Also Try the Cheesecake

It’s been a doozy of a week. I have felt all the feelings. Felt my stomach turning somersaults on all the ups and downs. And while I’m exhausted, I also feel completely… alive. I’m starting to let go of the numbness more and more and instead purposefully reach for things that make me actually feel. And even when those things slip right through my fingers, the movement of just reaching out my hand has been valuable. It’s made me feel all the hope and grief and happiness and disappointment that my soul has needed to feel.

This week I went to mine and Gregg’s favorite restaurant, just a few miles from where we lived before he died. If you’re ever in Gilbert, AZ go to Joe’s Farm Grill. Order the sweet potato fries. Eat all of them, with the pineapple Thai sauce. Don’t share. Thank me later. Anyway, I got there at 7 pm on a Saturday night, which meant waiting in a 45-min line (#soworthit) by myself. I got to chatting with the couple in front of me, who had the most adorably chunky little 10-month-old girl. She reached right for me and as I held her, I told the couple how I was missing my boys, whom I had left at home for the weekend. I told them how I was in town for a funeral, but obviously had to make time to go to Joe’s, where my husband and I used to eat at least once a week.

This next part requires some back story. See, there’s this thing that a lot of people do when they’re going through grief. They feel so keenly the stark difference between the upheaval in their world and the normalcy that other people enjoy that they take every opportunity to let others feel the difference, too. Part of it also has to do with having bad days and wanting to ruin everyone else’s day, but whatever. There have been so many times when people have asked about my husband and I have just blurted out, “he’s dead.” Sometimes I’ll also crack a morbid joke (“you think your husband’s a deadbeat?!?…”), just to heighten the shock factor. Anyway, it’s a common thing among grieving people, particularly among widows and widowers. I think that’s because their sense of normalcy is most effected. It hurts to lose anyone, but losing a spouse impacts literally every area of your life. Nothing is normal anymore. So when given the opportunity, a widow or widower will drop that bomb on the innocent cashier who just wants to make small talk or on the poor billing specialist at the doctor’s office who just wants to make sure they file the claim properly. There’s just something so satisfying about seeing the light in their eyes falter for just a moment and their words get caught in their throat, the same way yours did when your spouse died. It’s cold, I know. But there it is, the troubled little kid in all of us, going around trying to ruin everyone’s day.

Anyway, the sweet couple in front of me continued chatting away. “Is he jealous you’re here without him?” The wife asked. Jealous? I thought. Who? Who is she talking about? It took me a second to realize what she was asking. She naturally assumed that my kids were at home with my husband for the weekend and was asking if he was jealous I was eating at our favorite restaurant without him. Here it was, the perfect opportunity to crush the shiny outlook on life these two had. Probably married less than two years, their whole lives ahead of them. They were enjoying a nice family outing here, in our place, where Gregg could never order a Bacon Blue Burger again. I smiled a little. “Yes,” I answered. “Yes, he is.” And I must have said it really creepily or something, because they both sort of just slowly turned forward after that and we didn’t speak again. Whatevs, I was only there for the fries, anyway.

But this encounter made me realize that my normalcy has returned. It’s normal to be without Gregg now. It’s normal for me to stand alone in a really long line. It’s normal for me to not call him on the phone on my way home. It’s normal not to roll my eyes as I pick up his gym clothes off the floor. And it’s normal to see a happy family and not want to rain on their parade, because I am also happy.

There are still new things that I have to deal with all the time. Lots of new territory that definitely does not feel normal. But Heavenly Father has placed people in my life to help me navigate those foreign places. And even when I feel like I’m walking around in circles, in the dark, in three feet of mud, at least I’m going somewhere. Better to trudge along towards wherever I’m going than to stay stuck in one place.

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