There is nothing quite like seeing something in writing, is there? I remember the first time I saw our names in writing. I was checking into the honeymoon suite, and there it was in print; Mr. and Mrs.! I had heard it spoken and had seen it happen, having attended my own wedding. But there was something about seeing it in print that made it seem so real. I felt giddy. I’m not sure I ever tired of seeing our names paired in print.
There were so many aspects of my husband’s death that were shocking and traumatizing. During the earliest days, weeks and months, the affronts felt like a grueling game of dodgeball. I would bob and weave and right myself only to be lobbed at again. I barely had time to catch my breath sometimes before the next hit came. Nothing can sustain that momentum, and eventually things settled down. I can breathe now. There is not much that can be said that can send me reeling. But there are times that seeing something in print can make me lightheaded.
Not surprisingly, I refused to look at the forms I signed to allow for my husband’s body to be cremated. My sister covered all the pages as I signed away his body. I was so horrified by the chore and the knowledge that I had that kind of power, that I immediately went to bed after the undertaker left. I can’t imagine how I would’ve responded had I actually seen the forms! I went on to voluntarily erase him again and again. The mortgage, the utilities, the bank accounts, the deed (or whatever the hell the document is when it’s a co-op); erase, erase, erase. Many of the people on the other side of the desks were terribly kind to me. They made an unpleasant task a little easier. There were actual bankers (BANKERS!) who waived fees saying softly; “You’ve been through enough.” (What can I say, I’m a sucker for human kindness.) When it was all over, all that whiting out of my husband, I felt terribly sad. As jarring as it was to get bills in both of our names, it was so upsetting to see my name all by itself.
I wasn’t prepared (through every fault of my own) to see my name all by its lonesome the first time as a widow I went to vote. I went to sign in and there it was, all by itself. I had never seen my married name all by itself at the polling station. I still don’t know why it took my breath away. Could it be that the last time we voted together was to vote for someone who thrilled us? Could it be all the memories of finding our new polling places together (we moved a LOT!)? Perhaps it was that erasing him wasn’t my doing, but the government. Lemme tell you something, those people waste no time! His social security benefits ceased the second he died. For real. And while we’re on the subject…the first time I filed taxes in just my (married) name was unsettling. I suppose it was that it was all so legal, so formal. The world was formalizing the fact that I WAS ALL ALONE.
I’m not in denial, truly I’m not. I stopped waiting for him to come home years ago. I took off my wedding rings after just a few months. I’ve even given serious thought to changing my last name, and have no doubt that seeing that new name in print will send me to bed for awhile. There is something about seeing it in writing…
I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I still haven’t looked at his death certificate. I’ve had it in my hands many times but have averted my eyes or turned it upside down. There isn’t much call for it these days, but there was a time I was being asked for it often.
As much as I bristle at still getting so much mail addressed to him, (seriously it’s every day), I know I will miss it someday. Yes, it’s a slap in the face when I’m having a particularly bad day or moment. (And yet my dark humor enjoys an envelope addressed to him with the word “URGENT” stamped upon it.) But when the mail stops, it’ll feel as if the world has forgotten. My husband has no headstone or memorial plaque. He didn’t want one. There is nothing permanent in writing. Nothing that is visible and public that declares; this man was here. As the years pass there is less and less written proof of him. Each time he is erased I feel as if he’s leaving me all over again.