I took off my wedding ring several weeks ago. I had been thinking about it for a while. When it first occurred to me that I could take it off, I thought I never would. Then later on I thought, “well, I guess some day if I decide to start dating I should probably take it off… Yeah, probably.” But I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to not wear it. It would feel so naked. And uncomfortable. And like betrayal.
But taking it off felt like taking control of my life. It also felt like letting Gregg down. But, it’s just an effing ring. And the next morning, guess what? It felt normal. I felt normal. Like I had taken ownership of my place in the world, but it wasn’t as just a poor little widow. I didn’t have the weight of it anymore.
I spent the next few weeks avoiding thinking about Gregg for too long. I’ve realized that sometimes, I need a break. I need to go numb to it. I even pretended that I saw him. I was on a plane, exhausted and foggy from jet lag, and I saw a man out of the corner of my eye. He was tall, with broad shoulders and feet twice the size of mine. He wore a black shirt with long sleeves, black gym shorts, and black running shoes. I could see him. The areas that weren’t clear were filled in by my brain. Blonde hair. Eyes that squinted when he laughed. A cow lick on the back of his head, the same one Thomas has. Muscles on top of muscles. Headphones playing music that would drown out all the noise.
It was him. Standing right there. I couldn’t bring myself to actually look at him because I knew he’d disappear. It would just be some guy who looked nothing like him. He walked away and Gregg was gone.
Now, I think my brain is ready to feel the loss again. This week was my first week of my graduate program. As I was frantically searching for a piece of jewelry- because adult professionals wear that, right? And it will divert attention from my mom accessories (food, snot, spit up, etc.)- I saw my wedding band sitting in my jewelry box. Without even thinking, I reached in and slipped it on my finger. It was almost instinctive. Wearing it felt like home. Comfortable and sad at the same time. This is where I need to be now. And I’m still wearing it.
My brain is not protecting me anymore. Tonight when I was putting Thomas down for bed, I told him a story about Gregg. Which is nothing new, I’ve told him and Luke a story about daddy every night since the day after Christmas. But it had become a rushed version of watered down memories. Sincere, but generic. Tonight I told Thomas a story about what Gregg looked like and told him all the features he had that came from daddy, which is like, all of them. When I got to his nose, I told him about Gregg’s scar. I hadn’t thought about in a long time. It wasn’t noticeable unless you knew to look for it, and tonight I could see it clear as day in my memory. A little crooked line from the middle of his top lip to his nose, and around to the left. It divided that part of his face in half. He had busted it open as a kid when he ran into a volleyball pole. When it was almost healed, a game of Squishy Face, Stretchy Face opened it back up. Somehow, a family practitioner managed to sew him up perfectly, twice. And it didn’t ruin his beautiful face (Gregg’s words, and mine).
Seeing that scar so clearly broke me. I don’t know why it was that and not something else, but if I’ve learned anything in the past 8 1/2 months, it’s that grief is a roller coaster and that emotions ride along the ups and downs and the spirals with no regard for the rational thoughts you might be trying to have on the ground. Round and round and round it goes, and where it stops, nobody knows. And they’re gonna just puke everywhere sometimes, and it’s not pretty. Sometimes it’s after they’ve eaten three churros and a chili dog and you just have to roll with it. Sometimes you can’t dodge it and you have to just live with it until you can get it cleaned off, which you don’t know how long will take, sometimes minutes, sometimes weeks. You don’t know this theme park well and you can’t always take control of what is happening to you.
So I’m gearing up for gross feelings, I guess. And when it gets to the point when I can’t handle the smell anymore, which it will, I’ll just hide in the photo booth. The one where you get to dress up as someone completely different from yourself, like a pirate wench, and pretend that none of this ever happened. And then I’ll realize that figurative pirate wenchness does not suite me and I want my own life back. And after a nice break of smiling and wearing an eye patch, I’ll be more prepared to deal with what’s outside.