Jesus… where to start. Although our wedding was the happiest day of my life… it’s not the story I’m jotting down here. This is about losing Kateri and having to face the overwhelming onslaught of “Firsts” that a widower goes through because the clock just won’t stop ticking. The first month… alone… the first five. The first summer. The first fall which will lead into the first Stick Season. The first load of laundry without her sleeping socks mixed in. The first home cooked meal with mushrooms. The first trip to the store when you realize you are shopping for one… and you can get whatever you want. The first trip away with no one to call home to and say “Goodnight”. I guess from day one… everything is a first in some way or another.
This widower thing is fucked up. Your brain is thrown into chaos at a time when all the responsibilities of life are put on your shoulders. But because of that whole time thing, you are forced to take that first breath… in that new world that life decided to slap you with. There’s gonna be all sorts of firsts in my future. Some I’m excited for. Some may make an impact… some may not. Most are tiny little things that pop into your head in the middle of it. And I’m sure there will be some that I probably won’t pay much mind to. I don’t try to anticipate how I’m gonna react to dates n stuff, still rollin’ with it. Quite honestly, up until my drive home from work I was doing pretty decent with this whole first… our Anniversary. I knew I wanted to write something about this experience, but also knew it wasn’t gonna be an easy thing so I should probably start today on Anniversary Eve. The thought crossed my mind that going through pictures had the potential of taking a bit of time and energy so I might as well get the memories started. I have to say… I was correct in my assessment… going through pictures was rough. Beautiful… but rough.
Our wedding was awesome. We had it on a Wednesday at 4ish because we thought it would be easier for all of our friends in the food world to make it. It was held at a wonderful camp in central Vermont… before all the camps realized they could rent out their places after the kids go away to brides and grooms from far away places who want that “rustic” or “Vermonty” wedding experience… for an exorbitant amount of money. For us, it was a place we could afford that was in the next town over and it turned out to be the perfect choice for us to celebrate our love for each other… and our commitment to each other with around a hundred and twenty-five of the most caring, fun, loving, artistic, and just plain fantastic people around. Actually, as I was on my front porch this evening, it was me thinking about those people… one in particular… that put into a certain perspective where I was in life and what this date means for me.
Yes, this is the anniversary of when Kateri and I got married, but Kateri isn’t here and I can’t tell you how hard that is to accept. I find solace and strength in the fact that the man who was there standing, speaking, and guiding us through the ceremony of our marriage was in our home days after we first found out about Kateri’s cancer, when she was in palliative care, and is here for me now as I struggle with a loss that has been absolutely crushing. I know I can call any one of the men who stood up for us at any time of the day… for just about anything… and they would do everything they could to help me out (side note-we only had “Men of Honor” in our wedding party). Thinking about those men is what made a slight shift in my brain as I thought about what our wedding anniversary meant to Kateri and I… and what our anniversary means to me now that I am in a this strange widowed state. I’ve been struggling with that whole breaking life up into segments (before Kateri, Kateri, after Kateri) and am just starting to get used to the fact that different periods of life like to mingle for a bit before moving on or slipping off into the past. As traumatic as this experience is, I don’t think anything will be slipping off into the past anytime soon. Kateri will always be a part of my life… I’m just hanging on for some more hours in the day to not feel so crappy.
Our wedding was beautiful. With the help of our friends… we did everything. We made the invitations (which I still carry one in my bag). We painted wooden signs… one of which is still in a garden out back. We made luminaries with Trilla, night after night, in our little cabin on the hill while episodes of Glee continually played on the television. Kateri and I cut little pieces of fabric and covered jar after jar of pickles that we made in a friend’s kitchen… at their restaurant… where we worked… for people to take home with them. We used twine and tied cute little bows while in the parking lot of the laundromat… before we had a home with laundry… which is glorious. We smoked a pig… another glorious thing. Along with smoking the pig, we were able to have some entertainment when the grease lining the lid and walls of the smoker decided to join the party and provide us with a bonfire. Of course, then you realize you still need to put the pig on so you have someone… hopefully without a ton of body hair… slam the lid shut. Luckliy, our volunteer had all of the hair on their face, head, and body afterwards. We scrounged and found windows to attach to wooden stakes so that we could make our “church”, meeting a wonderful cast of characters and seeing some cool places during the search. Our friends picked flowers from the farm up the road… the one with the beautiful big white barn. Kateri and friends brewed our “Wedding Beer”… I bought a shit load of A&W. We were able to buy wine from a friend… and neighbor. We made steamed buns… mmmmm, steamed buns. There were cabins and porches for friends and family to stay and hang in… and for us to write our vows on… three hours before the ceremony (yes, both of us). There was a pond for people to naked swim in under the faint light of the stars. There were people. Nothing but wonderful people. We wanted to have nothing but friends and families that we loved and cared about at our wedding. Even the people helping serve the food, pour drinks, play music, and wash dishes… everyone was someone we wanted there, someone in our life. We wanted to know that whoever we came into contact with on the day of our wedding… they would put a smile on our face… and they did. Kateri always said our wedding was the type of wedding that she would enjoy going to… I agree.
Now, I have to say that a hundred and fifty days seems a little soon to have your first wedding anniversary as a widow. It’s just far enough away from the day I lost Kateri to sorta destroy me, but too soon to really spend much time reminiscing about it. Even though it seems like such a significant date, it’s really the hundred and fifty-five days before it that beat you up and wear you down. This is the first time September 28 is passing me by as a widow… it’s the second time around that I think will be rather interesting. I mean, yes I’m sad and it’s rough and it reminds me of what I lost… but that’s everything right now. I have pictures from our wedding hanging on walls and on dressers. I also have art, knick knacks, furniture, beds, yard games, wooden boxes, rocking chairs, random pieces of metal and old rusty gears, jackets, boots, old t-shirts, old birthday presents, plants, and little notes from the other twenty years of adventures with Kateri. All of that is a little harder to deal with at this point than remembering just one of the wonderful days I got to spend with her… even if it was the best one.
I work with an amazing group of people in the kitchen who have supported me through this and have dealt with me and my moods for the past… well, ten months since this whole experience started. The last few weeks have been a lot for me and I decided to take advantage of the fact that my upstairs bathroom is comfortable enough for me to take a bath in… so I’ve taken 4 in the last 6 days. On my way out of work (because I still have to go to work) a friend asked if I was gonna take a bath tonight. At the time I had no idea, but the chickens are in, there’s a pizza on the counter (I know, perfect way to remember romance), and it’s getting dark. So I think I’ll put on some Heart of Saturday Night… even though it’s Friday… and make it 5 out of 7.