In an iChat session with my best friend Erk yesterday, she reminded me that John used to call me Babe.
Until she reminded me, I had totally forgotten. As soon as she said it, I could hear his voice in my head again, running through the (relatively short) list of pet names he had for me: Babe, Love, Goose, Goose Love.
So many details of our life are slipping away from me. To lose one of John's names for me seemed so intimate. How could I forget something like that? Yet I had. Maddie woke up crying at 2:00 a.m. last night, and after I comforted her, I had a hard time going back to sleep, as I often do. As I lay awake in bed, I tried to remember tangible details about the shared love John and I had. I remembered that we had made up a song called "Goosey Love" that we'd sing to each other, but I could no longer recall the tune. When I tried to sing it, it would morph into one of the toddler songs I sing with Maddie and Riley.
As I feel bits of John slipping away from me, his absence expresses itself in both new and familiar ways. I've had a ridiculously strong craving for Korean food: bi bim bap, soon doo boo, all the little plates of banchan. Maddie and Riley accidentally ripped in half a picture of me and John dancing at a friend's wedding; they tore it clear in two, splitting John and me apart with a stunning and symbolic exactitude. Seeing that, I felt pain and rage that hadn't surfaced for a while, and I had to check myself not to take it out on the twins. I've been eating anything I can get my hands on, all the better if it's not good for me. I was in tears at my desk last week when a friend said that she was going to light a candle and invite John to watch TV with her that night.
I used to light a candle for John from time to time. The candle is still next to our bed, but I haven't lit it in months, since the one year mark of his death. He's been gone just over eighteen months now, but the actual eighteen-month mark slipped past in a work- and twin-infused haze; the 11th of each month comes and goes for me now without so much as a blip on the radar. I'm planning to paint my kitchen and my bedroom; I'm going to paint the kitchen red, a color John never would have chosen or liked. I didn't choose it because he wouldn't like it, but I'm not letting the fact that he would not have chosen it dissuade me.
I've made a lot of peace with moving forward and with creating a life that honors John without being a shrine to him and without martyring myself. I am allowed to be happy. John would want me to be happy. I want to move on, I don't want to forget. I wanted to be married to John for forty, fifty—more!—years, but I don't want to be a slave to a marriage I didn't get to have. I want Maddie and Riley to know how much John loved them and understand what he gave them, but I want them to be able to accept and thrive in the love of other people who can provide parental guidance. This is how it works when people die, I guess. You remember them, you love them, you honor them, but you have to live without them.
Still. I find myself chastened by the guilt of hearing someone else's voice calling me pet names, smelling someone else on my clothes, and reaching for someone else in the night when I can't sleep. Not the guilt when those things happen, but the guilt that comes later, however long it takes me these days to remember when that person was John.