It made me more than a little sad yesterday when I looked at the calendar–as I do every day–and realized it was the anniversary of when I met Ken, intertwining our lives. Thirteen years ago. A lifetime ago.
I feel an emotional distance from this milestone date that filled me with glee when he was here and echoed inside my empty heart after he was gone. Like some kind of safety gate has come down, keeping me from getting too close to it. A means of protection time has granted me, I suppose. I have the ability to breach the gate. I used to do it all the time. But I don’t choose to fall down the rabbit hole much anymore.
There was a time when these milestones approached me ominously, filling me with dread and painful reminders. Now they seem more like nostalgic pangs than anything else. Almost like it these key dates belong to someone else. And I’m just an observer. A passer-by nodding at them in acknowledgment and politeness.
I long ago made as much room in my head as I already had in my heart for Ken. I hear his voice as clearly as I hear my own (as well as all the other “voices.”) Especially when I catch myself saying something he’d say or doing something he’d do. Usually, he occurs to me in flashes of familiar encouragement. Or when one of our old inside joke occurs to me, I smirk to myself and think of him. It’s still “our” inside joke. It can’t be taken from me.
This week I bought a new grill for the small patio I have at my new place. The last grill we bought was in 2008, dubbed “the grill of Ken’s dreams,” was falling apart, and way too big, anyway. So, it didn’t make the move from the old place with me. That was back in an old life that didn’t require me having to put anything together–a time when I wasn’t solely responsible for every aspect of my life.
I’d managed to buy the grill, fit the gigantic box just barely into my car, get it home and into my condo–all on my own. The instructions cautioned that at least two people put it together. Great. I need a date just to assemble a grill. With two people, the instructions said it would take about 50 minutes. With 1 person (and a disinterested Chow Chow supervisor), it took an hour and twenty minutes–sans a single curse word. I thought how much fun it would have been to put together with Ken, and how proud he’d be of me as I dug around in the tool box. He made everything more fun. He certainly made living with cancer a lot more fun than I would have thought possible.
I’m not even sure what I want to say about the anniversary of our meeting. Fact is, I live a different kind of life now. One that doesn’t leave me in my own head as frequently as it used to. One that doesn’t irritatingly remind me what I had and what I lost. My present and future hypnotically hold my gaze. Thinking of him is something that happens many, many times every day. Punishing myself by wanting to live in the past–drenching myself in futile thoughts–may have been appropriate early in my grief journey but hold little interest for me now.
Or maybe I’m just having a good day.