“WITH you it’s different”
It’s been four and a half years since Tom passed away. Just writing that seems unreal. It is hard for me to believe that he has been gone so long. Much of the grief of his passing has tempered with time. I still think of him almost daily, although a lot of the pain of that remembering has gone away. However, there is one of result of his death that has not really changed – the fact that his death meant I quit being part of a couple.
It sounds like an insignificant thing. I’ve always considered myself reasonably independent and in many ways I had to work to rely on Tom when it would have been much easier to just rely on myself. But after 23 years as part of a partnership, it has been eye opening to find myself on my own again. In the beginning, it felt overwhelming to make big decisions. When I had to decide on car repairs, or how to handle a parenting issue, or even if I should spend money on a vacation I missed having that second person with whom to talk it through. There have been good substitutes – I have wonderful parents and siblings and friends. But some things I really am alone on – no one has the same responsibility for my children that I do as a parent. All the well meaning counsel and advice doesn’t have the same weight as counsel from a co-parent who has the same investment that I do.
I’m more comfortable with solo decisions now, which is a good thing. But I’ve never really gotten used to being the single person in a crowd of couples. I have never had the experience of being excluded because of my status – I have great friends and family who go out of their way to let me know that they want me around and I’m still valuable even though I’m the odd one out now. Just me writing that statement is really a reflection of how I feel about myself and not how anyone else has treated me. I’m not sure why I feel this way, but the fact is that I do. I miss that feeling of being part of a unique relationship – one where my partner knows things about me that no one else knows – and still loves me!! 🙂
Last weekend I went to an evening meeting for seminary teachers (I’m a volunteer religious teacher for my church). The invitation was for teachers and their spouses. I’m pretty sure I’m the only single teacher in the group right now. I was greeted with enthusiasm and interest when I arrived. Yet, when the lights went out (it was a church-wide broadcast meeting via television) I found myself tearing up. I was surrounded by couples who were together, not alone. They were sharing an experience they could go home and talk about and that would give them yet another thing in common. I used to have that, and while it didn’t seem like a big deal (heck, going to another church meeting wouldn’t have really felt like quality time spent together), in retrospect it was such a big perk of being a couple.
In almost every social gathering, I had a safety net. If I didn’t have a friend to talk to and hang out with, I always had Tom. When I just had to get something off my chest but was wary of saying too much, I could always share it with him. He didn’t judge my words too harshly, he would never pass them on, and he often gave me a different perspective. We were “in it” together when it came to parenting, house upkeep, retirement planning, and how to spend our free time. While I do enjoy some aspects of doing these things solo (who doesn’t like having complete control of the TV remote?) mostly the trade offs are a pale substitute for being part of such an intimate partnership.
I’m grateful that my life is good … there are so many things that have gone well in my life. And really I’m grateful for all the years that I was married to Tom and got to learn first hand the perks of couple hood. If I’m fortunate enough to remarry, I hope I never take them for granted! In the meantime, I’ll try not to feel too sorry for myself and to focus on being happy for my friends and family who have this gift in their lives.