15 October 2008

Pet Names

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.

50 comments:

Wordgirl said...

What a beautifully written post. For what its worth I think this blog is a testament to your love for him, the grieving process -- it is a gift to others who are struggling with the same thing. I wish my mother had had this when she lost my father when I was six -- she never moved on and that, for a child, in my experience, was so much harder than if she had -- moved into a full life that honored his memory, but honored her as well -- I still wish that for her and I am 36 and she is 65.

My best to you and the twins,

Pam

Anonymous said...

Hi Snick...

I don't know what to say, as I have not walked in your shoes. But I think a key thing to remember is you did not *choose* a life without John; this life chose you, and it does go on.

Please don't feel guilty or disloyal about any of your choices or actions. You are making them with honor and respect, but at the same time with you and the kids' best interest at heart.

I wish there was a way to bottle up the memories, but forgetting little things doesn't mean you're forgetting John. Writing them down might help you capture them down before they fade, though.

Anonymous said...

By the way... goose? There's gotta be a good story behind that one.

Lori said...

maybe keep a special notebook that you can write those memories down in when they pop into your head. it could be theraputic for you and a nice keepsake for the babes later...

Cheryl Lage said...

Lovely, Snick. You've helped me get to know John through your thoughtfully, intimately composed post...Maddie and Riley will know similarly lovely aspects of John through your artfully worded glimpses and remembrances like these.

They are so very blessed to have you. :)

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who lost her husband of about 10 years to a horrible 3 year battle with cancer. They had 2 young daughters. Shortly after he died (less than a few months) she met a man who had lost his wife and also had 2 young children. They started dating right away. (they have now been married for about 12 years)

She had spent 3 years mourning the loss of her husband when he was still alive, his death was horrible, she would have done anything to still have him - but the last year of his life it was evident that would not happen. His death allowed her to move on and live.

Good for you for allowing yourself move on. And never allow anyone to make you feel that you are not honoring the love you had for John

julie

Maggie said...

Thanks. I can relate, regarding a different situation. Almost two years after the death of my second child, I had another. I found myself both revelling in the new baby and grieving the loss of his sister again, simultaneously. Grief is strange; it both eases and deepens as you realize the dimensions and reality of "gone forever."

Mama Nabi said...

*hugs* Snick, we sure do go through some parallel bizarro shit together. I was thinking of grief... and yes, pet names. (Hm, I wonder if we're on a same cycle... haha)

The guilt factor - that can't be helped but you can keep reminding yourself that this IS a slice of happiness you do deserve. It's either grabbing that happiness OR... yeah. The other choice would simply be silly and John would not want that for you.

xoxox

Mama Nabi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
django's mommy said...

Once again, I can't thank you enough for verbalizing my experiences.

I don't know that I can ever call anyone else 'babe'. I *know* I will never be able to yell 'Love??' when I walk in the door.

I got called 'sweetie' the other day, and the intensity of my reaction surprised me. An email was signed 'love, xxx' and I flipped out.

It's hard to have these experiences, and in the next minute soothe my 3 year old as he cries out for his daddy in his sleep. What am I doing? How did I get here?

Like you, I struggle with doing things that I KNOW J wouldn't like. It feels disloyal, dishonest. The practical part of me shrugs and says, 'well, he doesn't get to decide anymore', but it's always countered by an incredible sense of loss and sadness.

Walking right beside you, sister.

Rosepetal said...

I wish I could be more like you. I have reached a plateau of living after - it's more than just functioning - but can't seem to move beyond it. For me some of not being able to move beyond it is definitely linked to my not actually wanting to, something which you have accomplished, even though it remains painful at times.

Jody said...

Love this post. So sorry for all the conflicting emotions you have to sort through. Grief is such a strange beast.

By the way, you can probably "heal" that photo by scanning it and doing some minor repair in photoshop...let me know if you want some help with it. I know it's not the same, but at least you could print a whole copy again.

Hugs,
Jody

WendyB said...

Beautiful post.

WendyMac said...

Don't feel guilty, such is the journey of grief, we forget a little, remember a little and the flow keeps us moving along. All in our own time and place. Who knows, John may really LOVE the red kitchen!!!
It is comforting to hear you doing so well, as difficult as it is.
Thanks for the lovely post.

Giovanna Diaries said...

{{{{hugs}}}}}
and see ya tonight!

Copper Blue said...

You may not realize this, but what you just wrote is poetry. Any man would be lucky to have a woman write this about him after his death.

The flame of your love for him may grow dimmer, but it will never be truly out. Take comfort in that.

Susan said...

I like how the one post says it is hard to know what to say when you haven't walked in shoes like yours. Your a very strong woman though Snick. Your blog was worded beautifully and I hope that blogging about it helps. I also like how one person commented awhile back that grief comes in many different stages and just when you think it is gone...you get hit with it again. How you are handling it sounds healthy...John would be proud of you. I have no doubt that M & R will know how precious they were to him and how much he loved them!! Hang in there....

Liz said...

I knew this post would be coming. Thank you for sharing all of the complicated beauty and many layers of grief. It's a gift to be able to look into your heart right now. Keep feeling it all. You are doing it right.

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

Give yourself permission to be okay with not remembering everything. It doesn't mean those moments or those nicknames are any less meaningful. Regardless of how much we are able to carry with us as our lives move forward, all the moments (remembered or otherwise)shape who we are and how we live and reflect on our lives. You have a love for John that you'll carry with you always-- it doesn't matter if you don't remember every single detail because the love that you have and that your children see is obvious.

Pam said...

Snick,
What a beautiful post. I don't have much experience with grief, but I think it comes in cycles.
I agree with a PP, can you maybe write some of these memories in a memory book or something? Maybe you already do, but it would keep you from forgetting and help the twins learn more about their Daddy when they get a little older.
Take care of yourself and please don't feel guilty in this new found happiness. You deserve to be happy!
Pam

Lori said...

Thank you for sharing that. Tomorrow would be my little girl's 4th birthday. She has been gone 18 months and I can't remember her laugh. I know it was a unique sound that made me giggle just to hear it. But I can't recall it anymore. And it's just tearing me up.

At times I feel guilty if I haven't thought about her enough and other times I feel guilty for thinking about her too much. Finding the new "normal" is a journey. It's good to know that others are wobbling along the same bumpy path.

OTRgirl said...

I love the idea of having a memory book and jotting things down when they come.

It's complicated to keep moving without feeling bad for the distance. In my opinion, guilt and self-pity are the no-go zones when it comes to grieving. Be sad, be angry, feel things as they come up, but don't weight the emotion with an extra layer of what you "should" be doing. And self-pity, that's a morass that sucks you down and keeps you under. I don't see you wasting time in pity land, don't waste time in the guilt.

Tough balance though, right? Slowing down enough to feel something is hard. I know I'm terrible at it, and I don't have recent grief and children as hurdles.

Tiffanie said...

This was very beautiful and very wise.

Anonymous said...

Snick -

Don't beat yourself up if you don't remember every detail of your life with John. The 'big' stuff, the really important stuff, will always be with you. It isn't your moving on or trying to find happiness that is making you forget...it is just what happens...time erases the details of some memories. You do deserve to be happy, you do deserve to move on and John would want it no other way.

Big Hug -

Anna

beyond said...

i have tears in my eyes, this post is so touching.

Anonymous said...

Snick,

Thanks so much for sharing your
words and feelings because you are
helping others know they are not
alone with similar feelings.

With all that you have been through,I think you should seize
happiness at every moment you can.
(I think we all should)We never
know what tomorrow will bring for
any of us.
Don't beat yourself up - sure you
are going to have doubts but at least you won't have regrets.

Your blog is great and so are you!

Holly said...

your words are so beautiful and such a comfort

Karen said...

My mom passed about 5 years ago. I feel disgusted when I hear my dad call my step-mom "babe" or "hun". I literally have to walk out of the room. I know my mom would have wanted him to be happy, but seems to hurt me more than him. I guess we all move on at different rates.

I know your kids are not old enough to feel that, but that is what your post reminded me of.

Anonymous said...

It's OK.

Nancy said...

beautiful. I love that you're able to express yourself so openly.

Oh - and Jody has a good point about fixing your photo. Do you have a scanner? I can help fix it if you want. Next COPE meeting is at my house if you need access to a scanner :)

Ali said...

We all can't remember everything all the time. Just think about how much you have forgotten about when the twins were babies. Things with John will come to you when you least expect them and they will be a pleasant suprise. Some things in a future relationship may even spark some of that and that is OK. Try not to feel too guilty about it. I am sure the guilt will always be there, it is only human. But it will probably lessen as the years go on. You write so well I just love your blog

Yummy Mummy said...

You are so strong. I don't know how you do it. I recently lost a baby that was barely there and you are such an inspiration. This story breaks my heart for you, but also shows how far you have come. He seems like he was an amazing man, and he was lucky to have you.

Robin

Watercolor said...

You live your life beautifully with the children you will forever share with him. And I do think he smiles down on you in your joy.

Jane said...

I can't imagine how hard and heart-rending it must be to simultaneously remember and move on, but it seems to me that you're managing it beautifully.

Shosh said...

that was beautiful

Melissa said...

Snick, a moving and beautifully written post...
Hugs,
Melissa

Karen said...

as always, your writing, your life, inspires me to be a better mother, a better person.

be happy,
karen

Anonymous said...

It takes a long time, doesn't it?

You are a truly amazing woman. Thank you for writing that moving entry.

... leslie

mumof4 said...

A practical point..(not taking away anything from your grief and all the emotions you share in this beautiful post)...I think the red paint will look fabulous - but be prepared for a lot of coats...and some strokes/stripes til you get there. We have a bright red bedroom and some walls needed 7 coats of paint....

Molly said...

Gorgeously written... your hope, and your sadness are both there together.

BiancaW said...

You certainly have a way with words. That post was heartwarming and gut wrenching all at the same time.

For what it's worth, I think you have the balance just right.

Anonymous said...

You are amazing. Your way with written words are truly moving.

You'll never forget your beloved - moving on and picking yourself up is not forgetting.

Melissa in NJ

Leslie said...

I've never posted before but have frequently wanted to. Thank you so much for sharing your story. your posts are a beautiful way to keep those little memories alive for your children and yourself.

And hey, we all need help remembering sometimes. It sounds like your late husband was a wonderful man, and I'm sure he touched a lot of lives. Everyone lucky enough to have known him will have their own favorite memories. Let them remind you!

Thanks again for sharing - you are helping a lot of people!

Kellie said...

"I don't want to be a slave to a marriage I didn't get to have."

That is one of the most powerful statements I've heard in a long time. It's so true and I'm sure it's easier for your brain to say then for your heart to hear.

Thank you for sharing.

Yankee, Transferred said...

Dear Snick,
This is possibly the most beautiful blog post I have read ever, anywhere, about any subject.
I send my love to you, with sorrow for your pain and hope for your joy.

Christa said...

You've got my crying at my desk. I get a little jolt every time you write about losing your husband, as my husband's name is John too. Its all too easy for my quick moving and sometimes morbid mind to imagine what losing John would feel like. It quite takes my breath away.

Anonymous said...

I love this post!! You are so eloquent in describing the inner battles you are having, and you always come to conclusions that show what a survivor you are!! You're truly an amazing role model for your kids!

as far as red paint is concerned - don't forget to prime (dark grey primer!). it'll help cut down on the number of coats (from 7 to 3 :).

June said...

Snickollet: I had the HONOR of meeting you this past May while visiting my 2 lovely daughters. You are an amazing woman & mother! I love the way you express your love for John, although I never had the privilege of meeting him, the love the two of you shared must have been sooo genuine. I admire that. M&R are so blessed to have a Mom like you. No matter how many years, events, or memories you think you forget, having those two beautiful babies will ALWAYS be a pleasant reminder of their Dad. You write so beautifully about your experience; having the love of your life, & that of raising your children. I admire you. I have been married 38 yrs. Sometimes it feels super-good, like we married just yesterday, other times it seems like forever! Regardless of what I encounter day-by-day, I KNOW I'm blessed. I sincerely pray you can find true love again--I believe John would want that for you & his children.

My best to you & the twins,
June

Roads said...

Hey, Snickollet, please don't get me wrong when I say that these kinds of feelings, even possibly this kind of guilt, is par for the course as you embark on a new relationship.

The two aren't connected, of course, not consciously at least, but I think it tends to work that way. Coincidentally.

Whatever. It's human, I think, to go through these thoughts. The fear that you have about forgetting every detail about John - well, I just don't think you need to worry. With the right reminders, and the right approach to remembering - as you did at 2am - it all comes flooding back.

You're not going to forget that stuff, ever, and you can trust me on that. And nothing else that happens in life and love is going to influence how that runs, either, however much more tangible a living lover lying next to you is going to feel sometimes, on the right occasion.

Stick with it - you're on the right track. Best wishes from London, and spirits up.

littleangelkisses said...

This touched me, thank you for sharing this with us.

I haven't checked in lately and I realized as I read it that I missed your writing.