Yesterday was our son’s 20th birthday. It seems like just yesterday that he was born, and we were young, and life was wide open before us. In a million years I did not ever imagine that 20 short years later you would not be beside me to celebrate his day.
Over the last four-ish months various significant days have passed (your birthday, Jaime’s birthday, my birthday etc), and I have been able to remember exactly where you and I were on that day any number of years ago. As each event has passed I have found myself thinking “if I had known how much time was left, would I have done anything different?”
I have mulled that thought over countless times, and I have finally come to the conclusion that the answer lies somewhere in between a “yes” and a “no.”
I wish that I was emphatically able to answer “No! I would change nothing! I was perfect. I loved you every minute of every day, and I treated you with gentleness, kindness and love at all times, and vice versa.” But that isn’t the answer, because that isn’t the truth. We did not do those things at all times, but we did do them most of the time. (Some of the time? No … over the span of 23 years I think we did them most of the time.)
The answer is also not an emphatic “Yes! I would change everything! I would have loved you more and been kinder and more considerate at all times. I would not have ever argued with you, and I would not have insisted on having my way, ever. I would have given you exactly what you wanted every time you asked, I would have swallowed my frustrations and I would have spent every day telling you how perfect you were.” That’s not the truth either, and I don’t wish I had done that. I doubt you would wish that of me either. If I was the perfect partner it would have made your life easier for a short while, but it also would have bored you silly. I know you were never looking for a partner who was just a “yes” person. Neither was I.
The truth is that I loved you fiercely, most of the time, and I know you did the same. And I know you appreciated the ferocity with which I loved you, which sometimes meant I ferociously disliked you too. But I always loved you. And vice versa. Some years were harder than others, but I always hung on and loved you when others may have let go. The same goes for you – you always hung on. That’s why we worked.
I do now know that most of our disagreements were a waste of time (life is just too short – you taught me that) and I do wish I could have a do-over and take some of them back, but not all of them. Because sometimes you were very wrong, and we both knew it. 🙂
(You would have laughed at that. I’m smiling now as I think of you laughing.)
If I had known on the day that our son was born that we would only get to celebrate 19 of his birthdays together, I would have cried and said “how will I be able to do this without you?” And you would have said, “You won’t have to. I will be by your side for 19 years and then you will continue on.” You were very practical like that.
So I suppose that in the end, there is not a lot I would have done differently. Who would have wanted to risk the possibility of doing things differently and ending up not having our kids? Not you. Not I. There is no point in living with regret (as you were fond of saying), and truthfully we really had very little to regret and so much to appreciate.
I’m glad we did it our way. I know you were too.
I do wish we had managed to travel more together. I will never forget you saying that to me towards the end – that you wished we had travelled more. Ben, I hope you have travelled the world by now and marvelled at all the wonders. I promise you I will encourage the kids to do so. Carpe Diem, baby. Carpe diem.
I miss you Ben. Sometimes, like right now as I write you this letter, my whole body aches from missing you. I miss your laugh so much. You had a great laugh. Today someone from Ottawa emailed me to say they missed you (oh how I loved reading that), and they talked about what an infectious laugh you had. You did. I hope you laugh every day now.
I am learning how to do some things around the house that I never had to do before, although I am constantly pissed off that I have to do it at all. You’re in the dog house for that. The computers frustrate me to no end. I still don’t have Netflix, although I pay for it every month. That would piss you off! Today the door on the dishwasher refused to close so now I have to wash by hand (whaaaat??), one of the kitchen drawers is broken, and those damn latches on both gates still don’t work. I’m pretty choked that you didn’t fix them. Procrastination was not your best trait.
The kids are managing as well as any teenager could. They miss you, and truth be told, it hurts them to talk about you out loud. I know this because I have asked, and I watch the quick flash of pain across their faces when I say I miss you. But you also taught them to laugh, and so that is what they try to do.
I bought him the same obscenely expensive frying pan that I bought you a year ago. I figured you would think that was a good choice.
Raegan has been sick and was at home for several days last week. It turns out that she used her down time to google you, and she found our blog. I was a little anxious about that when she told me. I did not ask her to stop reading it, although I was tempted (and she told me she wouldn’t read it any more if I didn’t want her to), but I did tell her that she might want to think about it first. I told her it’s painful sometimes, but that’s because we loved you so much. Later on that day she sent me this text, which contained an excerpt from one of your blog posts last year:
She was looking for reminders of how you loved her.
Jaime has been suffering with the same stomach problems she has always had, although they are worse now. I have tried to explain “gluten free” to her as I know you would want me to, but she is stubborn. I think she got that from you.
She has been concerned about telling her new boss that we are leaving for several weeks this summer. She was afraid he wouldn’t understand. Today she got to see once again that people are good, as he not only told her that she could go and there are more important things than work, but he let her know that he lost his own wife three years ago. He told her he understood.
She is managing better most nights now, but there is a hole in her heart like the rest of us have. You can take pride in the fact that you meant so much to all of us, but because we loved you so much it is hard to move through the pain. One day at a time is all we can do. Sometimes one moment.
Last night I broke my finger. (I am writing this from Emergency at Surrey Memorial. I didn’t go last night because I hoped it would fix itself. That didn’t work out.) I saw the xray today – it doesn’t look pretty. If you have any pull in the afterlife, could you please help me out with some quick healing? I am particularly annoyed that I can now only get 9 fingers done when I get my manicure.
You are still the first person I want to tell when anything happens, so I was particularly unhappy to break my finger and find myself unable to commiserate with you. I still reach for my phone daily to call you or text you. What’s the deal with THAT?! Sometimes I cave in and send you a text anyway. You never answer, but on the upside I have yet to receive an angry text from whomever may now have your number, telling me I should stop texting him / her and go talk to a shrink instead. So that’s good.
I often wish I hadn’t been so quick to delete your online presence, even though I know you would have wanted that and quite frankly, I know you would think that’s part of what made me an awesome wife. Because I remembered stuff like that! Still, it would be nice to go back through your accounts sometimes, I think, even though you weren’t much of a poster. I’m glad I screen shot(ted) many of your texts.
*********break while I talk to the doctor**********
Well, I have just walked out of the hospital with my finger nicely splinted, so I should sign off. I want to get away from this place. I hate being in the hospital because I see you everywhere, and I remember the shitty news we got in every room.
I remember all the beds you layed in at Surrey Memorial while I tried to find that balance between getting pain relief for you but not being too assertive incase I pissed off the only people who could help. (I still laugh when I recall you telling the nurse with pink lipstick that she talked too much and needed to learn to listen more. Lol).
The nurse who helped out today remembered me. That was nice, and sad at the same time. When I walked out of the hospital just now I refused to use the hand sanitizer in an act of defiance. Not sure who I was defying, really, but as I walked past it I thought of the zillion times I stopped at that pump over the last year so that I wouldn’t make you sick. Well, now my stubbornness means I can’t touch anything until I get home and wash my hands. I guess I didn’t teach anyone a lesson, did I?
I miss you, Ben. Your name is always on the tip of my tongue and at the forefront of my thoughts. But I am managing, just like I promised, so you don’t need to worry. One day at a time.
Someone put this online: