In my new world, March 10th is known as The Last Good Day.
On March 10th two years ago, I was living my best life.
It was a Tuesday. Sammy and Tommy left early for their classes at UCCS, Ken went to work, and Madeline and I did our homeschool thing. Madeline had some online classes then she had soccer practice in the afternoon followed by track practice and then an SAT Prep class. I made dinner (what did I make? I wish I could remember). We had dinner together and shared our day with each other. I planned the next day’s meetings, printed tests for my Science Olympiad teams; I wrote out a grocery list; I took a hot bath, and at the end of this very perfect day, I made love to my husband, and then I slept soundly beside him. This is exactly the life I wanted. Ken made it the life I loved.
Ken was off the next day, March 11th. Sammy and Tommy had a full day of classes at UCCS, Madeline had Chinese at 6:00, and AP Physics at 9:30. Madeline and I had meetings scheduled at the library at noon, so I loaded the Science Olympiad binders and backpacks in the car while Madeline got her soccer and track gear together. It was a mild day, so Ken was working on his bike, getting it ready for a ride. I hate that I can’t remember if I kissed him goodbye, but I do remember that I rolled the passenger window down so I could wave and yell “I love you! See you later,” as I watched him pump air into his tires. And then I drove off.
That was it. The last time I’d see him. The last time I’d talk to him.
Today is March 11th. The Worst Day.
Last year, some of the kids flew to Colorado to mark the day. I took several days off work and surrounded myself with loved ones.
This year, this second year, I’ll be at work.
I’ve heard other widows talk about the second year, and how different the second year is from the first one.
The shock wears off and the reality kicks in.
Here’s a stupid, tiny snapshot of what I mean. We have a water softening system. It requires salt to do its softening. After Ken died, I went to Walmart and bought eight 40-pound bags of salt. I loaded them all in the car (then I sat in the car and cried because that’s what I did. I cried all the time). I hauled the salt in the house and thought, There, that’s done. Done! I took care of that and I won’t need to revisit it. I must have known that eight bags wouldn’t last forever because I’m a logical, intelligent person, but it really didn’t occur to me that I’d have to keep buying salt. After lugging the 320 pounds of salt into the house and down the stairs, I felt like I’d done that thing, and it was taken care of. It was done. I could move on to something else.
Do you know how many times I’ve bought salt and lugged it into the house since then? I’ve lost count. So many. I’ve lugged a couple thousand pounds of salt into the house and down the stairs. And every time I do, it hits me again that this is reality. Ken’s not coming back.
That’s the kind of thing that happens over and over in the second year.
Ken’s really gone, and it’s heavy. (Not just the 40-pound bags of salt—those have always been heavy. Life. Life is heavy. So damn heavy.)
In the first year, I was sure this was all a big mistake. The person who left this gaping hole in my life would somehow fix everything. I was sure Ken would fix it. He fixed everything. He was my knight in shining armor.
The second year has shown me that the gaping hole will always be here. I can try to fill the hole, I can buy several months worth of salt, I can pray, I can figure out how to function and exist, but this specifically Ken-sized hole will always be there and nothing will fill it. Not even God because God isn’t Ken. What I’ve discovered in this second year is that I have to learn to live around the hole because the hole isn’t going anywhere; it’s a part of me now. The scream and the hole.
If it were up to me, I wouldn’t need to mark the day at all; I’d still be living my best life. But that’s not reality. So I guess it’s fitting that for this second year after Ken’s death, I’ll be marking the day by going to work. I will listen to customers complain about mundane things, I will come home to a cold house, and I will pray that God will give me strength to breathe in and out as I stand on the side of a gaping hole and try my best not to fall in.