Before and After – How a Widow Divides her Life

You know that thing little kids do when they fixate on something, and start repeating it, day after day until what once made your ovaries twinge because it was so cute, now makes you want to stab your own eye out because they do it ALL THE TIME?  Yah, my 2 year old is in that right now.  She constantly asks ‘who bought that?’ and methodically works her way through each object she sees in the house.  I love her to bits but for the love of god, STOP ASKING ME THAT!!  Very strange, very cute and unexpectedly (like most widow things) very emotional and takes me down a Kevin spiral quite often.  In her infinite wisdom that all kids have, she has clearly showed me the stark dividing line that now exists in my life. Before he died.  After he died.  My life is clearly divided into the days, months and years before Kevin died, and the rest of my life that stretches before me.  Everything that comes ‘after Kevin died’.  

Piper will point at things in our house and ask ‘who bought the table?’ ‘who bought the floor?’ ‘who bought the lamp?’ ‘who bought the painting?’  And on and on and on.  To which I patiently answer “Daddy and I” or “Me”,depending on the item.  As this game started, I didn’t see the path it was taking me on.  I just started answering the inane questions of a 2 year old.  But then as she continued, day after day with this, she is inadvertently giving me fucking tour of my life before and after Kevin died.  Thanks kid.  As if looking in her sweet face and seeing my husband’s face wasn’t painful enough. She’s reminding me of my life with him, touring me through all the things we bought together! The dining room table we bought when we moved in 11 years ago.  The floor we picked out together when we renovated the kitchen last spring.  The lamp I bought in a grief fueled shopping trip in the Fall.  The art I bought with some of his life insurance money.  Before he died.  After he died.

I could not have expected that things around my house and this fucking really annoying game my 2 year old created would remind me of the path my life has taken.  Even simple things like food frozen in the deep freezer or toilet paper stored in the basement.  He bought the toilet paper as he did the Costco shopping.  He stocked the freezer because he was our cook.  But those things are consumable.  So they get used.  And then slowly, things he did or things he touched are disappearing in our house.  I want so desperately to keep those things around me, to hold onto the last things he touched.  But that would be fucking crazy.  We need to eat.  We need to use toilet paper.  As time goes on, the things I bought grow and the things we bought together are diminishing.  I’m thinking about selling the dining room table…it’s too big for the space now that I’ve renovated, and let’s be serious, it’s too big for a family of 3 that includes 2 small humans.  But once it’s replaced, that is just one more thing that gets added to the “after Kevin died” side of the balance sheet and one less thing on the “before Kevin died” side.

I think most widows end up viewing the world with this before/after lens.  And now that I’m here, on the ‘after Kevin died’ side of things, that worldview makes sense to me.  How could you not?  A widow’s life is irreversibly changed with the death of her partner, so sorting things in her topsy turvy world into before and after categories is another attempt to make sense of a world that doesn’t make sense anymore.

My 2 year old will eventually move onto to some other adorable yet annoying thing to repeat.  I think it’s already starting as everyday last week, she proudly told me what they ate for snack and lunch at daycare.  Thrilling.  Her ability to highlight the before/after tension that exists in my life will fade.  But the push and pull of before and after will always exist.  And as life moves forward, and as I continue to live my life, alone and as a widow, more and more things will move into the after column.  I’ve bought new toilet paper, I’ve cooked the food that now stocks the freezer, I make the big furniture decisions now.  More things are in the after column, but I will never forget the before column.  That dividing line in my life will always exist.  My after may be longer, but I will never forget my before.

amazing artwork by my dear friend Erin MacKeen, find her work here

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