Fifteen years. That’s a lot of years.
This would have been a milestone anniversary for us, I like to think. Our pattern was to celebrate bigger on the fives.
This feels like a bigger anniversary because it also means that I’ve now ‘celebrated’ half as many anniversaries without him as I ever had with him. How can it be that I’ve been without him for nearly half the time I had him at all?
I sat out on the deck reading Where The Heart Is, a book that was one of Oprah’s Book Club selections probably twenty years ago. (How can I be old enough to re-read something Oprah recommended twenty years ago?) I had just finished the scenes about Novalee and Americus in the days after Sister Husband dies, when they are all lost without her. Nobody knows what to do for Novalee, except for the older women in the town who know they can only let her be, that even love won’t make anything better for a long time.
Americus brings her little doctor kit to her momma. She uses her little plastic stethoscope and a wooden tongue depressor, and she says, “Mommy’s heart was breaked.” She gives her two m&m’s for her broken heart, and then she puts one into her own mouth. She says, “I have a breaked heart, too.”
And then it says, “For the next week Novalee dragged through the days and nights, the consequence, she reasoned, of a breaked heart.” And something about that sentence undid me.
I broke into these wracking sobs that surprised me, foreign because I made no sounds at all. I crumpled over my open book, one hand near my face like I was catching a sneeze, and one hand reaching for the chair next to me, as if he were sitting just outside my reach. I don’t know how long I sat there, frozen like that, soundlessly weeping.
That’s when the presence came, the one I’ve come to know. The air gets thick in those moments of wholly other, when the spirit of something is near me. Perhaps the spirit of Robb, or a spirit of remembering, or the Holy Spirit himself. I don’t know who was with me, but I was not alone.
I whispered, “Please, please don’t go. Please don’t leave me yet,” for I don’t know how long.
When I opened my eyes, my book still lay open on my lap, the pages streaked gray with ink and mascara. The air was damp and cool, as if it had rained, as if it were cooled by a thunderstorm passing through. That old friend from far away is so familiar to me.
I bought myself a bouquet of daisies today. Because.