being a second wife


Today is the second anniversary of Shelley’s death. Two weeks ago MidKid was quizzing Rob about plans for the day and if I felt uncomfortable marking the anniversary. Like most people who haven’t lived this, she is curious about the effect that  “living in another woman’s shadow” has on me. After all I live in Shelley’s house. Sleep in her bed with her husband.

A more introspective person might have trouble with that.

It is a curious thing. I have spent more time in the past year and a half participating in the remembrances of Shelley and her departed loved ones than I have remembering my own late husband. In fact, as I thought more about it I realized I have devoted more time recently to memorializing people I don’t know than I have ever spent acknowledging the death anniversaries of members of my own family. Aside from having masses said, of course, we just didn’t count birthdays anymore or visit graves other than over the Memorial Day weekend. In fact aside from Will, I can’t even remember the specific dates anyone died, even those whose death had a great impact on me and my family.

What probably causes me the most discomfort is that fact that I don’t feel a ton of need to mark dates of death or anniversaries of birth, and so I am at a loss when others do feel the need.

Rob has spent the last several days telling Shelley’s story because he felt it was something he could do to mark the day.

Sometimes it seems very important to mark the day(s) but how to do it is not always as obvious.

Other widowed we know tell their stories. Some about the end. Some about the beginning.

I wonder what Shelley would think about it all. I sometimes think I know more about her than I do my own sisters but I haven’t any idea when it comes to this.

Will would be appalled.

Although I have written about his death, and I did that very early on, I plan to revisit it again only when I write my memoir this fall – and then never again from a specific detail point of view. Most of what I write/have written where grief and widowhood are concerned is about me and the experiences I had. And about moving on*.

Will’s story is his.

I don’t feel right about exposing him more than I already do to the world. He was a very private person. This blog for example would have made him very uncomfortable.

Sometimes – okay, all the time – I feel that the observations of other widowed and the omnipresent role that their deceased spouses take in their current lives is just proof of what a terrible person I am because Will has no role or place now. Often I don’t think about him or our life at all.

My last post about our wedding anniversary almost didn’t happen. The first version was a very angry diatribe about why I can’t romanticize the past and am much happier where I am than I have ever been in my whole life – thank you very much. I still feel defensive about being happy when so many people would go back in a heartbeat. But it’s ridiculous. My life is not open for debate, and I don’t need to feel bad for being where I want to be and happy about it.

The compromise post was just memories. Not great ones but they went with the soundtrack, and the song seemed appropriate to the event and how I feel about it. And most important, they are mine.

But I don’t know that I want to continue marking days**. In fact, I know I don’t. It feels like obligation*** rather than true sentiment.

Shelley died two years ago today.

I owe my happiness to her.

It’s not a comfortable thing to know, and I don’t know at all what it says about life or the universe or God or me.

*I hate the term “moving forward” but I adopted it when I was at the YWBB and posting because it was less incendiary, but what we do really is move on.

** I had already broached Rob with the idea that just he and the girls get together. I am not uncomfortable with gatherings but I am keenly aware that they hold back because BabyD is there and that I am not their mom.

*** Obligation is probably not the best word. I feel I need to be around for Rob. The girls are adults but we are all still children to our parents. I know in my twenties the fall back position when I was around my folks was effortless, and the girls need to be able to lean on Rob and express their grief. They are not as far in their journey as he is because kids of all ages grieve in spurts and in between the experiences that are transforming them.