I have been confused by many things in my life. But I would say that, by far, the thing that has confused me the most is being comforted by a boyfriend while I cry about my husband.
Yup. That’s a doozy.
I would imagine that it’s confusing for him as well. I mean, if my husband were here…my boyfriend wouldn’t be. So it’s got to be a little difficult to say to me, “I’m so sorry he’s gone” because if he wasn’t we would have never met. But since he’s my best friend, too, that’s what he says. And he means it.
How did this happen? How did I get here? How did I go from being married for 11 years to dating for 3?
I think so often about the beginning of my widowhood and I’ve made it no secret that I started dating what some people would consider “early.” I’ve often said that that was because my partner had been ripped from my life, suddenly and without warning, and I wanted that void filled.
I wanted to skip the part of dating where you wonder whether or not someone will call (or in this day and age text, IM, email, or message in some other way) and the other games we all play no matter what age we are. I wanted to catapult right back to where I was – comfortable, sure of my rock-solid relationship, taking care of someone I knew would take care of me.
So while the perception may have been that I didn’t “love my husband enough” and so I immediately started dating, the exact opposite was true: I loved him so much that I wanted him back without missing a beat. I wasn’t ready to grieve him. Because I loved him too damn much.
But there was another reason for it. I had all of this love to give, a specific kind of love that was his and his alone. It was the kind that keeps people together for a lifetime. The kind that isn’t exciting, but sure and definite. The kind that was born the moment I said “I do” back in 1996 and kept growing from that day on.
And then he was gone. But my love wasn’t.
It was like my heart had a defective homing device that was sending out signals that weren’t being received. It was such an empty feeling, knowing that I had it but that it had no place to go. And it wasn’t just missing saying “I love you” before hanging up the phone; it was the whole package – the nurturing someone else, taking care of someone else, knowing that someone is enjoying his life a little more because of what you’re bringing to it.
All of that, being thrown out there into the world, without that one person to accept it.
Where does it go? Does it dissipate? Does it eventually reach someone overseas who sits up suddenly and says, “Hey. Somebody out there loves me!”
No, really. I’m asking. What happens to it?
I was such a fool to think, when I first started dating, that the love I have for my husband could be given to anyone else other than him. It can’t. It’s all his. Just as the love I have for each of my children is individual and sacred, developed for each one of them and impossible to change, the love I have for my husband is his and his alone. But the heart is a complex, ever-changing, and infinitely expandable thing. It makes room when needed (and, yes, can sometimes close in order to self-protect).
So while I cry on my boyfriend’s shoulder about how sad I am that my husband is gone, never does that mean that I wish my boyfriend wasn’t here. And when I smile, laugh, and accept the love that’s right in front of me, that doesn’t mean that I don’t wish my husband could somehow be here, too.
It just means that my homing device must still be putting out a weak signal after all of these years. And that someone was paying attention enough – looking for my specific signal – just waiting to receive it.
Catherine Tidd 2012