Friday, April 6, 2012
Digging for Widower Gold
So I’m dating someone. It’s difficult. She has been absolutely patient, respectful and thoughtful. Better than that, she’s been curious my past and yet delicate. I could not ask for a better partner as I travel down this challenging path. The problem is that, as a new relationship partner, I’m causing all kinds of difficulties. I’m Mr. Drama, it seems, because every time we take a step together, I stomp on a memory.
Last weekend, we spent the morning at a garden show buying herbs and the afternoon planting them. It was a perfect day filled with dirt, plants bugs and laughs. But just under the surface, my memories were stirring up myriad emotions. More than once, while she was planting, I went off to “cut back a bush” (which, just between you and me, is code for “try not to cry.”) See, Maggie and I planted this great big garden with our hands, together, with the intent of building a future together and watching it grow. Our marriage was filled with glorious days just like these: mornings at the garden store and afternoons getting dirty, chasing the dogs, and swatting bugs. How could I even possibly let someone else be right there in that very spot planting where Maggie once was? But I did. She didn’t really ask. Of course, I didn’t really volunteer. I just let it happen. But instead of being supportive, I was a bit distant, off “cutting back bushes.” Much later, after we were all finished, she told me that she realized what that garden meant and that she understands that I probably felt a lot of emotions that day. (She’s very perceptive and prone to understatement.)
Back when things were getting really bad with The Cancer, Maggie's caller id had a very specific ring tone. It was the most obnoxious and loud ringtone the iPhone had to offer and Maggie didn’t like it; it wasn’t sweet and romantic in any way. Always the pragmatic one, I knew that I could hear that ring tone across a loud room no matter what. Well, the other day at supper, my new relationship’s phone rang that same ring tone. I jumped straight up in the air like a panicked Pavlov dog. She was startled by my reaction. Heck, I was startled by my reaction. But when I explained briefly why, she said she understood why that must have given me a shock.
Maggie loved her iPhone. Rather, Maggie LOVED her iPhone. She was always fidgeting with this or that and reprogramming mine when I wasn’t looking. One day, she figured out that she could attach a picture to a caller id phone number. From that day forward she was always taking pictures of people and attaching them to their phone numbers on our iPhones. Back while sitting the chair at the cancer treatment center, she had plenty of time to take pictures and attach them to phone numbers, especially phone numbers related to her that were in my phone, like her cell phone or our home phone. Well, two days ago, my new relationship called my cell phone from the phone at my house. When my iPhone rang, up popped a picture of Maggie I hadn’t seen in years. In the picture, she was sitting in the chemo chair hooked up to the chemo pump but beaming her wonderful smile. After I finished up my call, I sat in the car and cried for 10 minutes. (She doesn’t know about this little incident.)
Relationships aren’t easy. Everyone knows that. But I feel like without even trying I’m doing my best to complicate things. I try to be reasonable and insulate my new relationship from all the things that pop up but good grief! It’s like walking side-by-side with me while I stroll through a mine field! And it’s certainly not her fault that these things are happening (although, just to be clear, SHE chose to plant stuff in the garden and SHE selected that specific ring tone and SHE called me from my house so maybe all this IS her fault…. Hmmm.… I’ll have to keep a little closer eye on her.)
Despite how badly I keep trying to screw things up by throwing all these emotional monkey wrenches around, things are going really well. And, oddly enough, she actually appreciates that I had a wonderful relationship with my wife. In her own words, she thinks it’s wonderful that I was once very happy and, thus, I know what being in a great relationship is like. I suppose it is all perspective. Many women I’ve met have seen in me a river full of treacherous rocks, dangerous rapids, and deep water. My new relationship sees a perfect place to pan for gold.
Neither of us knows where this will go. But I can say for sure, I’m so happy to know that people like her are out there that see that being widowed isn’t the end. Instead, it’s deep, meaningful experience that will add richness to the next relationship, no matter where that next relationship goes.