Sunday, August 1, 2010

On Unrealized Dreams

July is always a hard month for me. Not as hard as February, but it is what I have decided to refer to as “my other hard month”. The only redeeming quality it has is that it falls during the summer and I, therefore, have more options to avoid grieving than I do in February.

July 21st would have been my wife’s 32nd birthday. It is the fourth one I have recognized alone. I hesitate to say that it is getting “easier”, but the truth is that the grief is not as raw now as it was during the first couple. Plus, my daughter is older now, so I have been able to share what the date means over the last two years, whereas I was totally alone in it the first two. (We were actually with family last year, which also helped).

For us it was a quiet day. I work two days a week in the summer, and this year her birthday happened to fall on one of those days. I did have lots of time to think about her on the drive to and from work and during the afternoon hours while my daughter was still at her summer program, but the feelings were primarily of fondness and the pangs of grief were held at bay. I teach some of our elementary-aged kids at church on Wednesday nights, so that was another welcome distraction. And as I recall, I fell asleep on the couch watching tv with my daughter that night.

Mile one, down.

One week later came what should have been our ninth wedding anniversary. As far as the day itself goes, it was very similar to her birthday in that I worked during the day and had church that night. I was able to pick my daughter up earlier that day (no field trip with the day program), but she watched tv while I took a nap, then went to play with a friend nearby while I made dinner. That evening (after church) we sat and talked to some neighbors, which was another nice distraction. I was still trying not to dwell on the day when I posted about it on my Facebook page with less than half an hour to go. But eventually I found sleep and the next morning arrived.

Mile two, down.

I think I sometimes downplay my emotions on this site. I don’t have very many attacks of raw grief like I did at first (before I could even write about it) or like some of my favorite bloggers are still encountering and enduring, but that doesn’t make it any less hard when these days arrive. It just makes it a different kind of hard.

That’s what I’ve begun to realize over the past few days. Her birthday will always be difficult in that it symbolizes one more year that she could have lived on earth and one more year she is not here with us now. No one’s birthday should be symbolic before age thirty-two. But for me, every day symbolizes that. Her birthday is just an enhanced reminder of what I live daily.

Our anniversary is another story. While I “made it through” the day okay, it’s the one that gets me. It’s the day that reminds me that I’ll never realize the dream of 6-7-8-9+ years of marriage with her. Yes, there could be another Mrs. 3SF someday, but it’s not something I am concentrating on at the moment. And the fact of the matter is, even if I do “find love again” it can’t be with her.

Now, this may seem conflicting for some of my long-time readers, considering the fact that I dated a very nice young woman this winter. (Supa wrote a great post about being a remarried widow recently). Dating or marrying someone else doesn’t suddenly erase the sense of loss you feel at having never realized certain dreams with the spouse who made you a widow/er. And I believe I may have only scratched the surface regarding that when I dated last winter.

Most of the time I am truly at peace with the idea that I could remain single for a very long time. I was okay with it before I dated and was again pretty soon after we broke-up. Being comfortable with myself with or without someone else has always been important and after two-plus years of being widowed, I finally regained that sense of self, which is what allowed me to be ready to date when I did.

But something happened Friday evening that caught me off-guard.

My daughter and I were eating at one of our favorite Italian restaurants after her appointment with her ENT in another city. We were seated at a table-for-two, which is obviously not uncommon for us. I sat facing a window and the table just below it. It was another table-for-two, and I could not help but stare at the people seated there throughout our meal.

Seated over my daughter’s shoulder were two people who could be us in 15 years.

The man was in his work uniform, which made me believe he was a mechanic of some variety. He had a full beard and his eye color was different from mine. But other than those differences, he could have easily been me. The resemblance with the girl was even more striking. Other than the eye color difference, she could have been a computer-aged image of my daughter in fifteen years.

Normally I would find a scenario like that endearing, but the other night it just made me sad. I kept thinking “This could be my life for the next fifteen years”. I have obviously known that since February 26, 2007, but these people placed in this setting at this moment in time reminded me that no matter how comfortable I am with myself and my current single/widowed status, there will always be moments of sadness. There will always be pangs of regret.

There will always be unrealized dreams.

Yesterday an opportunity arose to spend some time with a single woman and her daughter and I took it. I normally shy away from these types of situations for fear that I might lead someone on, but yesterday I was a bit more selfish (though I tried very hard not to send any mixed signals). We took the kids to a pizza place and then to pick blueberries - a very typical family-type event. And even though I wasn’t really part of a nuclear family, it felt good to spend a few hours in that type of situation. (Plus I made a delicious blueberry pie from the fruits of our labor!)

Writing that just now, I’m not sure if I actually feel good about doing it or not. But my promise to my readers has always been to stay true to my journey, and that includes the parts I’m a bit embarrassed to admit now. (Please don’t judge me too harshly).

Today has been better. I don’t feel the same sense of imminent sadness I felt Friday evening, nor do I feel the need to take any single ladies out to the blueberry patch to fill my need to feel like part of a pseudo-family for a few hours. I’m back to being comfortable with the day-to-day aspects of my single/widowed life.

And I’m really glad it’s August.


  1. I'm sorry, but I couldn't help but laugh at the phrase in your last paragraph, "the need to take any single ladies out to the blueberry patch." I suppose it's my terrible sense of humor, but it made me think that this was some kind of code for other tawdry behavior.

    Anyway, I had a similar experience today at the beach with my son, only looking back in the rather than forward. I was watching a young father playing with his very young son on the sand. They were wrestling, and the father picked him up by the legs and carried him around upside down, as if he were some kind of monkey. I was thinking about all the years that I spent as a single parent, and how I wondered if that was all I would ever be. About that time my 12 year old said to me that they reminded him of the two of us, especially how we played when he was younger. I then realized that here we were, many years later, and I am back to being a single parent again. Of course it led me to the same train of thought as yours. Will this be my status from here on out?

    At times I belive this is it. At other times I recognize that love has come around more than once for others. I suppose I just want to be open to the possibilities.

  2. I'm so glad you wrote this. I feel less alone in how I feel.
    This past weekend, my husband's brother visited and played with my two kids, just like their father did. So not quite a nuclear family, but still getting some of the "normalcy" of one in our lives.

  3. "There will always be unrealized dreams."

    Just like there are always opportunities to realize new ones.

  4. This sentence resonated a lot with me: "Dating or marrying someone else doesn’t suddenly erase the sense of loss you feel at having never realized certain dreams with the spouse who made you a widow/er."

    I don't think many people get that.

  5. Thanks for all of your comments. I felt like this piece was a little less cohesive than some of my other posts, and yet it turns out there was plenty to be gleaned from it. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  6. I stumbled across your blog tonight, as I was dealing with my own similar grief. You have a gift for sharing and helping others. I hope your writing helps you as it helped me.

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  8. I really enjoyed your post, thanks for sharing.