Shepherd’s Pie

Over a plate of home-cooked Shepherd’s pie last Friday, my good friend asked “do you think you could even recognize a great new relationship if it was in front of you?”  Uh.. moving on….

This past weekend, on my way to Lowe’s with the top down on Maggie’s cool car, I passed a homeless man sitting on a sidewalk up near a bank building.  He was screaming obscenities as loud as his lungs would allow.  None of the spewing verbal filth seemed to stick out as particularly interesting and no one was around that appeared to be the target of his rage.  Yet, scream he did.  Loudly.

Today at a party I got to catch up with some old friends whom I was previously very close to.  It had been quite a while since we last relaxed together around a beer so it was nice to have that familiarity back.   During the evening, each guy shared the same sentiment to me, although in different ways.  It was meant as conversation and, of course, as humor, but each time it dug like a fishhook into my heart: “You much be having so much fun being single.”  “We want to live vicariously through you with all the fun you must be having.”  “Man, the single life must be the best.”  Then, and for several hours afterward I could clearly relate to that homeless guy.

While my friends, simply in the spirit of camaraderie, were celebrating my newfound single-dom, they probably can’t imagine that more than anything in the world I want my old life back… my old, boring, married life back.  The days spent with my angel, living the boring days of watching TV, waking up in the same boring bed, talking about boring married stuff and living our boring married life.  I’d trade this “exciting, fun-filled” single life in a heartbeat and never think twice again about it.

These last few days, maybe even last few weeks, have weighed heavy on me, very heavy.  Maybe even heavier than I’ve felt in the last year or longer.  I couldn’t tell you why but I can offer up a few guesses.

Maybe it’s because it’s Halloween.  It was our favorite holiday together.  Every year we’d excitedly plan and then… Ok, really when I say “we” what I mean is “she.”  She would come up with fantastic costumes for us to wear, always on theme as a couple.  She was extremely creative and after she came up with the idea we (yes, “we”) would go to work making the costumes fantastic.  We were a great team.  I really miss my old, married team.  (Me and that homeless guy are really becoming one now.)  Why was this year different?  Well, last year I had a cushion – a good friend helped me decide on and create a costume.  This year I tried to go it alone… and I failed.  Halloween, our favorite holiday, has transformed into a nightmare of reflection, failure, incompetence, and anger.  So rather than to continue to stress and hurt, I sat this year out and, instead, cleaned the garage.

Or maybe it’s because of the various land mines I’ve been uncovering as I push to make progress on this huge house filled with memories.  My progress is painfully slow and painfully painful but every other day or so I sort through about three or four things.  Not drawers, not cabinets – things.  I don’t have the words to tell you how difficult it is (I’m sure someone just snorted at the thought of me not having the words…)  Just the last few days my landmines have been more powerful than most:  a card from the flowers I sent Maggie three months after we met (she apparently saved it, silly girl), her appointment book from the year we met which includes the entry “First Date with Chris!” and other just-as-amazing reminders of memorably occasions.  Even uncovering her gardening gloves in the garage picked at old memories, wonderful memories of a special part of our lives that I loved and now so, so miss.  There just doesn’t seem to be a day my heart is left intact.  Nearly every room now is covered in blood.

Or maybe, just maybe, I’m still waiting for her to walk through the door.  Still.  But the wait is wearing on me.  It’s been a long time.

I had no answer when my friend asked if I could possibly recognize a great new relationship if it stabbed me in the nose.  I’m still quite fixated on the one I had and lost.  But the question made me think (and continue to think.)  I’m not and never have been one to stagnate yet I realize I’ve been sitting still for a while, frozen in time, with my memories and pig trails and rituals.  I’m really comfortable here in this place I’ve managed to carve out.  It’s a world where I’m stuck half-way between What Was and What Will Be.  But, tonight, as I ate my reheated Shepherd’s pie, I realized I’ve got to push harder if I’m ever going to really be able to rebuild.  That pushing is going to hurt.  But there’s too much to be done and just WAY too much to be lost if I don’t.

I have to wonder if there was some pivotal point in that homeless guy’s life, a crucial moment that he chose not to push harder.  Was that what he was screaming about?  Maybe he’s just never been lucky enough to have a friend cook him up some homemade Shepherd’s pie.

6 thoughts on “Shepherd’s Pie

  1. Chris,
    Your posts never cease to amaze and inspire me. I too am picking through things and it is extremely painful. Sometimes I’ll go through a drawer or box and realize I’ve been doing it for 15 minutes and not accomplishing anything because I get caught up in the memories of each item and find myself just staring at them. I also find this process just exhausting. Really exhausting. I feel the same as you do in that I feel I should be further along in this journey.
    A good friend of mine passed away last week (40 years old, breast cancer) and her husband said to me the other day that he hoped he wasn’t in the same place I am in 19 months. That comment really hurt. It just made me feel like I have a pathetic life. Wait now! I do.

  2. I’m still shaking my head over the stupid , careless,unfeeling remarks your friends made. I sure hope their wife, or girlfriends don’t read that. I feel bad for him, for he will never have the love that you had with Maggie……..

    1. It wasn’t meant mean in any way. They were just making conversation, like guys do (often dreaming of “back when”.) And I certainly wouldn’t want anyone for one second to try to censor themselves around me for fear they might say something that bothers me. That’s a no win game. Heck, most of the time *I* am surprised at the statements that bother me.

      If anything, it’s the statements that catch me off guard, that knock me off balance, that cause me to inhale deeply and open my eyes a little wider – THOSE are the statements that matter most because somewhere underneath my reaction is a little bit of emotional gold worth digging for. Something worth thinking about.

      That’s how I can tell I am still alive.

  3. I almost hate reading your stories. Everytime I do, I am looking in a mirror -every detail, every feeling you have, every thing you do, I am doing the same thing – feeling the same feelings, touching the same meories. Sunday I am going to the Pats game – once a year I get invited by a friend. Gay and I would have a great time. She understood little about the game but loved the atmosphere. Sunday will be a year and a half to the day. Like you, the sigle life is not what it’s cracked up to be. In a heartbeat I would love to have my old life back.

  4. The Sherborn Inn adds horseradish to their made with lamb shepherd’s pie. Not everyone expecting more simple comfort food appreciates the surprise. What I found, is that acquiring a taste for different versions of shepherd’s pie helps if you just relax, set aside the expectations and give it a fair tasting. If horseradish just isn’t the right ingredient.. politely send it back and try something else..

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