Everything is a memory

It’s work at home Friday again. I can imagine you in your office, doing whatever chore is required today to keep the business going. I can hear you asking me, “Is there anything I can do to help?” when I complain that there are too many deadlines and I can’t keep up.

I can’t go there. I can’t start picturing you again, your funny quirky sense of humor, your big, loud, noises as you wander about the house doing mundane things.

Instead, I’ll try to stop these thoughts.

I look to my left and notice my copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. I remember flying to be with you for a weekend in Minnesota, in the early years, when we had our “telecommuter marriage.” I remember telling you I read the entire Strunk and White book on the flight, and when you saw the book you were surprised, because you had pictured an old English classic, like “Humphrey Clinker” and thought I was saying some old geezer’s name: Strunken White. And we laughed. And this is just one more stupid memory. One more thing that pops up because I can never ever forget you and all we shared.

Oh look, I can look straight ahead at my “Dead Ophelia” print, hanging on the wall in front of my desk – the one you had framed for me – secretly, as a huge surprise. You chose the perfect wood frame with the perfect mat, with the perfect inset color in the mat. And you gave it to me, and I cried. And you thought I was crying because I didn’t like it. And you were chagrined to find out it was because I loved it. Because I knew you loved me. Because you even thought to give me that perfect gift.

So, maybe I can look somewhere else – the lamp that was in your office, but you gave to me because I needed it more? The blue ipad case you bought this spring and that you kept accidentally leaving unzipped so every time you picked it up, the ipad dropped out and you yelled, “FUCK!”?

The little wire bird on my desk with the matching wire candle holder that you bought on one of my birthdays – part of the big bag of goodies that you shopped and shopped for because you loved to give those thoughtful gifts that meant you had been thinking of me everywhere you went shopping that week, searching out each special item. Because you loved me and you constantly showed it.

The hand sanitizer – because your white blood count was low from the chemo, so I populated the house, every flat surface, with a hand sanitizer bottle so you wouldn’t get sick and die.

But you died anyway.

There’s the shocking pink stapler you bought me in Florida when I was trying to put together paperwork while working at the condo on our first spring trip this year – the one we took after you were pronounced in remission and the final lung radiation was complete, but before the brain radiation started. The pink stapler that I thought sheesh, I don’t need this big stapler – he always buys too much, too big, but now I love it and it’s my special stapler because you bought it for me in Florida on our second from last trip before you died.

Let me not focus on your Palmerworks Design business card – the one where we finally agreed on a logo, because we never agreed on a logo. But then, you always forgot to have them in the car and we always had to give out mine with your number written on it by hand.

God, let my brain stop. Please let these memories take a break, just for a while, just for a half hour. They are incessant. They hurt, yet they feel good, too. Painful pleasure in memories of you.

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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