This has been the longest twelve weeks of my fucking life, Russ. And I’m doing my best to listen in the stillness for your voice in my soul, to pay attention to the dreams, to focus on the songs you always send me exactly when I need them (including Zac Brown as I’m composing this post, you stinker).
It doesn’t hurt to breathe as much as it did in the beginning. It still punches me in the chest when it hits me that you’re gone, but I guess I’m starting to feel it so often that I’m unfortunately used to living with it now. There’s an irony that when we first met you were still learning how to take deep breaths again because of the damage your surgery had done to your diaphragm, and here I am trying to teach myself to breathe again, in a way. At least in baby steps I’m starting to be able to smile when I talk about you, even if talking about copper rivets for the shields with someone last weekend made me tear up.
I have to do this. There isn’t an alternative. I mean, there always is, but I know what you want me to do is to keep going, because I know how much you loved me. I know you want me to keep going and move forward one baby step at a time. I know that’s what I have to do, and somehow I’ll do it even as I stumble and trip and fall flat on my face and curl up in a ball to cry for a while before trying again to stand and move forward.
12 weeks ago. I remember… not a lot about that night now, frankly. Snippets. Like watching it happen to someone else. The brain’s way of protecting someone in trauma. I remember when Spouse drove me home I sat in the car once we’d got here and doubled over in pain as I screamed, and screamed, and screamed until my throat hurt and my voice was gone. I screamed into the night and thought I’d never stop screaming, even when couldn’t scream anymore.
All while I hugged the blankets you’d bought for me to use while at your place, and your guyabera shirt I bought for you–one you’d JUST WORN a couple of weeks ago to the wedding and I picked up from your bedroom floor where it was waiting for you to take it to the cleaners.
A shirt and blankets that still smelled like you then but they don’t now. I still haven’t taken it to the cleaners. I need to. I need to take it and the rocket pop and cheetah shirts to the cleaners and hang them neatly up in my closet. I need to wash the T-shirts I’d just snagged from your hamper on that Monday before I left.
I should talk to Buck about ideas of what to make from the leather from your dress shoes that your siblings snagged for me–shoes YOU JUST WORE TO THE WEDDING. That I watched you put the shoe stretchers back into when we got home, just before you tossed the guaybera shirt into your pile to take to the cleaners. But I can’t yet. The shoes are in my office on the plastic file box you kept some of our things in, where I can see them and touch them and play with the blue laces and remember how funny you thought it was the first time you dressed up for me for a date and saw my reaction.
When we went to go see Bob Saget. And now he’s not here, either.
I still have bags of butter chicken in my freezer I know I need to eat before they go bad. I even hear you telling me to do it, to enjoy them, and remember how you made it for me that last weekend. How we stirred the chicken every seven minutes because you said that was the perfect time. That Sunday night we made it. The unusual Sunday night you had me stay over.
And part of me wonders yet again if the Universe gave you a few mental nudges, too. I’ll never know, I guess.
And I’m learning to try to distract myself at 7:15pm every Thursday because, right now, the urge is too strong for me to want to listen to the 911 tape, redacted or not. Or to look at the final picture I took so I can try to somehow hammer it into my brain that there is no escaping this hell, only learning how to maneuver through it according to the current circumstances. That it really happened and no matter how much I try to bargain with the Universe to wake me up, it’s not a nightmare I can escape to find myself rolling over into your arms and going back to sleep.
They say the only way through hell is to keep going, but there is no walking out of this one, is there, baby? This is an alien landscape I have to learn how to navigate.
(OMFG you stinker. And literally you now send me “Kumbaya Life Rolls On” on the radio I GET IT, OKAY?? LOL)
That. I try to look for the humor now. The dream where you ARGUED with me about Vikings and gis. The song choices you send me. The soft whispers (and sometimes not so soft) that I’m finally accepting aren’t just wishful thinking on my part.
It was the week of Samhain when you left and I guess it made it easy for that part of you to stay behind with me through the thinning of the veil. (How did we manage to flip roles from you being the agnostic engineer to me being the skeptic and you dragging me along in your wake? You always were a control freak, though, baby. LOL I guess some things never will change, and for that I’m grateful.)
Why didn’t I get more videos or take more pictures? I wish I had. You always grumbled when I took selfies of us, but you always gave me that gorgeous smile. And that’s how I remember you, your laugh, your playful grin as you held my ATM card over my head in Publix while swiping your own. (God, I fell for that more than once, that’s how damned good you were at it. LOL) I want to be able to tell all those stories and smile and laugh and not feel like my soul’s bleeding out, baby.
I write to you and send these electronic bytes into the ether because in some ways it will forever keep part of you alive. And I’ve had people message me that it helps them on their journeys, too. Not just people who knew you, but people dealing with their own grief. So…I guess in some way you are STILL helping people, my Viking. You were always the helper, always the caretaker. My stubbornly independent Viking.
12 weeks. Double digits. Anywhere from 24-36 nights, on average, that we didn’t get to spend together or wake up together the next morning. I need to go to Morenos and the taco truck. I need to go have a Scotch egg. I need to go to the poke bowl place and the Thai place. I need to…do the things.
I catch a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye sometimes in the kitchen, too high to be one of the cats, and I can picture you in the kitchen doorway, smiling at me as you walk in. I still have the two bottles of flavor for your soda water on the shelf even though I don’t use them because I can’t bear to get rid of them.
I have the bottle of wasabi sauce I was going to bring over that I forgot to grab that last weekend, and the container of instant espresso for me. I can’t make myself use them yet. Because then it’s one more step away from you.
It’s one more step from that night 12 weeks ago when they finally let me in and I stood there and heard you whisper, “Breathe,” in my ear as I stared at you sweetly dreaming on the couch. I still, STILL struggle to process I heard you calling me, insistently, until I came looking for you. And it had to be me and goddess I’ve never wanted to be more wrong about anything in my fucking life. Ever. But it had to be me for all the reasons and it was both a curse and a blessing.
12 weeks. And no new pictures or video to add to my camera roll. All I can do is look back over what I have of you.
12 weeks. I can still remember sitting there on that very same couch watching TV and reaching up to play with your beard the way I always did. The way you played with my hair.
The way your hair felt when I made them wait so I could stroke your head and tell you one last time how much I loved you. I remember the blanket they spread over you was burgundy. I remember the EMTs’ stretcher was yellow and the undertakers’ was silver. I remember the undertakers both wore suits, one black and one charcoal. I remember the cup the neighbor brought to me with water in it was a TB Lightning cup.
I remember my rage at the sheriff’s supervisor who finally said yes, I could go in, but advised us not to. I distinctly remember clenching and unclenching my fist and thinking if I punch him they’ll never let me in to see you. How it was all I could do not to push him out of my way to finally see you.
12 weeks and it’s funny what sticks about that night and what didn’t.
I love you, Russ, and miss you so, so much. Sweet dreams, my Viking. 🥰💖😘