Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Year(s) (01/20/11)
TITLE: The Years That Followed
By sandra hoolihan
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Dan used to time himself from the moment he called to say he was heading home to the moment he arrived. Instead of yelling a greeting as he stepped into the house, he would yell out his travel time with the enthusiasm of a child. It was never more than fifteen minutes. It took only fifteen minutes to change the direction of my life when he crashed his car on the way home from work. The suggestion of waiting three years before the numbness subsided seemed overwhelming.
The first couple weeks felt like one long exhausting day. The arrangements, the funeral, the visitors that never seemed to leave or stop dropping off food. I let the dog eat most of it. He didn’t seem to have lost his appetite the same way I had. Friends insisted on staying with me. Some days the company was nice while other days I unsuccessfully wished them away. Eventually, I either convinced everyone I could take care of myself or the passing of time bought back my privacy.
It was unsettling to be alone again after fourteen years of marriage. I still made his coffee, black, every morning and cried every night when I poured the cold contents of the mug down the sink. I knew I was torturing myself by calling the house every afternoon from work just to hear him talk on the outgoing message. I had conversations with him and then cursed myself when I came home and had to listen to my sad desperate messages. At night, I brushed my teeth with his toothbrush and wouldn’t toss it until months later when the bristles splayed out flat from use.
Grief was as sneaky as an alley cat. One minute I would be watching television, the next I would be screaming about the unfairness of it all at his empty recliner, at his photo or toward God. I meekly avoided his side of the bed then eventually moved to the living room couch. That didn’t stop my waking up everyday to disappointment. To solve that I simply stopped sleeping.
On the first anniversary of his death I drove to the gravesite wondering how I could possibly keep moving forward. His presence was still so very real to me. I heard him criticize my driving the whole way there.
Over the next two years I randomly saw Dan at shopping malls. I saw his eyes in the face of strangers. He sent me songs on the radio and visited me as characters in books I read. He held me at night and surrounded me with his lingering scent still woven into his pajamas I wore. I cursed time as it slowly surged forward.
I slowly surged forward too. A small box simply labeled “Dan” now sits in the attic holding memories for me. The rest of his things were donated. I replaced our king sized bed with a queen and tossed the dark brown comforter we shared. I may have gone overboard with the bedding. It seems to look as if an english garden attacked my room. I suppose things will be different in the new house: I met with a realtor yesterday.
This morning I woke with a start. There was no need for a calendar to tell me that I had arrived at the three year anniversary I had been instinctively fighting to get to. A proud smile eased its way onto my face. As a reward, I nestled into the bed and allowed my mind to indulge in wonderful memories of Dan. I reminisced about our wedding day. In my mind’s eye I could vaguely recognize him. His face was a blur. There is a photo I keep next to the bed for these moments so I pulled it out and gazed into his blue eyes. Sometimes I miss missing Dan. I hope he will forgive me for letting time carry me forward.
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