Sherry: As Time Goes On…

There is no pain like the loss of a loved one: the numbness, the tears, the anguish, the loneliness, the aloneness, the sadness, the anger.

In the beginning there were so many tears, gut-wrenching tears, an unfamiliar howl deep from within. Slowly the world came back into focus; busyness overtook the constant memories and softened the pain ever so lightly…but not really. It was a false sense of return to wellness.

For the first sixty days I ran from here to there from hither to yon moving but going nowhere. I lunched with friends, talked and found my laughter, but inside I had a huge gaping hole that was consuming me.

The crowd of friends that beckoned my door and rang the phone diminished to a handful of special caring friends. I know its not because they’ve forgotten me or my loss, but rather that their lives – their normal lives – moved forward. I understand, but I now know that I, too, have never fully been the friend I should have been to those who have lost their love.

Loss is so profound, so personal and individual. It’s true we all grieve differently, but I do believe we all need loving friends to bolster and uplift us. I remember as I opened and read each of the multitude of sympathy cards that I found myself angered by them. How dare they remind me that I have my memories? I don’t want my memories – I want him, I want my love I’d scream inside and out.

As the weeks turned into months I feared time would move too fast, move his presence further away from me. I found myself sadder in an indescribable way. I didn’t just cry anymore, it was animalistic. It didn’t sound like me. It didn’t feel like me.

I’d wake in the night to my voice. I’d be talking to him but when I’d look to his pillow to see why he didn’t answer I was reminded why. I still find myself talking to him expecting him to reply. I’ll watch something on television that I’d want to share with him so I’d tape it and then I’d remember…

In spite of all of this I thought I was doing fairly well managing my grief, but then five months past and it was my birthday and he wasn’t here to tell me that he wanted me to find that “to die for” gift. But what I missed more was his tender, soft loving lips that knew just how to kiss me with such perfection that I was always left yearning for more.

And then it was another month, six in all – and it was his birthday. It was my worst day to date and I couldn’t seem to recover. As if in slow motion I began to feel my body shutting down. Weakness overtook me and my bed became my refuge. Although my doctor told me it was my Lyme Disease rearing its ugly head, my mind told me it was overwhelming all-consuming sadness.

I asked my family physician to please prescribe something to help me regain myself and ease my tears. I was surprised how well it helped; how good it felt not to cry every day.

However, I’m still struggling; my body is slowing coming back to me, but not fully yet. But in these many weeks alone contemplating all that lead up to his final days I’m sad, I’m angry and no matter how many surround me I’m profoundly alone.

I’m angry that he left me. I’m angry that months before he passed he told a close friend that he didn’t expect that he’d make it to the holidays – and he didn’t. It angers me that he didn’t tell me. Instead he kept assuring me that he “wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon” and I believed him. After all, he looked so well, so alive. Did he give me this false hope because he thought that’s what I needed? It makes me angry nonetheless.

Instead he told my closest girlfriends to make certain that I find love again. He didn’t want me to be alone. He’d tell them that I personified love and that I was meant to be loved. He’d tease me telling me to make certain the next one is a young stud! He made me laugh. He always made me laugh even in the worst of moments.

Later, when all that he was left was the use of one arm and one hand, he’d cup my breast in his hand and hold on. It didn’t matter who was there: doctor, friend, acquaintance. He wanted that memory. It surprised me that I felt no embarrassment or self-consciousness. No, instead he made me smile and I adored that in his horrible state he still wanted me and he wanted the memory of me. (That is a memory I shall always have.)

But I look in the mirror: I’m no longer that cute little thing he fell in love with. Years have replaced my 19” waist with a somewhat more Rubinesque voluptuousness. Who but someone who grew with me would look upon me today with adoring, loving eyes? Do I even want someone else to kiss my lips and trace my arms with his hands memorizing every bit of me?

We were once young and adorable. We’d turn heads. I always thought it was because our love was so palatable so obvious to all who gazed upon us. We had this glow that emanated from within. Every photograph I have where he’s looking at me it’s evident that he adored me. What we had was so special, enviable I’ve been told.

We spent 32 married years together and all but a very few of those years we were together 24/7. Does that mean we were married closer to 60 years? However long it was it wasn’t long enough. Driving home not so long ago I watched an elder neighbor putting out his trash and this simple husbandly duty made me angry. We were supposed to grow old together. He promised me we’d grow old together!

I miss his smell. Even when we’d kiss I’d put my nostrils to his and inhale as deeply as I could because I loved his scent. In the rare instances when he would drink alcohol I’d find his breath intoxicatingly sexy. I found a tee-shirt the other day that still had his fragrance. It must have been the only shirt I hadn’t washed. I fell asleep with my head snuggled into the soft cotton shirt. I cried into his shirt missing him and everything about him. It wasn’t a first, for months after he passed I wouldn’t wash our bed sheets. My friends would implore me, but it took me two months to acquiesce, even then they didn’t smell.

I haven’t put music on since he’s gone. Music was such a part of his life, but I can’t listen. I know if I turn on the radio I’ll hear a song that we heard together and I don’t think I could do that just yet. I leave the television on day and night for noise. I’ve watched more ridiculous, frivolous TV because it’s mindless.

I look at our bookshelves. You could always tell his from mine. Not a novel on his shelf. He read serious, brainiac works of scholars. But in that same room is a shelf of knickknacks dating back to his early childhood. I look at them now along with his collectible keepsakes and it seems so meaningless now. Everything is just “things”, empty without him.

Everything that seemed to have meaning before doesn’t anymore. They’re just empty, hollow nothings. I used to get such pleasure in buying him something. It could be anything because he never bought himself anything. His sole pleasure was always for me! I can honestly say that I never wanted for anything. I recall in our early courting days, when we were less financially secure, I wanted a particular fragrance. He must have bought 50 magazines and tore out the sniff sheets of the fragrance and gift-wrapped them and gave them to me at Christmas! (He also gave me the actual fragrance, but the moment has never left me and still makes me giggle.)

For years I searched for a poster he had in college that the Dean of Men confiscated because of it’s anti-war sentiment. It took me nearly 30 years to find it, but I did. I framed it and gave it to him. He loved it! But now, without him it just hangs on the wall, another “thing”…what I wouldn’t do to have him instead.

I saw a show on television on cloning a beloved pet. I must have thought for days about the possibility of cloning him and bringing him back to me, but the thought of raising him to love him as a man again seemed just a bit too weird…but I did contemplate the possibility.

I’ve tried to read. I think I’ve read a total of 50 pages of three separate books since he passed. It’s too difficult to concentrate. I’ve been a writer my entire life and even that has become something I do few and far between. I did buy a journal early on and I wrote him every day about every thing then it became less frequent but once I start it’s as if I’ve opened the proverbial flood gates: I’ll easily fill ten pages by the time I close the book.

I must say the old adage that “life goes on” is wrong. Days and nights, weeks and months and I guess years, although I’m not there yet, do pile upon one another but life is certainly not the same, nor shall it ever be even if, as he wished, I find love again…

~ The Author ~
Norma Sherry Rappa is a writer, producer and television personality. Norma has been a contributor to the Federal Observer since February 2003.

The above is a follow-up to her column of September 7, 2011, CLASS WARFARE OF THE BIG C.