We Were Together

My husband is missing another wedding anniversary. (Because he died.) And after all this time, after everything I’ve done, he is still not alive.

If that sounds like I feel stood up, its’ because I do. There is this side to widowhood that is sarcastic and irreverent and very WTF.

What happened?!

You don’t call.

You don’t write.

But then there are other times… and I remember how good it was. How good we were. I remember all the love.

And I must say, those times are harder. Going to that place, getting swept away in it, letting your mind wander back to your happiest moments and visit there for a while.

I love this quote from Walt Whitman. It shows up in my feed frequently, usually from fellow widows.

It usually leaves me feeling somewhat short of breath. Because we were together. And I do forget the rest sometimes.

Sometimes I visit those memories and I forget.

I forget all the petty fights we had.

I forget all the little annoyances.

I forget the ways I feared I’d failed you.

I forget the ways you weren’t perfect.

I forget the look on your face after your heart was no longer beating.

I forget the trips we didn’t get to take, the healing that never happened, the promises we’d made that could never be fulfilled.

I forget the ways our house was always a mess.

I forget the bad habits.

I forget the dishes forever in the sink.

Instead I remember your beautiful face when you looked over at me.

I remember hugging you, the freckles on your neck, and the funny way your beard grew on the right side.

I remember the way you held my hand as you drove. Your hand holding mine over the gear shift.

I remember watching VH1’s Top 100.

I remember your smile as you held Olivia for the first time. The complete joy and love and manic admiration.

I let myself remember what it felt like to be in a room with you. Sometimes I see you in the corner, still, your hands in your pockets, watching us. Watching me.

I let myself be there for a moment, maybe longer. “What do you think, Jake? How are we doing?” The answer is always the same.

And I remember our wedding day. Taking that picture with you out in the field and then holding your face and telling you, it’s going to be okay. Stressful, but okay. Relax. I love you.

I remember standing in front of our family and friends and feeling like the luckiest woman on Earth, and even though we were telling everyone all about it, no one could really understand what we had.

I remember dancing and dancing and dancing.

Also, some more dancing.

I remember calling you my husband and feeling so ecstatic.

I remember calling you my husband nine years later, and feeling so proud.


Tomorrow will be our 11th wedding anniversary. I miss you, husband. I remember and I miss you.

A Love like Cyndi Lauper

Disclaimer: I realize that part of the art of writing is not telling your readers exactly what you are doing before you do it. But who cares. The song “True Colors” has been running through my head. It inspired me to write something based on those lyrics. How they strike me, what it stirs up for me. So here goes…

You with the sad eyes...

If I made a movie about a widow it would involve a lot of shots of a lady just sitting and staring out blankly at nothing. There’s a certain look she would need to master. It’s a specific look. We’d get someone good to play her. Like, Meryl Streep. Diane Keaton, maybe. But really overall the movie would be terrible. Just sitting and looking forward, no one wants to see that.

Don't be discouraged, oh I realize

It's hard to take courage

I have thought of writing my own story. The story of me and Jake. But I fear it would sound self-indulgent. We are not good historians of our own stories, right?

It’s just that I think my story is kind of special.

I met Jake when I was twenty-two. Basically a baby. And like all self-important babies in college, I felt like no one would ever truly love me. I worried that I was too opinionated, too round, too loud, too smart even (I have to wince when I say that). But it’s the truth. And for this part of the story, it is important to relate that these feelings (while incredibly dramatic), were very real to me. For twenty-two years I had spent my time on Earth learning what desirable girls looked like and acted like and I just didn’t really fit that mold. It’s not that I didn’t like myself, I did. And I liked guys. But after getting to know them or showing them a little of the real me, the red flags would become clear. He would be too pushy, or too cool, or too condescending. I would be too strange, too demanding, too unwilling to bend. Expecting him to embrace all the parts of my personality.

In a world full of people

You can lose sight of it all

The darkness inside you

Can make you feel so small

I don’t know. I’m not sure why I was so repulsive to guys. I wasn’t, probably. But I felt weird. I felt like I was a lot. I was told that I was a lot. I didn’t want to be this loud feminist friend that the good-looking girls brought to the party, but there I was… I couldn’t seem to help myself from explaining why tampons should be free throughout the world, or why fraternities were essentially school-sanctioned safe havens for rapists. I could be funny and clever but that didn’t seem to be what the dudes were looking for.

Show me a smile then

Don't be unhappy

Can't remember when

I last saw you laughing

When I met Jake it was different. He was so funny, so clever. He brought this incredible energy to a room. It’s hard to describe, but people who knew him immediately understand. He was the magic ingredient that made everyone in the room get along and have a good time. He did all of that while somehow staying remarkably laid back, never seeking all the attention, always bringing people in, never letting anyone feel left out. And he like me. He really, really liked me. He would listen to my wild ideas and challenge me and debate me without ever putting me down. He would tell me that opinionated, strong women are hot. I was hot. He was amazing. And we had found each other.

This world makes you crazy

And you've taken all you can bear

Just call me up

'Cause I will always be there

We got real close real fast. He’d come over to visit at my apartment complex where many of our friends lived, and he’d reasons to stay on when I had to work late nights. We would stay up late talking and laughing. It was a bit like 7th grade, when you’ve realized how painfully nerdy and uncool you are. You know you are. Then you come upon someone who is also uncool. And you share a little about how much you still like watching Disney movies or collecting Star Wars figurines, and they are like, “I like that TOO!” And you laugh. And you open up more. And they still want to hang out with you at lunch tomorrow. And the next day. And you just know this is your person.

And I see your true colors

Shining through

I see your true colors

And that's why I love you

To be loved by someone who really sees you. Really knows you. Jake never winced when I’d wear shirts that said “feminist” or even (this is true) “vagina.” He’d make little jokes that were actually just funny, not mean or condescending. He loved my family. He watched my youngest sister graduate high school, and he sat with me when I learned my parents were getting divorced after 25 years of marriage.

So don't be afraid to let them show

Your true colors

True colors are beautiful

At the end of the day I think we all just want to be the weirdo that we truly are, and to be loved anyway. Or better: to be loved because of it. To be loved because we are weird and strange and opinionated and imperfect but perfectly lovable.

I see your true colors

Shining through

I see your true colors

And that's why I love you

So don't be afraid to let them show

Your true colors

Jake was my favorite person. On the last day of the last year of our relationship, his name was still my favorite name to see on my phone. And he was texting me about money. It’s hard to describe the pain of that.

But last words do not really matter. No one conversation or fight or disagreement really matters that much. It’s the feeling he gave me. It’s the relationship we created. It’s the family we built and the way we built it. It is something so special, I keep it in the deepest part of me. This part of me that is always his, always ours, always us.

True colors are beautiful (they're beautiful)

Like a rainbow…

The first picture of us ever taken at that epic apartment in Salem.