Farmington Road

Dear Rick,

So, here I am, feeling really proud of myself for handling my new normal. I’m not crying all day anymore. I’m functioning. I’m planning a future without you. I’m being me, again, not always “us.”

I’m planning my bucket list. I’m finding substitutes to try to fill the role you played in my life. I have friends and family to fill my hours, to go to dinners, and movies, and chat with about events in my life.

It’s not perfect. There are times, like the other night, after I had worked all day on our business, when I wanted to go to dinner, but couldn’t think of anyone in my “friends and family arsenal” to call. I rejected every idea, until I realized, I didn’t want anyone but you. So I went alone and read my book, while drinking a margarita at the Mexican restaurant where we used to celebrate the end of the work day together. I was lonely, but only lonely for you.

I’ve cut my Xanax in half now. I’m not as anxious as I was. Oh, I felt it a little the other evening. Friday after getting home from work, I had nothing planned, and a giant lump formed in my stomach: unbridled fear. I was shocked. I had nothing to be upset about! Why was I so anxious, filled with dread?

Because I couldn’t imagine filling those empty hours without you by my side. Because I suddenly became overwhelmed again by the idea of continuing for however many days and weeks and months and years without my other half. I felt that “ripped in two” feeling that I lived with for the first few months after you died. It came as a shock, because I hadn’t felt that in a while. I was beginning to feel whole, and then suddenly, I wasn’t. The amputee feeling pain in the missing limb?

As bad as the pain is now, it’s absolutely nothing compared to before. I feel whole quite often now. I have a routine that doesn’t include you. I’m filling in gaps.

So I was a bit surprised at what happened while driving to work this morning. There was an accident on Merriman Road, so I detoured and went to Farmington, instead. I had driven a few feet when I realized I had never taken that route since you died. It was the route you always took, but I never liked driving that way, so I haven’t now that I drive myself to work.

This was the route where there is a four-way intersection and every morning, every single morning, you made a big production about coaching the other drivers through the organized process of the four-way stop. Sometimes you were irritated at the drivers who didn’t get it and missed their proper sequence in the orderly process. Sometimes you lauded drivers for handling it correctly. But always, always, you made loud vociferous comments for my entertainment.

It was our routine, you cajoling or praising the other drivers, and me complaining that you took that route in the first place. Just avoid it and the irritation, I’d tell you, and we’d continue our banter about you and your commentaries on the “correct” way drivers should behave, and how irritating that corner was, and blah blah blah. It was our routine, and I miss it, and you, and the irritation, and the bantering, up to and including, when I’d finally say something that made you reach over and pinch my inner thigh – and I’d yelp very loudly. And we’d both laugh.

So, I turned that corner, and it all came rushing back, and I sobbed. I drove the rest of the way to work in misery, uncontrollably sobbing and stunned by how vividly I could remember you, and how much fun we had, and what I missed about you, and I once again felt that abject fear that I can’t go on without you in my life.

And then I arrived at work, and I dried my eyes. I reapplied my mascara (I keep a spare in the car for these occasions), and I went on with my day without you.

Jan 31, 2018

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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