I was a good foot shorter than my husband Jim. I finally realized, only recently, that he always fudged his height downward as I finessed mine incrementally upward, so I could maintain the illusion I wasn’t quite so minute.
But he was the towering superhero. If he was taking magnificent photographs, I was happy to hold the lens cap. Literally.
More to the point than the physical disparity, I tended to simply tag along on adventures Jim orchestrated, right down to the enormous and wildly complicated enterprise of bringing him home to die.
So I’m no longer, technically, a sidekick.
“Love of mine, some day you will die
But I’ll be close behind
I’ll follow you into the dark
No blinding light or tunnels to gates of white
Just our hands clasped so tight
Waiting for the hint of a spark . . . .”
Many friends of mine see their departed loved ones in butterflies and feel them in gentle wind. They picture them as they were in extraordinary ordinary times which may or may not have happened the way memory causes multiple senses to coalesce.
An ice cream truck rings it lingering bell and I can see in my friend’s eyes: “My father used to take me to get ice cream in the summer. The truck would come down our street and we’d chase it. He’d still be in his suit from work and would dig out the change from his pockets. I always picked out the lemon. He got the little cup with vanilla and chocolate, and I helped him peel up that little paper cover because his hands were too big.”
“My mother loved butterflies,” another friend tells me. “Sometimes I’m thinking about her and I’ll see a yellow one . . . her favorite color . . . and I’ll follow it for a few minutes and I’ll suddenly realize it’s the 8th, the day she died. It’s always the 8th.”
After all, what good is a sidekick if you can’t occasionally give her a hard time and put the world’s weights in perspective? Of all the things I miss every day, the simple truth is that I miss the way he’d make me laugh at myself. Even in the midst of the most desperate and devastated conversations about his illness, he never stopped finding ways to lighten my heart.
I’m confident, for example, that Jim helped orchestrate my little misunderstanding with international security forces on that Father’s Day last year, when I had handed myself the fraught task of travelling with our children to another continent with his ashes.
I’m just thankful he shares some of his superpowers with me still.