely and worse. I imagined she was me. I was looking at my future self.
Setting: Friday night, table for two at The Black Horse Tavern less than a month A.D.
Mike had picked me up for drinks. He was approaching the two year mark as a widower when Corey died. He was keeping a close eye on me, and I knew it. Most likely, he was reporting back to our group of concerned friends. I can’t imagine how difficult it was to be with me in all of my raw grief, and yet he didn’t skirt around the tough questions. The ones only those who’ve been through it know to ask. As we sat and talked, (well I was probably blubbering and he was probably listening) up to the bar walks a group of women our age. Clearly this was a GNO. They were all dolled up, and loud. I mean obnoxiously loud, and getting louder by the sip. I was so enthralled by their behavior. Were they single, married, looking to hook up? Were their husbands at home tucking in their kids? This didn’t look fun to me at all. This looked like college, but with pathetic middle-aged women wearing too much makeup. Equally pathetic was me sitting there with all my judgement. I didn’t know their story anymore than they knew mine. (Ah, scratch that last part. Small town, they probably knew mine.) Regardless of what led to their celebration that Friday night, I was repulsed and vowed never to be that, or rather the that that I imagined they were. I would hold myself to a higher standard. I would not humiliate my kids. I would not humiliate myself. I would rise above the loneliness, the desperation, the memories.
Those two defining moments have become my guides. I still might end up bent with age and shuffling to my table alone, but I will be filled with experiences that have enriched me because I chose to live intentionally with what life I had left, and I lived it without compromising my integrity or that of my children.