Sunday, September 25, 2011

He’s Not Here

Last weekend we moved. 
Our new place is smaller, more intimate.
I like it.

It’s simpler to manage. (There are only so many places Ezra’s left shoe can be!)  It makes sorting through the boxes and boxes of stuff I should have sold, much simpler.  (If it stays, exactly where is it going to go, Kim?) 

And I feel lighter here, less weighed down by stuff and keeping track of the stuff so I can find the stuff. 

But today, I walked out of the bathroom, I looked at my bed and I realized…

Art’s not here.

He’s nowhere in this new place.  Not in the decision of which draw to put the utensils in, nor in which painting to hang where.  He’s not in the money spent at Ikea nor will he be in the car when I return a few things. He’s not in the assembly of the shelves, or the finding of the toothpaste.

He’s not in the walk in closet.

He’s not in third call to Xbox Live in two hours about the hook up issue. He’s not there when the electrician, plumber, handy man and old renter all arrive within 20 minutes of each other. 

He’s not in the dinner I cook, the good night kisses I give, or in the bed where I collapse.

He’s not here. 

It was not till I left the house that I see that I have left him too.   I didn’t think I left him. I thought he was coming with us. But here in this new place, I see that he was in every damn thing in the old place: in the walls, in where the toilet paper was stacked and where the breakfast trays were kept. He was in the lights he put up around the large kitchen window that looked out onto the back yard. He was in where the canned soup goes, the best place for the dresser and the fiction book order:  black writer fiction, black female writer fiction, dead male writer fiction and damn good fiction to reread over and over again. (Yes we really had the books divided like that!)   He was in the up high shelf with the extension cords and the bicycle tools tool box.

There was this weird potential, like maybe, just maybe, he'll show up again.

I could hear him sometimes, in the catch of the kid’s voices as if, for just a moment, they might forget and call to him, instead of me.

In this new place, their voices are clear and call, with piercing clarity, only my name.

The potential is gone.  

This feels like this is where it begins.  Where our new family starts, this family of four.

Our dinner table no longer has the extensions out.  It is square: one side for each of us.  Tonight, I looked at each of my kids, one across from me, two on either side of me and sigh. We are a family of four now.  Four sides of a square for four people.

The most weird, unnerving, pleasant and peaceful thing about this observation is that

I’m OK with it.

In 2009 we became a family of four. It was not what I wanted, not what was planned.

In 2011, it is what I have accepted and come to embrace.  It is what we are, it is who we are. It is neither bad nor good. It just is.

My new place just taught me that. 


  1. "In the catch of the kids voices..." this is something I still feel searing pain with my kids. Especially my four year old. She was two when John passed. She, nor the others, call out for their dad but I have nearly been brought to my knees when I am out with my children in a fun, family place and I hear a little girl just say "daddy". I would give anything to hear my Mari say "daddy." Good luck getting settled in your new home Kim! Hugs to you all.

  2. Kim, when my kids and I moved into a new home I didn't feel my husband anymore. Everything was new, and I felt like I was living in someone else's home. I felt lost, because I didn't know how to do anything. I still feel that way sometimes, and i've lived here for 18 months :(

  3. beautiful post. so true. i moved right after my husband died and tried to keep everything the same. it's hard finding myself sometimes. he is still very much here even tho he never lived here. now, i long for smaller, more manageable, more me...

  4. My husband died October 2009, I moved March 2010. Financially I had to, but I think it was one of the best things I did. I was no longer surrounded by him and memories of things we did in "our" home. Now I am in "my" home. I did things the way I wanted to, without compromise. I even put pink in my bedroom and will soon be putting a red counter in my bath. Both are things he would have hated! By being in this new house I am able to make new memories and not just dwell on the old.

  5. Losing your soul mate is more heart-rending than most people realize unless they too, have walked in your shoes. My husband of 53 years passed away 18 months ago with no warning and in less than 5 minutes. I know how your heart hurts. God bless you.

  6. Well Everyone, This post really made me think. I am in the same house our original and only house. He worked on it day and night restoring it to it's Victorian style. HE LOVED THIS HOUSE. Every inch of it is him. I should move but I'm hanging on for a few more years. My kids are adults but none are married. They so want me to keep the house....
    Part of me wants to go but more of me is terrified. I am in awe of all of you, Kim and all of you out there who made the break with THE HOUSE.

  7. Thank you for writing this. My husband died in 2009 also and we are considering a move in the next two years. I have been thinking many of these things in the few months and its nice to see the move from the other side of it.

  8. "The potential is gone"
    I no longer feel the "potential" is there for him to walk through the door. Thank you for sharing how a new beginning in a new home can be.
    Hang in there, moving is one of the biggest stressors in life. You know the others...we lived through it....loss of a spouse. Hugs to you during your move to a new normal.

  9. I'm at 15 months and still trying to decide when the best time will be to break up with our house. I keep saying 'when I sell in a few years', but that's pretty open ended!

    For so long I just didn't want to move on or move forward, since that means moving away from Dave. But this house is a lot of work and was actually already getting the better of Dave a few years before he died. The amount of work and associated costs will probably speed up my decision.

    The day after Dave died I threw away all his toiletries except for a can of body spray. I haven't even noticed it for probably half a year. This morning when I grabbed my deodorant I saw the can and sprayed a little in the bathroom, smelled it and smiled. Then I did my usual morning routine and when I went back into the bathroom a few minutes later the smell hit me like a kick in the stomach. I had already forgotten and it caught me off guard the second time I smelled it.

    Man. It's hard to let go...

  10. To Valerie above, may I say slow down, and do not have too many expectations of yourself? I am hitting two years, and I have totally rejected all of the "let go move on" shit"...take things in your own time. My grief counselor (Hospice) lost her husband six years ago and she still has her moments, and she always told me that people don't get how long it takes. One day at a time. No one should rush into anything they still feel emotional about. There seems to be a societal pressure that widows should sell their house, move on, do this and that. Do what you are comfortable with when you are comfortable with it. Period. Funny I never read these things from widowers, if they lose a spouse/partner...I never hear from them that they are being pressured to sell the house, get a hobby, etc. People bring them meals and say "poor you, you can't take care of yourself or your kids without your dear departed wife." Sorry, but I notice these things. Please do not feel pressure. My God, you are only at 15 months, that is still infancy in grief.

  11. I agree with Anon above, take as much time as you need to make major decisions like moving. I know I will move on from "our house"...too big, maintenance issues, costly...but we built it, literally, and his touches are in every room. I dread the day I hand over the keys to someone, but I know it is coming. But it is just a house, I will take him with me wherever I go. I, too, get pressured to move on from it and all the memories. But that's not where I'm at yet, so I'm staying put. It's home sweet home, even if I'm the only one there. It is what it is. Good luck in settling in to your new place, Kim.