Let’s Pretend My Husband Is Still Alive
Five Things I Would Say To Him
Let’s just pretend for a moment that you’re still alive. Let’s pretend that I could spend the day with you, that maybe we could get caught up on the last almost-four years we have been apart. Let’s imagine I can sit next to you on the couch, my legs folded underneath me, my thoughts punctuated by gestures with my coffee cup. Imagine if I could talk to you again. I wonder what I would say to you if I only had the chance.
It’s been a long, long time. More than one thousand days. Where do I begin? I want to tell you about today, about the boys, about this strong woman you married. But simply saying your name out loud has made my lungs feel smaller. This is why I don’t talk to you: because I can’t breathe.
I guess I would begin with the simple way we started every day.
Good morning. Do you know that the sun still comes up every morning, even though you are not here to kiss the top of my head? It’s true. The day still begins. This truth surprised me for all of the first year you were gone, when I really thought the world should stop spinning. But no, the sun came up every morning, the very evidence of ‘satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love.’ The sun rises and God remains and I continue.
I love you. I want to look at you so closely, lean in and smell your smell. I want to remember, because I can’t see your face in my mind anymore. When I close my eyes, I can only picture photographs of you. I can remember pieces of you — your scruffy cheek, the line of your teeth, the honey brown of your eyes — but I can’t see the whole of your face. I’m tired of missing you.
Oh, and by the way, I’m dating again. It’s an awkward and lovely scene of coffee shops and restaurants and text messages. Sometimes I come home from a date with someone new and I want to tell you about it, which is pretty much the strangest dichotomy ever. I shared my highlights with you, and the habit continues long after you have. Sometimes I wonder if love will ever find me again, whether I want to fall in love at all, whether I could be a good wife again. And then I think — of course I hope, of course I would, of course I could. There’s so much love and life left in me. Loneliness is hard to trust and forever is a lot of days to set just one place at the table.
If I could sit with you, I would tell you thank you. I saw Matt at a soccer game last weekend — remember him? They had just gotten married when we met them so many years ago. He said, “Tricia, I just want you to know that I never, ever heard that man say a negative word about you. His example showed me how to love my wife better.” And to think, affirmation was a language you couldn’t speak to me. But you told others what you liked about me, and and now your secret’s out. I will carry that for the rest of my days.
I wish I could tell you that I’m sorry for that one year when I let Father’s Day slip past me, and you woke up for breakfast to find the boys signing their cards for you right there at the table. You were disappointed I hadn’t finished sooner, and my unpreparedness hurt you. I wasn’t ready; I’m still not ready. I didn’t know I had so few Father’s Days to spend with you, to somehow show you that you were our moon and stars. I’m sorry about that, love. It’s only that sometimes the most important words are the hardest ones to say.
Remember our pillow conversations at the end of the day? I miss talking to you about the boys; I wish they knew you. Tyler is seven now, Robb. He uses words like nocturnal, extraordinary, collaboration, extremely, and substantially. He has lived more days without you than he ever had with you, and that’s hard to wrap my mind around. Tucker walks like you; his stride is perfectly yours. How did it happen that way? How did any of this happen this way? He misses you in ways he can’t explain; he is eight. If ever there’s a quintessential year that a boy enjoys with his dad, it is the year when he is eight.
If you were here, we could talk about the athlete and the artist who are the genetic composite of you, me, and us. Our words would get softer and our sentences further apart, and you would fall asleep while I am still reading a book. I would turn out my bedside lamp, and then I would kiss your face and whisper, “Good night, sweet man.”
And the day would end, and I would wish for another. I would wish they could stack up in front of us with too many to count. If I could spend a day with you, I’d probably say the five things that seemed the most mundane, the words moms should say to dads and husbands should say to wives each day, the five sentences I can’t tell you anymore.
I am helping the boys to know who you are. They talk about you as if they knew you for more than just a few years before they started kindergarten. We drink root beer floats and tell our stories and sew together our memories into a quilt to cover us all.
I love you, Robb. Save me a seat next to you.