Two Rings and a Necklace

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Some versions of wedding vows end with “until death do us part.”  Others, “as long as we both shall live.”

I see a substantial difference between the two. In the former, marriage vows would appear to end with a spouse’s death.

I don’t see it that way: both the linguist and the lawyer in me assure me that as a matter of sentence construction, “as long as we both shall live” legitimately can be interpreted the way my heart does, preserving this marriage as long as I live, too.

Now I carry both our wedding rings.

My friend Myra took me with her on an expedition into town.  She had me try on the same periwinkle shirt she tried on.

Near the dressing rooms, an exceptionally flattering store light was cast on the necklace Jim gave me for a last Valentine’s Day and for what he called the next “birthday of significance.”  He knew he would not be there for any more birthdays.

The sales lady saw it sparkling, diffracting into clusters of bright pinpoint diamonds which surrounded us in the mirrored hallway.  She said to me, as I was opening the dressing room door to go inside, “That’s a beautiful necklace.”

“Thank you.  My husband gave it to me.”  My hand automatically fell to it and then to his wedding band, which hangs on another chain just beneath it.

He’s a keeper,” she said.

“He was,” I answered quietly as the changing room door clanged shut.

“Oh,” she said, knowingly, from the other side of the door, where she could not see my face and had failed to pick up on the tone of my voice.  “Not so much anymore?”

The thought that I am a widow and not bitterly divorced does not seem to enter the minds of the overwhelming majority of people I meet, who do not notice I carry Jim’s wedding ring as well as wearing my own.  At my age, I suppose it would not.  It is as wildly statistically improbable as it is that my otherwise stunningly healthy young husband, who had neither any known risk factor nor any imperfect health habits, would be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

The only person I did not know previously who has remarked on Jim’s ring was a Grand Rounds speaker from a Vermont hospice.  She noticed it immediately—indeed, her talk began with the tactile exercise of having the audience members form objects out of bright, pliable clay.  She spoke of talismans, the importance of physical objects one can touch to soothe grief.

After the talk, the doctor standing next to mentioned to her that I had  lost my husband two months earlier.  She said to me, “I noticed the ring,” and added, “I don’t know how you’re up and walking around.”

I was a bit concerned to hear this from a specialist in the grief field.

My answer was, and continues to be, simple: I have to be.

 

 

(c) 2012 Stephanie M. Glennon

Invincible Summer, Perpetual Spring

My sister-in-law today sent me a quote from Albert Camus: “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.  She is at least the second among my sisters-in-law to suggest to me that somewhere within my core is stronger stuff than I think.

Camus also was the source of one of the more interesting takes I had read upon the concept of “living in the moment”–something my husband Jim perfected as an art.    Camus‘  Sisyphus came to grips with his infinitely repeating task, illustrating “the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks,” comprising a universe “neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart.”

Jim was able to view in an astoundingly productive way his own objectively immense struggles.  Indeed, I’m not convinced he ever thought of himself as struggling.  Nor did he do “battle” with the cancer that took his life; he accepted it, and his heart remained full and  fully engaged with nature, with people, with life.

Among the seasons of the past year, winter transitioned particularly grudgingly to spring. Jim finally came home on a sunny, spring-like day as winter was coming to a close.  On his last day, spring’s eve, it snowed–not gingerly, but in plump white, sugar-cube sized flakes.

The quote about the depth of winter dovetailed with some of my thoughts about the seasons, and my thought to highlight the lovely poem one of our sons read at his father’s memorial service, Amy Gerstler’s In Perpetual Spring.

Light Escapes

For several days I have found it impossible to capture the light.

Before sunrise, as the beagles happily disrupt the neighborhood with their hopeful howling  (whatever is upwind for them every morning never gets any older for them than does the thrill of having the same old thing for every meal), I see vivid, wavering lines of yellow which I cannot seem to replicate in a photograph.

At sunset I see streaks of bright pink at peach and try, but fail, to capture them with the camera Jim gave me.  I know he could have done better.

And in between, during daylight, the sky has shifted wildly, cleaved between storm and  sunshine, winter and spring.

Over the same period my dreams have shifted.  They are always about Jim, but for the first time I have had dreams in which Jim is not sick, has not yet been diagnosed.

For well over a year, since his diagnosis, I never had a dream in which my subconscious was not acutely aware that Jim was sick.

The scenes in these recent dreams are of things I can never fully recapture.

These dreams are so stunningly ordinary as to be extraordinary, and they bring me some peace: we are sitting with the children laughing and watching a movie, going to a band event, walking in the woods, even swatting at the zombie-like mosquitoes which sometimes mysteriously appear inside our house even in deep winter in New Hampshire (and tended to escape above the reach of a five-two person but within the leaping reach of my six-fourish spouse).   Before dawn one day I trudged around the yard cleaning up after our dogs, among the endless tasks which have fallen to me alone.  But in my dreams that night, Jim and I were cleaning up together.

These dreams bring back, if briefly,  the family life in which I know Jim would want our memories to dwell.

(c)2012 Stephanie M. Glennon

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