It’s been nine months as of today. It’s just unbelievably difficult to grasp that it’s been nine months since I’ve last kissed my sweetie. I’ve been staying somewhat busy keeping my engine running one way or another. But I feel like my engine is just sputtering along like those in the old timey cartoons – with the smoke and popping and back-firing. It’s like one of my cylinders is missing. Some of my friends would argue otherwise. They’d say that I’ve been charging forward, guns a-blarring with both barrels on fire. Ah, but they are wonderful and optimistic friends and they don’t see the misfires. Or I hide them well. Or whatever. Either way, it just doesn’t feel like nine months have passed since that day.
I’ve taken a contract job helping a friend out with an interesting project. It gets my brain back chuggin along in old, easy, familiar ways. The project doesn’t involve any real brain surgery but I don’t think any idiot would or could make a good case for me doing brain surgery right now. I’m a little off center, ya know. But it’s straightforward stuff, it’s fun, and it’s helping my friend out. Oh, and it pays some bills. This is all is good stuff.
Wow. Nine months. But I digress.
I threw away her toothbrush two days ago. I tossed her toothpaste, too. The absence of those two items paint her side of the bathroom empty. It’s amazing how much two little-bitty things can change the overall look of such a big space. Nine months they sat there, artifacts from a lifetime ago. Now they are gone (tossed in the trash, then pulled out of the trash by Kali, chewed a bit, tossed back in the trashed and then put out to the curb. Nothing is simple.)
I remember like yesterday the last time she brushed her teeth. I was there, holding her every time her knees buckled. She was wearing my boxer shorts and a t-shirt, having just showered her last shower. That morning, she woke up fired up, sprung out of bed with a shower on her mind, smiling her amazing “I’ll take on the world!” smile. God, I miss her smile.
A friend of ours has an annual chili cook-off. Last year I threatened to bring the pain and I did (although someone brought it better and actually won. I didn’t even place. I think it was rigged.) But it’s that time again and I’m excited to bring it (again) (or, technically, for the first time) (whatever, I’m gonna kill this time.) This is my year. I can feel it. But where did I put that winning recipe? Crap.
So I had to go looking for the World’s Greatest Chili recipe (as judged by me, of course. Them others just don’t know what good chili tastes like!). In the pantry she kept all her bazzilion recipe books and a little wooden box that held her hand-written specialties. Opening that little non-descript wooden box was a kick square in the gut. Nine months nothing! I never would have suspected how much emotion a stupid little wooden box full of recipes could hold. Looking at card after card of her hand-written dishes just tore at my heart strings. Sandwiched somewhere between zucchini casserole and mushroom caps I found a world of questions: When did she cook this? What the heck does that say? Was this one of her favorites?
I finally found my World’s Greatest Chili recipe in the box o’ heartache. It, of course, was hand-written by her. I remember the day she wrote it down for me. That day we made the chili together, like we did everything. She sat on the bar stool, little pain pump a whir-ing, as I made like a tornado of chopping, frying, stirring, spilling and cursing. All the while, we chatted, talking about our life, our days, and how happy we were together. I remember that day fondly. Doing it all again, this time alone, was equally as touching but in a weird way, like a favorite song played slightly off key. Oddly, I felt as though I had homage to pay which really is silly because she didn’t particularly like chili. Regardless, I talked to her the entire time just like she was there. Nine months be damned. And the chili turned out great! World’s Greatest!
I had a friend ask me recently “When are you going to get over all this Maggie stuff?” I was a little taken aback by his question but I answered politely that I don’t think this is really something that I’ll “get over.”* His question has sat on my shoulder since then and, while I still agree with my answer to him, I’ve come to realize that my polite, off-the-cuff answer was way more insightful than intended. It’s been nine months. That’s long time. Yet, to me, it may have been a day. (Ok, maybe a few weeks because those first few days were really, really, really tough.) But I’ve come to realize that this little “life experience” is much more like a tattoo than like a bruise. This isn’t something that’s going away. This is now a part of me that will always be barely a glance away.
* In hindsight, I should have punched him in the nose. In further hindsight, I realized that for him to even pose that question meant something amazingly sad – that he had never in his life given unconditional love. In a weird way, his uncomfortable question warmed my heart. Because by wearing proudly the mark that she made on my life, I acknowledged that I was one of the few that had known a special, magical love. My sadness was the mark of the gift of the love. And that makes me happy.
My big 40th birthday is coming up soon. I’m incredibly lucky that many of my friends want to throw a party of some sorts but I’ve unfortunately upset many of them by requesting, rather, insisting that no party of any kind be held. No happy hour, no small supper, no acknowledgement of any kind. I have my reasons but it’s been very difficult for me to talk about them. Basically, it hurts to even think about celebrating when I feel like I have nothing to celebrate. But, please be patient with me. I am extraordinarily thankful that you want to celebrate my birth and friendship. As a compromise, I’d like to suggest that we postpone any celebrations tied to my 40th birthday to a date to be decided later. I’d appreciate everyone respecting my wishes. I’ll write more about why later. Thank you.