Most nights I found myself in the kitchen. Sometimes I had dinner planned. Sometimes I didn’t. There I stood though, contemplating what to feed my small family. Often times I would stand at the window in that tiny kitchen and watch the wind blow the trees in the backyard. It was safe. It was familiar. It was home.
“Can you run to the store? I need a few things?”
“Sure, I’ll take the boys if you want me to.”
“That would be great.”
The small apartment would empty quickly and I’d be left in the silence and peace. A few moments that were mine. He would buckle the kids into their car seats, slide into the drivers seat and adjust the seat so he could actually fit. I would inevitably find the seat the next morning pushed all the way back into a position that wouldn’t allow me to reach the pedals even if I tried. It was a reminder though, of him, of our life together, of the way we made our differences work together, including his extreme height and my short stature.
In the evenings after dinner was made and eaten, we would clean up the mess and I would get the boys ready for bed as he did dishes or straightened up the small living room. After stories and songs and prayers we would quietly close the boys bedroom door and settle into our evening. It included conversations or movies or shows or sometimes just being in our own space yet together, listening to music or reading a book. Life felt comfortable. He felt comfortable. It was something that we created together, meant to last for the duration of our lives, long or short, we did it together.
Some nights I would go out and come home to a glowing apartment, my husband there asleep in the chair, or listening to music, a look of peace and calm on his face. Other times we’d arrive home late to my parents watching something, having spent the evening with the boys so we could be together and remember one another in that way. Night time found us crawling into bed together, talking, reading, and falling asleep next to one another, hand in hand, curled into one another. After many years together I couldn’t fall asleep without the sound and feel of him next to me.
I don’t know where I lost that, or if I ever truly had it. My safety and security, my love and care, all wrapped up in a single person, the one who I created children with, the one who shared my dreams and held my heart. I entrusted him with so much. With everything. Did he ever know that? Did he see it or believe it? Was his heart restless and hurting and frantic as my heart felt safe and peaceful and assured.
Last night I stood in the kitchen, not mine, not in my house, not filled with my stuff. I just stood there frozen. I was suddenly lost and scared. I realized at that moment that the safe life I believed I was part of doesn’t exist, and it never really did. I stood there thinking about dinner and didn’t know how to move my feet from the spot where I stood. I just stood there. The grief consumed me. Seven months later, the moments of grief still consume my heart. I stood there thinking about how I don’t cook anymore, not really. I don’t do my children’s laundry. The missing moments in my life, the men’s clothing that aren’t there, the meals I cooked that he loved, the children we created that he isn’t watching grow up.
Many days I don’t know how to even begin creating a life out of the pieces I have been left with. Some days all I want to do is move forward and continue to grow and love and breathe and discover my joy. But at night, when I climb the stairs and stand in the doorway of my room, looking at the lamp that sat in the home I shared with him for 12 years, I see emptiness. No one is waiting for me to come to bed. No one laughs at how I brush my teeth or fall asleep mid-sentence when I’m tired. No one to wrap me into his arms with words of love. No one to fall asleep with as we hold hands. No one to pat my arm at 3am when the boys have had a nightmare with the reassurance, “I’ve got it. Keep sleeping.” No voice from the hallway as he takes away the terror and kisses away the fear in only a way a daddy can do it. I crawl into the bed by myself. I curl into a ball as I attempt to sleep without thinking of the aching loneliness that settles into my heart.
But I also know, as sure as the loneliness that is my constant companion, that the dreams and the life I lived was not shared, even the moments when I was most comfortable and believed it most assuredly. Even in the greatest moments of my marriage, the ones that contained uncompromised joy, loud laughter, quiet looks, knowing glances, I was alone, I just hadn’t realized it yet. Even in the quiet hours of late nights, the hand holding and laughing, the falling asleep mid-sentence, the shared dinners and calming of nightmares, I was alone. My shared life, my comfortable love was only mine. The love I thought we shared belonged to me alone. The secret that consumed his heart also consumed his life, and eventually destroyed mine.
Sometimes I have no idea what to do with that, the incredible pain and grief. Sometimes I don’t know how to even think about the life that I thought was mine. I don’t know how to cook, or do laundry, let alone create an entirely new life, but even in the insecurity of not knowing, it’s happening. Every minute of the day is a representation of walking further away from the deception, the grief, the sorrow, and the pain. Each meal that is cooked, load of laundry that is washed, each night that I fall asleep alone, is a step towards a new life, even when it isn’t my choice, it is still my life. Most days, even in the not knowing and the fear, I am moving, I am seeking to learn and grow, I am looking for the hope that was once a constant in my heart. Most days I move and those moments of frozen panic or fear or grief, are just those, brief moments. The rest is amazing and beautiful. The people who have become a part of my life are amazing and beautiful. The unexpected surprises of love and hope, of joy and peace, almost always outweigh the burden of my lost life.