Dismembering your life

I’m moving on.

I’ve taken pictures of your office, as you had it when you were here. It’s my attempt to maintain your memory. The office was you: your art, your collections, your special retreat filled with all your favorite things, gadgets, technology.

Your blue chair – the ugly Early American monstrosity – is still there where it was relocated after many an argument when you rescued it from your mother’s basement. NO. It CANNOT stay in our living room! I disagreed with having it in the house, let alone our modern Ikea-furnished living room. Finally, you capitulated (after how many arguments?) and removed it to your office.

And now, years after our disagreements, nearly seven months after your death, I cannot bear to see it removed from the house.

I gave Cindy your Chromebook. I gave the kids and George your coats and shoes. I’ll find somewhere to donate your awards. I’m sure someone can re-use the frames (and you were planning to get rid of them anyway).

I think I’ll move the long table you built into my own office. I’ll take back the iMac that we both agreed should be yours once you retired from Delta and were home working on website business all day. It was only fair that you have the nice computer since I would be working at the office 40 hours a week and you’d be working at home.

After removing the table and the computer, I’ll probably put a bed in there and your office will no longer officially be your office. It’ll be the guest room.

I’m being practical. You aren’t coming back. If you’re here with me now (and I feel you here, often, don’t I?)…if you’re here, you’re saying, “Do what you want, honey. Be practical, Ger. I’m not coming back and there’s no point in keeping it a shrine to me.”

And I know this. I know you won’t be back. I know you’re gone and I need to process your death, your absence, my new existence as a widow. I know this.

But I feel like with every action I dismember what you built, what you created, a part of you. I’m dismembering our life together, the things you made special here in our home.

I’m leaving you behind day by day.

And I want to scream, NO! NO NO NO NO NO! He can’t be gone. It’s not fair. It’s not right. The man I loved must be just around the corner, just down the hall, in his favorite space. He’s in there creating some new website, designing a new sign or newsletter or logo. He’s editing pictures he took with the camera he loved so much. He’s listening to Paul Simon songs or practicing playing “Superman” on his guitar. He’s surfing the web, or he’s playing Pipe Dream on the old PC he bought to play his beloved 70s video games. He’s racking up his Tetris score and about to call me in to see it.

Isn’t he?

And I’ll yell out, “What are you doing?” And he’ll yell back, “Waiting for you.”

And we’ll go to lunch at our favorite diner, or, better yet, we’ll take a Sunday nap together and I’ll get to hold him again.

But none of that is true, is it?

Instead I’m dismantling your office. Removing one more thing you created. Dismembering what you built.

I’m moving on.

About the author

Katherine Billings Palmer is a technical writer, poet, and essayist from Garden City, Michigan. She’s won several academic writing awards, including first place in the University of Michigan Dearborn Critical Essay Contest for her work about poet John Donne: “‘The Sun Rising’: A Lover’s Boast.”

In 2017, Katherine’s husband, Rick, died of complications from small cell lung cancer. She wrote a series of poems and essays about her struggles to cope with her grief. I Wanted to Grow Old With You is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

Her latest book, A Widow’s Words: Grief, Reflection, Prose, and Poetry – The First Year was published in January 2019 and is also available on Amazon.com.

Katherine is a guest blogger for the Hope for Widows Foundation and writes about her grief journey at www.TheWritingWidow.com.

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