Today I am writing into a fairy tale about the 13th Guest, the old witch, who I prefer to call Strega Nona. Strega Nona shows up uninvited, gives a short, respectful bow, eyeing her wary hosts. The 13th Guest is a gift, but not everyone sees it that way.
Timely, neat, orderly – none of these words describes death or grief. Especially timeliness when the phone rings and you feel that sudden wash of certainty that it’s him calling. Out of the blue, that simple ring sends an instant synapse signal in my brain triggering the flutter of excitement that he is calling. But he is not, he is dead, he is not on this earth. My deceased husband is like the 13th dinner guest, he just shows up. It’s not that he is uninvited, it’s that he’s unexpected. There is no preparing for when something will bring him into the room I am standing in, he just pops in like he never left.
There is a difference between when I am purposefully thinking about him and when suddenly he is there unannounced. My parents have a photo board in their kitchen. They update their photo collection often, and every time I visit there is always something new. This weekend was no exception. An older photo taken at the wedding of family friends from the early 1990s has been added. In the photo appears Jon’s stylish parents and the mother of the bride, who is a beautiful lifelong friend. Slightly off to the right side in the picture he stands, giving that unmistakeable side eye with a Cheshire grin which everyone that ever knew him talked about and would notice. His apple cheeks have a blushed glow. He is staring into my core, my heart is beating faster, reminding me that it was all real. Now the “real” is, he is gone. More tears, for the 1,000th time.
The grief I feel has trouble knowing what’s real and not real. Many times when I wake in the morning, I think I have awoken from a dream, like the past nearly 8 months since he died and before that, dealing with cancer for 4 years had never happened. He is going to come home from a very long business trip today and tell me intriguing stories about where he dined and funny conversations. He will crawl back in bed with me and we will get lost in each other and forget the time of day. Sometimes I think that waking up to the reality of his being gone is the nightmare, and sleep is the only reprieve.
As Jon makes his appearances to me, whether making me smile or at other times making me cry, it tells me one thing: I loved him truly and despite all of the challenges we faced, our love got us though it all. If his popping up now and then serves as a reminder to me that we loved each other like that, I can accept that. People who now see me cry and having sudden grief moments, especially my children, need to know that the love he and I shared is still inside me and it leaks out. Jon is gone, but our love has survived and he is still here in some form. It is this love that helps me get up every day, and have hope for my future. As with the uninvited dinner guest, Strega Nona, at least she cared enough to come to the party. You may not have expected to hear or see someone like her, but if you choose to let in the uninvited, that one may have the most surprising gifts and be the most fun of all.~Paula