Every Day But Today

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Every year without fail that day pops up and I generally don’t notice until it’s smack dab upon me. It’s not that I’ve forgotten I had a husband before Rob and that he died in January. I just lose track of the days and suddenly it is the day, and six year after the fact, I am once again left to wonder what to do with it.

When I remember Will dying, I recall that it was Monday, the day after the Steelers won the AFC championship. It was unseasonably warm. I had strep throat and Dee had an ear infection. I was tired. Annoyed that once again I had to cajole family and friends into being even the tiniest bit useful, and that  – as always – most of the heavy lifting was mine to do alone.

That’s what I remember.

What I felt was just tired and relieved and free. It was over. Finally. The day I didn’t think would ever come, came, and it was everything I expected and nothing I expected.

When I first began creeping about the Internet looking for signs that I was not the only young widow on the planet, I stumbled upon terminology specific to grief culture. One word in particular curdled my eardrums: sadiversary. A cutesy-poo term for the anniversary of the date of death. I refused to use it, but it is an integral part of my yearly dilemma. This idea that the day a person died should be honored in some way, which is quite Celtic really. In that ancient culture, birthdays are mourned and dates of death celebrated because your birth into this life is your exit from the better alternative of “heaven”. Therefore your departure from this life is your rebirth somewhere much better. But that’s not why people memorialize.

I don’t write mournful dirges of what I lost or how I was cheated or how death is unfair or widowhood is wrong. Not that any of that is untrue in this or that way depending on a person’s circumstances, but it’s not true from where I stand.

I don’t light virtual candles, put up pictures on Facebook or change my profile pic there in memorial.

Rob goes and leaves a note for her on the guest book page of her virtual memorial. The girls do too, and they update their statuses on Facebook or put up pictures. There is a bench in a park in the city for them to visit. It bears one of those memorial plaques. The kind that just have a name and dates and makes a person wonder who this person was and what moved someone to claim a park bench in their name. It works for them.

Will is buried in a little town that is home to the bar where he played for a pool league. He is only buried at all because his family hounded me about it. I haven’t been to visit his grave in almost four years. It’s a literal millstone and I resent it’s very existence.

What I feel about today and the few days on either side of it is anger. White searing hot effing anger.

Not that he died. He had to die. There wasn’t ever any option not to and both he and I are in far better places because of it.

No. I am angry at all the people who made his dying so much harder for me.

For most of the year, I let it go. I remember that people are just people. Frail, fallible and of varying mettle. But this time of year, I remember the people who wouldn’t come to sit with me while he died. Or who came but spent the time talking about their own problems – the boyfriend who had a panic attack and had to go to the ER, the abusive mother, the time when this or that other person died and how hard it was for them. I remember standing in his hospice room, death rattling in my ear with a cranky, confused three-year old on my hip and a cell phone to my ear listening to one excuse after another of why so-and-so friend couldn’t come and take my little girl home and watch her until my mother arrived from 300 miles away.

The condescending tone of his mother’s friend as she relayed my mother-in-law’s queries to me because his mother still refused to talk to me on the phone personally. The whine of the hospice social worker who was more concerned about my maintaining contact with the vicious woman so that she could heal than she was about me or Dee and how Will’s mother’s toxicity had already damaged us. His fat stupid trailer park cousin, who hadn’t ever once lifted a finger to help me suddenly thinking that I should let her babysit in the future and expressing her concern about my mental health. The indignant hospice nurses who seethed as they recounted to me how his mother and her friends sat around his bedside having a hen party while they saw to his needs. Not a one of them checking to see if he needed his lips moistened or holding his hand. Just watching television and chatting as though a coffee table sat between them and not a hospital bed with a dying 32 year old man on it.

I remember his friends. Useless as ever, showing up the night before he died, standing around his bed smelling like the sports bar they’d come from and dressed in black and gold. Not one of them had ever visited him in the nursing home. Not one had ever called him after his diagnosis. I can still hear the hurt in his voice when he would say, “I called so-and-so today but he never called back. Why doesn’t anyone ever call me or visit?”

And there where the people who wouldn’t come because “they wanted to remember him as he was”.  His aunt. His uncles. The guy he considered his best friend.

And of course, there are the friends who never showed up at all. Maybe I got a card from them after the fact or came home to a message on the answering machine that grated like fingernails on a chalkboard, explaining that they’d had a long day at work or child’s sporting event to attend or it was just too sad for them to contemplate and “I hope you can understand”.

Which I do, every other day but today.

Then there was the visitation, where his mother accepted money from his friends for expenses and pocketed it. Where she told them that he died because I wouldn’t let the doctors treat him and that I was dating already. She and her family and friends sat in the spot reserved for family while I stood at the door, endlessly shaking hands – being hugged by people I loathed – and wishing every single second that I hadn’t allowed myself to be talked into such a stupid waste of money I didn’t have.

Most of the year I am okay with the fact that his family, friends and the majority of our mutual friends had a party right after the visitation. One that I wasn’t supposed to know about because I wasn’t a good wife to Will and didn’t deserve sympathy or consideration in their opinion. I wasn’t invited. The party was to be his send off by those who truly loved him. All those people who turned their backs on him when he got sick and have never once asked about his daughter or checked up on her in any way. They put on a little show before the visitation ended. Dressed in Steelers football jersey’s. They sang and danced the “touch down” song, tears streaming. All choked up as though it hadn’t been nearly two years since most of them had laid eyes on Will and as if they wouldn’t slither into the night, never to be seen again. A lot of people thought it was touching but they were the kind of people who probably think releasing balloons or gathering to toss flower petals is meaningful too.

Most of the year, I let that go. But not today.

There are no candles to light or  polite status updates or memorial rituals for remembering that on the one day in my entire life … in his life … when we needed people to step up, almost no one did. And on this one day of the year, I remember vividly, and I don’t forgive you though he would have because he was a much better person than I am.

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8 responses to “Every Day But Today

  1. Found your blog today – so powerful. My husband died at home in March this year of cancer & his family have acted even worse than your husband’s. They have waged a war against me (no idea why), engaged in a power struggle to take over his funeral and their awful behaviour towards him was detrimental to his health, they also stole some of his ashes. Finally I had to call in the police & a solicitor.
    I too have wondered what I’ll do when his birthday and anniversary come around – times I’m dreading. Part of me wants to ignore it completely – his family will put notices in the paper proclaiming their undying love for him which I can’t read – so untrue – real love isn’t self-serving.
    Like you, the pain of what they did almost breaks me. To remember him crying because he couldn’t cope with them when he was so gravely ill is burned into my brain. But I remember it everyday. I will never forgive them.
    You sound strong. I hope you stay strong & I will follow your blog because I hope it will help me in the months/years to come. Good luck Annie you deserve it.

    • I am so sorry for your loss and for what his family has put you both through. I truly don’t understand the mindset behind actions like these but I have found that it’s a fifty/fifty thing when someone is gravely ill/dies. People either step up or they regress to beastly behaviours.

      Anniversaries are never truly forgotten, so in time, you will find your comfort zone in terms of what you feel you need to do to note them. It’s a work in progress. No right or wrong. Just what works.

      I haven’t forgiven my MIL or her family. I have no use for the men who to this day call themselves my late husband’s true friends and regard me as one of the worst things that ever happened to him. Some will tell you that harbouring ill will keeps you from moving on and that you should be the bigger person, lead by example. That’s nonsense. I gain nothing from forgiving people who’ve never asked for it and weren’t really sorry at all when they did. What do we gain by engaging in meaningless exchanges? I don’t dwell on it though (okay, here and there but it certainly doesn’t dominate my life) b/c they aren’t important enough for me to care or worry about. Be angry. Imagine all the things you would say if they would stand still and listen and then remember that your husband really loved you and knew these people for who they truly were whether they know it or not.

      Things get easier as you go along. Time is a healer as much as it just provides more and more distance to let us put things in perspective and put our lives into place. Grief, like life itself, is simply a process. Most of us will go through it sooner or later and most of us come out on the other side. Good luck to you.

  2. I hear you. (Loud and clear!)

    I still get convulsions of anger toward Nick’s family, and I still shake my head in disgust as his brother, who wouldn’t go into the ICU because he “didn’t want to remember him that way.”

    Pretty impressive if you can truly limit those emotions to 1 day out of 365.

    • I am hoping that one day I can banish them completely but the trauma lingers for now.

      The worst thing is reconciling that people who are important to me couldn’t muster the cajones. Seriously. Just couldn’t. And I don’t get that. But, we can’t all be us, can we?

  3. Yes, I can remember that day of the visitation!! What a bunch of
    little minded people who don’t know their asses from a hole in the
    ground!! It took a lot of strength not to verbally assault them!

    And for the mother in-law not enough verbs/adjectives etc… to describe her.

    An ugly woman who will never be happy!! I am glad that you or Dee will never see those people again!! Good bye and
    don’t come back!

    • You were a formidable rock that day, guarding your niece like she was the Hope diamond. I seem to recall that you didn’t curb your tongue when the opportunity arose. Thanks.

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