Five years ago, I was Will Duplantis’s wife, Turtle Robb. I was planning to change my name to Alice, but he never cared for that. To him, I was always Turtle, and the change to Alice happened quickly after he died. I didn’t feel like the same person without him, and to “get used of it”, as he used to say, this new name was a perfect tool.
Looking at the Alice life I have today, five years seems like it must have been a long time ago. I’m part of a successful business that was barely hatching then, just as the economy was crashing. I’m living in a new house, on acres of beautiful land, quite free of the run-down trailer in the moldy park where Will and I were so happy. I’ve “finished” writing the bulk of a novel which sat in a box all ten years of our marriage. I’m re-writing and preparing soon to publish the novel I’d written just before our coming together. I feel “past” the worst pains of grief, “recovered.” My best friends lately are other widows, with whom I can share sweet memories, to whom I can give comfort. “This too shall pass,” we say.
Memorial Day, five years ago, Will wanted to go to the Peace Arch Park to participate in the veteran’s annual event drawing awareness to soldiers killed in these new, Iraq & Afghanistan, wars. We knew it would be the last time; he was on hospice by then. He was weak. We walked around; he said hello to his friends. He was such a social creature and enjoyed people, except for his occasional “enemy.” (I count three.) Otherwise, the worst thing he ever said about anyone, even people who snubbed him for his poor grammar or weird wardrobes, was that they were “not very friendly.” Being a Quaker was so perfect for his friendly soul.
Five. It’s just a number, and my oh-so-practical mind says it doesn’t matter. Every year, I tell myself that “anniversary grief” is just a psychological theory, an excuse for dramatic types to get some attention. Then, between Memorial Day and June 5, I melt down, am a wreck, and need to huddle with myself just to cope.
Yesterday, I could barely face a work meeting with people I really like. For years, Will was my social director; on my own, I’m a hermit. This week, I’ve had nightmares. Last night, I woke from an exhausting dream with spooky after-images of winter trees and cemetery style fences. I want to be open to all this, to my feelings, to the spirits, but I also want to live in peace.
I want to light a big fire down in the field to commemorate him, to invite friends to celebrate my new life. But my social director isn’t here to invite you. It might rain. I feel unfriendly. If you’re in my tribe, RSVP. I’ll let you know Wednesday morning, June 5, if the fire is on.