There is dust accumulating on his beard trimmer next to his sink. How do I clean off the dust without wiping away the gray whiskers still on the trimmer? I want his whiskers to stay.
Though I really try not to see it, even through the worst thing that I've ever experienced, there is too much good to ignore. I don’t have him, and while he is the only thing I want, I do have so many other things.
So say he had to go. I don’t know in what scheme of things, but say he had to die. If he had to go, we that are left behind are set up well to keep going. His company, Victory Woodworks, is stronger than ever. When I would travel with Jim for meetings or vacation, there would be days that he’d hold up his phone in the evening and say, “Not one time. They didn’t need to contact me once.” His guys—my guys—were running the business then like they are now. Jim worked to become unnecessary in Victory’s day-to-day operations. The team, they want him. They miss him. But to keep crushing it, they don’t need him.
He took care of many things around the house before he died. He swapped out the knobs on the cabinets in the laundry room so the old ones aren't there to irritate me. He fixed a part on the new garage door opener so that it doesn’t malfunction anymore. He hung a new TV. He replaced the light on the deck.
There are things in the house that aren’t so much undone as needing to get started. At 10 the night before I lost him we were in bed and I remembered we hadn’t yet decided on the new bathroom tile and I needed to return the samples to the flooring store the following day. I turned on the lights, brought him the swatch boards, and he picked which of my options he preferred. So when I get around to redoing the bathrooms upstairs like we planned I know what flooring my husband liked.
When Jim and I were talking about getting married I told my then-therapist that I figured we’d just pop into the courthouse and tie the knot real quick. She took issue with that. She was adamant that we have a wedding. It didn’t need to be big, but we needed to have something. “It’s important to engage in the ceremony,” she told me, “His kids* need to know that this is important.” I grumbled, but I made it happen. We flew in my friend Ash to come shoot it because if I was getting guilted into a wedding I was gonna have photos of the damn thing. So glad we did.
At night before my drugs kick in and mercifully knock me out I lay in bed and look at pictures of him. Every night I used to snuggle up next to my husband and tickle his back until he fell asleep. I don’t have him, but I have the photos. If we hadn’t had a wedding and hadn’t had a photographer I’d have half as many pictures of my sweetheart. If for no other reason than that, I’m glad I went to a shrink after my divorce.
And then there are the memories. I have so many great ones. I don’t have bad memories of Jim. We didn’t fight. And this should be said: that wasn’t always easy. It was a choice. The beauty of our relationship was on purpose. We’d both just come from divorces and indifferent marriages and so we were deliberate about doing a good job together. While we were crazy in love and certainly compatible in personality and desires, our relationship wasn’t without effort. A couple of my mom’s catchphrases from when I was growing up were a guide on my end (and natural on his, I swear): “You love those you serve,” and “You can say anything—it’s how you say it.” I’m sure at some point I’ll want to write more about how we did a good job being married, because we really did, but for now know that while it felt magical, it didn’t happen by way of magic. Our over-the-moon union happened by way of intention, follow-through, and abandon.
Don’t give a shit what anyone else might think of your relationship. If you want to sit next to your person in a restaurant booth, screw the naysayers and do it. If you want to lift the center console in the car, slide along the bench seat, and sit closer, do it. Give in to the sap. Kiss in public. Keep holding hands even when they start to sweat. Be a little uncomfortable to relish the comfort of closeness. Touch more.
There were times that I felt stupid and hesitant about blogging so much about Jim, about exposing my delirium and infatuation. But it was too big to keep to myself, and now I’m grateful for every word. I read my memories and can’t help but smile. I look at our pictures, listen to recordings of his voice, spray his cologne on his jacket and wrap it around me, and for a second—and maybe it’s only a single second before it all makes me cry again—I have him. Those pieces are all I have. But at least I have something.
* It may seem strange that I don’t write much about the kids. But their grief is personal. Their lives are their own. We hang out a lot and love being together, but any part of my story that’s closely intertwined with theirs belongs to them as much as me. I’m careful with that stuff.