High school football is a Friday night religion in the South. In the small suburban community we live in, we used to laugh and say that if you wanted to rob any house in this town, Friday night was the time to do it because everyone was at the local high school football stadium. While the children were living at home, this was our ritual. We attended every sporting event that any one of them participated in, had season tickets, cheered our athlete and his team, and enjoyed the experience of being proud parents. I think this phase is a small step in the process of accepting that this little boy is approaching manhood and slowly and gently leading parents to the reality of that day by day we need to let go. You handled this much better than I ever did. I struggled with the letting go part and how our lives and new relationships with these grown men would look. Would they consult with us before making major decisions? Would they seek advice about the new girl in their lives? Would they make mistakes and lean on us while they recovered? None of this ever bothered you. You said that we raised them as best we knew how with love and commitment. We demonstrated what a marriage and family can look like and the moral obligations of taking care of family. You taught them and then you stepped away. They know where to find us, you said. They know we will always be available. If you do not let them go, then you have no faith in us and the values we taught them.
When they had all moved out and we officially became empty nesters, you declared that Friday night from that point on was going to be our Date Night. We started closing our offices early on Friday so that we could have dinner and a movie or dancing at a street party or a drive with the top down. There would be no talk about the business. This was about US and this well-earned time together.
I remember one incident so vividly that it shook me to my bones. We entered the restaurant and, as always, you were holding my hand. As we were being brought to our table, I saw a group of 5 ladies, about my age and a bit older, sitting together at a round table. My feet stopped moving. My breath was gone for a brief moment. You looked at me, waited a moment and began to move again. I grabbed your arm and drew it to my heart as close as I could get it. You never asked and I never told you that my silent prayer was “There but by the grace of God go I”.
I was never really good at the “girlfriend” thing. There are theories that come to mind as to why female relationships were always a challenge and really not particularly enjoyable to me, but it is not especially relevant at this point. You were always there, and you filled me up, so I felt very little need to seek out anyone else. So now, with you gone and all of the drastic and unanticipated changes in our foundation, I find myself lost.
A recent conversation with a friend, who also is a widow, brought some clarity. She said to me, “You are the only one I can talk to about this” and I knew exactly what she meant. Now I experience why those 5 women gathered together at dinner. We just need someone to cling to those who will just allow us to live in our memories and accept our sadness because our husband and best friend and confidant and lover and companion and safety net is not standing next to us holding our hands. A gathering of sadness? Sometimes. Sometimes not. Sometimes it is just a way to comfort ourselves on the compassion shared by other women who do not have to say a word as they are in the same place. We gather. Take a breath. Go into tomorrow with the silent prayer to God to show us how to endure this with dignity and grace.
I miss you so much.