The firsts

His birthday came and went. Like all of the firsts, its the days leading up to it that cause the most anxiety. The funny thing is we don’t even notice the correlation. We just can’t sleep. We are in a daze. We think it must be something else. I felt better last week. What happened? It seems like only yesterday and yet it seems like forever. Nothing is as it was nor will it be again. We are all changed. Yet we keep going. One step after another. One foot in front of the next. Thinking In our minds it will be okay if we do the familiar. But it isn’t okay. We wonder if everyone else is okay. Do they cry all the time? Or is it just me? I still cry for the son we lost too soon. More than twenty years has passed and I think of him all the time. I know in my brain the pain softens in time but my heart hurts so much right now.

A year ago when Rene’ turned 63 I wrote about him and our life. I am sitting in the same chair as I did then. His chair sits empty. Its silent here now. The hockey bag sat in the middle of the music room floor for months. I finally put it in the garage. He would have been on his way to play right about now. I tried to start his motorbike the other day. It took me forever to find the keys and then the battery was dead. I sat on the floor of the garage and cried. I was finally ready to ride it and then I couldn’t. Why was God making it so hard? Or maybe its like when my Dad gave me my first car. I had to change the oil, change a tire, fix some belts. Learn the car and then drive it. Today I will charge the battery. Change the oil. Give it a little check up. Then I’ll take a short trip like we used to some days. Through the foothills. Through Gods country as my Dad would say. People ask me what I am going to do with his bike. I am going to ride it of course. He loved that motorbike.

I decided to give up golfing. It was our togetherness time and I just felt I didn’t really like it that much and I spoke to the Club Pro about selling our share membership. He convinced me to wait a year and talked me into buying junior memberships for the five oldest grandkids. It was a good idea and I am grateful to Bryan. A friend from the past called and suggested I join the ladies league. Another friend suggested a second group of ladies who meet once a week. So now I golf in both leagues. I have golfed more this year than ever before and the grandkids have been out lots as well. Friends call now and again and ask me to join them. It is such a sweet gesture. It is hard to go from being a couple to being a social person so the fact that people care enough to include me would make him so happy. One day I was just finishing a golf game when I saw Rene’s friend Dale. We chatted and then another friend came up, And another. then another. It was men’s night and so many of Rene’s friends from the past were there. As they all gathered around to say hello I felt like I was being held in a circle of love. It was magical. Rene truly knew the best people!

I have struggled to do the things we used to do. I didn’t play pool all winter although it was our thing. I don’t walk in the valley much. Too much emotion. Even golf is hard when someone asks about Rene’. When I would spend hours in the garden, Rene would bring out a couple of coffees and we would sit in our rocking chairs on the deck and chat. Even my garden has suffered this year. But I still sit on the front deck and have a coffee as I read my book. My oldest daughter built a deck in the front of her new house. My youngest daughter just took possession today of her new house and we talk about the front deck she is going to build. I put on his cowboy hat as I sit there. I see him with his legs crossed taking in the peace and quiet. It was his place.

This year on his birthday I golfed with my three children. Driving to the golf course we laughed with each song as it seemed like Rene’ was choosing the playlist. My oldest brought treats from Ranier Beer with the big R logo. We had rainier beer. Drank a toast with Crown Royal. Played poorly. Like we do. Spent his day as he would have spent it. Relaxing and playing golf. Then we went to Denny’s. We used to share an apple crisp together when we were out for a walk some days. He loved Denny’s. The seniors Talapia. It was the perfect end to his birthday.

Once in awhile I put on his favourite shirt. The Tommy Bahama flowered Hawaiian one. He wore it for anniversaries, Christmas, Church. It was special. I go into the basement and pour a little Crown Royal over ice and throw an album onto the turntable. The stereo he brought to University in 1974. Last night I listened to some James Taylor as I sat in his shirt sipping whiskey. And then I danced as we used to. Like we were the only two people in the world. He is here with me. I feel him often. And there are signs. Songs. The number 1 repeated. Or sometimes just a feeling. It isn’t how we thought it would go. As Rene’ used to say though “It is what it is!”

I am one of the lucky ones. I married a man who always tried to make it okay. I truly came first. When we were young he didn’t understand why he had to say I love you so often. Because I needed to hear it! So he said it. All the time. When I had doubts he laid them to rest. When I was sad he held me. He took care of me in ways I see now. Two days before he died we passed in the hallway. He hugged me and said “You were always first Cindy. Always.” Yes we were some of the lucky ones. But Rene’ would say “The harder I work the luckier I am.” Some years we really had to work hard at this thing called marriage but in the end it was easy. That was the prize.

Soon the summer will come to a close. The leaves will turn and I will start putting the garden to bed. There will be a few more Grandchildren’s birthdays, Thanksgiving and another birthday. Then the firsts are done. And year two will begin. I keep asking people when it will be better. Those who have done this before me. They can’t tell me. Turns out the only thing they know for sure is it will never be the same again. But in all fairness life has always been a changing and evolving time. I have always felt life happened around me and I was gently led through it by some unseen forces. Like a shadow it all seemed surreal sometimes. That continues and I know life has more in store for me. Each day is a wonder that begins with great promise and possibility. When I first retired and Rene’ was still working he would kiss me goodbye and ask “What are you going to do today?” To which I replied “I don’t know yet. I’ll decide when I get up.” So now I will just continue letting my life flow like a river. Take it as it comes and accept the journey as a blessing. This part that I now travel alone. This I have learned is the biggest first.

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