Sunday, August 26, 2012
No Signs of A Man
Please welcome our guest writer, Wendy Doyle Diez, who is filling in for Matt today. Thanks Wendy!
“Excuse me, but is your husband in the service?,” the kind, if not nosy, carpet cleaner asks as he dumps the enormous amount of dirty water he has pulled out of my area rugs into my kitchen sink.
“No,” I reply, genuinely surprised at this question. This is not a question I expected to hear, ever really, but definitely not today. I used to be prepared and anticipate the questions when someone came into my home to do work. I used to be ready to tell them that Chris died if necessary. There was a time where all I did was wait for the inevitable references to my husband to come up in conversations. But today, I let my guard down and I failed to brace myself for this inquiry.
“Why do you ask,” I question Mr. Nosy Pants Carpet Cleaner.
“Oh, just wondering,” he says. “I saw that picture up in your bedroom that says, “We love Daddy” in the sand and there were no signs of a man around so….”, he trails off, perhaps wondering if he has said too much. “I thought maybe your husband was deployed.”
“Oh,” I respond. “No, actually he passed away a few years ago.”
And there it is--The Look. You all know it. The how-can-this-young-woman-with-two-little-kids-have-a-dead-husband look. When he recovers from his shock, he offers his condolences. He shakes his head and says, “Man. That’s just too bad.” And then offers the standard proclamation, “You are one strong lady.”
After he leaves, his words, “no signs of a man,” ring out in my head. Are there really no signs of a man in my house? For some reason, this observation hits me hard. Have I erased all signs of Chris so much so that complete strangers entering the premises have no idea that he ever lived here?
I take an inventory of the rooms of my house. The kids’ rooms each have a couple of pictures of themselves with Daddy. However, the master bedroom is clearly feminine. There are some photos of Chris around but I redecorated a year and a half ago to make the room feel more like mine and less like a constant reminder of my old life. Did that project expunge Chris’s existence from my life? My dining room could definitely use an update of pictures as there is only a couple of Claire from when she was a baby and one family picture of me, Chris and Ian. Maybe there is some truth to the assertion that there are no signs of Chris around.
Convinced that this can’t be, I review again. I remember the artwork that Chris liked that is hanging in the living room near the piano that he loved to play. I glance at his Cubs pictures and mold-a-rama collection that still reside in my office. I consider the beautiful garden he created in our yard that despite my neglect and weed infestation still resembles its original likeness. I smile thinking about the ways that Ian and Claire manifest their father’s personality and passions.
Slowly, I realize that my hyper-sensitive widow brain has interpreted the phrase, “no signs of a man”, all wrong. Mr. Nosy Pants Carpet Cleaner didn’t infer that Chris never existed but rather that he was missing. He correctly sensed that he must have been a powerful force in our lives and that he was dearly loved. He was accurate in his assessment that there are no signs of just any man here. But there are plenty of signs of my man. Even if they are imperceptible to an outsider, they are here. And those who loved him and knew him intimately know it.
And that is all that counts.