For over 12,045 nights, I went to bed as his girlfriend or wife. Until the 12,046th night, when I didn’t.
This morning, I woke up late. Craig would soon be home from his ER shift. My first thought was I’d better get up and throw on some clothes and look like I’ve been up awhile. I’d done that more than once, fooling only myself. He knew me well enough to recognize that I-slept-in look — there wasn’t much I pulled over on him. And, really? He didn’t care if I’d slept in.
In 2020, because of the pandemic, we spent the most consecutive nights together since college. We’d sit outside eating dinner as the sun set. I’d read or do sudoku, he’d play around on TikTok and drive me bananas. I still have scars on my ankles from the mosquitoes that ignored him and attacked me. He’d point out a cloud or a color in the sky and say, “That’s pretty, ” which was code for, “Take a photo.”
I still try to get those shots. But, nothing ever returns to before.
It’s dangerous to label natural responses as pathological. Someday the pharma companies will come up with an anti-grief pill, because that’s what we do, but that approach comes from a place of misunderstanding.
I’d rather we embrace healthy ways of acknowledging and dealing with the shitshow life produces. My favorite t-shirt says something like, “I can cry AND get stuff done.” I don’t always get stuff done, but I have the crying part down.
My heart is freckled with memories bringing comfort, laughter, tears, and anger. I don’t know how it’s been two years. How is it two whole years since the world imploded and collapsed leaving me walking upside down, under water? The days and nights blur, piling up like traffic on a freeway loop. There is no topographical map for the endless mass of grief. The road is up and down, pot-holed with empty days, heartbreakingly quiet nights, unclaimed moments of loss, meals eaten or not eaten alone, painful changes, and no one caring if I sit forever in my car in the drive listening to another song or waiting for a podcast to end while the takeout gets cold. Over time, my tears have lessened – at least until the proverbial apple cart is upset by something invisible and they flow unexpectedly, torrentially – only because I have so many friends and family on the road with me.
I keep waiting for him to come home, shut the door, take out the trash, and get the damn snake out of the chicken coop.
I miss him so much.
I miss his knowing.
I miss his smile that pissed me off when I tried to stay frustrated with him.
I miss those hands – big, confident, calming – there to steady, caress, or gently nudge me in the right direction.
I miss his presence. I miss his extrovert to my introvert, his anchor to my tossing ship.
I miss his fight. His bullheadedness. His laughter. His music. His fearlessness. There was nothing we couldn’t face together. (Except I will never again ride in a helicopter.)
I hate wanting to go on without him.
I hate not knowing the road. I hate learning to live planetside not being his partner. I hate when I forget he used to care if the food got cold as that long song ended.
I hate remembering him.
I hate not remembering him.
Still I look for him. I reach to call, tell him something only he would appreciate or understand. I hate this most of all. No one else remembers those things shared over 12,045 days of stories, experiences, laughter, jokes.
My head and my heart remain out of sync; sometimes the loneliness of his absence and the deafening silence is crippling, and sometimes, I feel the sun, watch it set, find a glimpse of him in a curly-headed, tall young man’s eyes, and hear him in his voice. Or, I see him in the smiles of a baby and a little girl. I catch him in the expressions on the faces of his daughters, witness him in their tenacity and turns of phrases.
He left his mark on the world, and a hole in my heart.
Much to my chagrin, the world still spins.
Photographer denise l. moore’s eclectic mashups of image and art have been featured in galleries from Texas to New York. She finds inspiration in everything from city lights to wildflowers to birds on a wire, but most especially her three adult children and two granddaughters. She has also moved mountains, or rather driven over them, to get a lot of good dogs to good homes. You can see more of her work on Instagram @dlmooreiphonartography or inquire about prints at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All photos also courtesy denise l. moore.