It was about eighteen months after my wife had died. I don’t recall if we had been invited or if we just showed up, like we usually did, to watch the fireworks from the gazebo at my cousin’s house on the hill. The view is stunning and it looks right out over the lake where the fireworks awe the people of the town every fourth of July.
When we arrived, Michelle, my cousin’s wife, was already sitting in front of the fire with her usual glass of white wine filled to the brim with ice cubes. There were three other people sitting around the fireplace that I had never seen before. Michelle introduced my boys and I to Chrissy, Grace and Emily. A beautiful widowed mother and her two teenage daughters. The seven of us spent the next several hours talking, laughing and actually having a pleasant evening. It was the kind of evening in short supply in my household at the time.
I had a deep wound from the loss of my wife, Liz. A good, working marriage turns a couple into a single efficient entity. Things get done, kids get raised, life bumps get smoothed over, just because there’s someone there who has your back. Anything you might miss they just deal with and vice versa. You may take each other for granted at times, but you also know, deep down, that without them everything would just be harder.
Then one day you wake up and they’re gone. It doesn’t matter if they were laid up in bed for the last year or if they died suddenly, it’s still the same loss. One day they were here and alive, the next they’re not. The emptiness fills your world. You have no one to rely on anymore. Half of you has been literally ripped away. The ache and longing are indescribable.
Nature abhors a vacuum. Your psyche, whether you know it or not, screams out to fill that emptiness. And the Universe provides. Whether it be clumsy approaches to women in bars, the uncomfortable world of online dating or a cousin’s wife setting up a “chance” meeting. Maybe you join a meetup group and start making some new friends. Regardless, somehow, someone appears to put some color back into your world. People need other people to ride out the storms.
There’s an undeniable truth about storms though, and the rainbows that appear because of them. Neither last particularly long. And there’s a reason for that. The intensity of grief that comes from a loss so large is like a sprint. You can only survive it for so long. But life is a marathon. The people you need for the sprint aren’t often capable of running the marathon as well.
I used her, she used me
But neither one cared
We were gettin’ our share
— “Night Moves” by Bob Seger
Chrissy and I went on to have a relationship. I’m not quite sure when we stopped providing whatever it was we needed to each other. It all just faded away, like the rainbow after a storm. You’re driving along in awe of the brightness of the colors. Time passes and they get slightly more transparent. Eventually, it fades to just one thin red line. Suddenly it’s gone, leaving you wondering if you really saw anything at all.
I’m still not sure if what we had was love, lust, convenience or just a mutually beneficial arrangement. Or maybe I’m completely wrong about the whole thing and I did in fact break her heart. I don’t think so though. There would have been tears if that were the case. And something more than just a feeling that time had run out on us.
Thank you for reading.