It didn’t help. I figured out nothing truly does. There are just the occasional unpredictable ups flecked through persistent ache.
I didn’t get to see him, his body. Not that I wanted to. I didn’t. But I think not having seen Jim's body leaves a gap I can’t bridge. I never saw proof beyond the two personal effects that the Medical Examiner gave me—his watch face and scarred ring. We didn’t get anything else, not his belt or his phone, his wallet, not even his damn socks.
A couple days after after he died the nicest one at the Medical Examiner’s office called me with a note of comfort—and maybe relief?—in her voice saying that they’d recovered his wedding ring.
I can’t get beyond that word. Recovered. They didn’t just slide the ring off his finger. They recovered it. He wasn’t him anymore.
The M.E.’s office called me again later—“Mr. Elliker has been scientifically identified by dental records." So we have verification, but the last time I saw him he was alive. I know I’m not supposed to think about the graphic details, everyone tells me not to, but I can’t help it. I think of the body that did such a good job loving me. They had to identify him by dental. They couldn’t just have someone do it by sight.
The pit in your stomach reading that? It’s my fixed parasite.
Just like I don’t know which scrap of life will serve as an up, I don’t know what will set me off. The other night it was seeing our dog Gus automatically settle into his bed. Around midnight I finally said we all could go to sleep. The dogs and I went upstairs and my mom tidied a little before heading to her room. She found me on my bedroom floor stuck in silent, exhausting sobs. Seeing Gus do what he always does when Jim is home was too much. Gus plops into his bed in the corner. Sophie hops into her basket. Jim gets in the shower. I take the decorative pillows off the bed, fold the big comforter in thirds, turn down Jim’s side, turn on my lamp, habit after habit now missing a part.
How horrible for a mother to sink to the floor to hold her sobbing adult daughter? But she did and cried too. My parents carried me through that dark space when my ex-husband had an affair and I got divorced. And then they lived elated when having and loving Jim made me better, healed in my heart and broader in life. And now. Now my mom is here to just be here because it’s too much by myself.
Don’t take the patterns for granted. I’m so glad I was never mad about tidying up the night’s detritus each morning. Toss Jim’s gum from the nightstand. Move his slippers. Rehang his face towel. For some things his habits dictated mine, and picking up the paper towel wads all over the kitchen when he’d been in there didn’t irritate me. A little bit of Jim here, a little there.
I tell the truth when people ask how I am holding up. Not great. I feel like I’m always hovering on the edge of of something, waiting to deal with the surprise of what I’ll feel next. I see a couple holding hands, happy, and leaning against each other and I smile. I’ve had that and it’s wonderful. I see a couple holding hands, happy, and leaning against each other and I cry. I’ve had that and it’s gone.