What if loneliness is just a bad friend, you know, one you hang around with but know isn’t good for you. I had a visual cue of this idea in the hotel outside of Venice. At dinner I sat next to a man also dining alone. My immediate thought of seeing him, face downward toward his plate, was that he was not dining but eating. And that’s what I’d be doing as I took the empty table next to him. Why not engage him in conversation? (I have the stupidest better angels; they don’t know me at all.) So we both sat across from one another and ate alone.
When Carolyn had told me that she’d never been taken out for Valentine’s Day nor had even received roses or a card, I realized there was little I actually had to do for her to please her. That’s when I decided I’d try to give her a Valentine’s Day she’d never forget. There were roses and a card in the kitchen when she walked in for coffee that morning. There was a stretch limo on order to take us to and from the restaurant that evening. (“Madameoiselle, your chariot awaits,” I had regally announced.) And finally there was me, decked out in suit and tie, which I only wore if someone had died or was getting married. I don’t know what she’d actually thought of all this pomp and circumstance that first year; she never stopped giggling like a besmittened schoolgirl long enough to tell me.
It occurs to me that as a sorrowing widower, I’m a lightweight. Readers who have commented on the blog talk of marriages that were twenty, thirty and forty years old before they ended in the death of the spouse. Carolyn and I were together for five years and married for less than four. Relative to time, where do I get off comparing my situation to any of theirs? Seriously, where do I get off?
I remember holding Carolyn’s hand as the nurse confirmed Carolyn had taken her last breath and she was now dead. In that single instant I believe I felt shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance all at once. It was a tsunami. Since that moment there’ve been one or two true tsunamis of grief, but most have been waves. But even the waves contain elements of all six of the so-called “stages” of grief. Eight months later, I still find myself shocked, in denial, angry, then I’m bargaining, depressed and finally accepting. All at once and in the space of time it takes to pour a cup of coffee. (And yes, one full of clouds, too.)