I went for a drive yesterday. As a cook, you get to be lucky and have days off like Tuesdays and Wednesdays… while your friends are working. I haven’t really taken any time off for myself since Kateri passed. The time I have taken has been loaded with the heavy shit… 2 weeks after she passed, 3 days for Kateri’s Kick Ass Party (our version of her funeral), a long weekend for my parent’s 50th Anniversary, and a couple of days for Thanksgiving to spend with the fam in Boise. For whatever reasons, it’s just kinda hard for me to take time for myself, so I have decided to take it when I can in the form of a day here and a day there. Hence, I am currently laying in bed on a Thursday morning, the I Love NY coffee mug on the stool I call a nightstand (with a quarter inch of cold coffee in it), and I’m typing away… well, slowly… procrastinating the shoveling of snow I’m gonna need to do… again… while trying to capture some of the things I thought about yesterday on my drive from my schoolhouse in Vermont, through the middle of New Hampshire, to York Beach in Maine where I sat on a folding chair as it sank into the sand…. with Kateri by my side.
I like driving alone because it provides you with a comfortable space to think…. warm, protected, and you have control over the music. I live in New England, so it also provides you with beautiful scenery no matter where it is you go. For yesterday, I just needed to decide if I wanted to take a left or a right when I hit 25. I thought Kateri would have dug sitting by the ocean for a bit at the beginning of the new year… feeling the battle between the cold wind coming off the water and the warmth of the sun as they collide on her face while the rest of the body is covered by layers of winter clothing. So I took a right, took the scenic route, took my time, took the folding chair out of the back of the Jeep, and sat on the beach listening to the waves in the 32 degree ocean air.
Once I had the destination, everything else just kinda fell into place. The ocean… the coast… is just a special place. We… and now I… have made the two and a half hour trip to the Maine Coast many a times so there is sort of a routine, I guess. By the time I got to the Maine border I had to pee pretty bad so what better place to relieve that bladder pressure than the Kittery Trading Post?!… and maybe buy a new pair of boots!… or a hat!… or a flannel! So that was stop number one. I peed, but didn’t buy anything. For me, it was just kinda nice walking around looking at stuff, being amongst “the people”, but being in a place where the comfort of anonymity is nestled between all those people. It felt good to just “mosey” around. At one point, I did find myself walking up and down aisle after aisle of rifles and shotguns. It was an unfamiliar experience… the sound of other customers testing the pump action of that brand new 12 gauge or sales people asking little old ladies if they want holster for the right… or left. I wouldn’t say it was uncomfortable (I have no issues with guns themselves… they can be useful and at times fun), but it was a little weird the nonchalance of the environment…. “just running to the store for a pair of long underwear and glock!”. Once I had peed and decided that I wasn’t gonna get a new hat… or Colt 44… I decided I should get some food before I hit the beach.
I planned on grabbing some clam chowder from Lobster Cove, but they were closed until Friday. So I parked on the side of the road, grabbed the folding chair, and walked across the low tide beach, plopped down in said folding chair, and placed the little jar Kateri was in down on the sand next to me… and just sat for a spell. Although hoodie hoods and winter hats muffle the sound of the waves as they try to reach land, I could still hear the rhythm of the ocean and feel the salty air on my face as I sat there… once in a while looking around and wondering if there was anyone who could tell that I was crying beneath my sunglasses as my body sunk deeper into the chair. It’s not that I cared if anyone would see me crying… as a widower, you become comfortable with the fact that some emotions may bubble up at any moment… day or night… here or there… but it’s still nice NOT to be a babbling idiot in public or have a stranger stare at the frozen tears on your cheek or snot stuck in your mustache. Luckily, not that many people go to the beach on a Wednesday… in January… so for me, the experience was just what I was looking for. Well, except for the plan to smoke the joint that was in my pocket on the beach… Kateri would’ve loved that. I, however, am too much of a Nervous Nelly to be so brazen with those types of things when I’m out and about alone. Just another thing I miss about Kateri… she was the instigator… she liked to egg you on… she was the one telling you to “jump, jump, jump!”. If you listened to her, she would provide you with experiences that you wouldn’t of had if she wasn’t there… like smoking a joint on the beach.
Since Kateri wasn’t there to push me to do illegal activities on the beach, I got up out of the chair, picked up her little jar, and walked her to the water where I stood and stared at the absolute vastness before me. I’m sure there are all sorts of beautiful things you could say about the scenario to make it sound poetic… or you could attach metaphors to the water, the land, the vastness, the sun, or the wind, but it was really quite simpler than that. I was just a man, saddened by the loss of his wife, who was trying to find some way to feel closer to her. Although Kateri loved the ocean, although she would’ve loved sitting on the sand with me in Maine, although she would’ve loved to get some clam chowder, although she would’ve smoked that joint on the beach… she wasn’t there. So I left… got a lobster roll at Bob’s… and drove home… alone… with her by my side.
Widower Notes and Thoughts:
- It’s actually Widower Day 257 now… time is still a hard thing to manage. It’s hard to fit everything you want to into your day.
- If you’re a widower… eat something… and drink water. Sounds simple… it isn’t.
- My beard has gotten big enough to where I can hold it out of the way to shave my neck. Although I’m kinda digging the beard… it’s kinda grossing me out, too!
- Yes, I just cut the crust off of the bread for my chickens. No, I don’t know if chickens eat the crust or not… and no, I haven’t googled it. These are the things widowers think about… if the crust of bread is hard for chickens to eat! (I’m learning)
- My mom started immunotherapy the other day… January 3rd… two days before the anniversary of Kateri’s 1st immunotherapy treatment. Yup, that brings up all sorts of things… currently being, just how much I love my mom… and miss my wife.
- After 257 days… I’m still exhausted and going through life kinda numb, but there are moments of relief, fun, and laughter.
- Purpose-a widower doesn’t have a sense of purpose. For 17 years my purpose was to share my life with Kateri… whatever that entailed. When your wife has cancer, you have one purpose… to take care of her, support her, love her. When she dies, that goes away… instantly… and you have to once again find that purpose life has for you… because it has changed.
- Yes Kate… that pony on that boat caught up to me on my drive home. Music… whether it be Dre and Snoop, Tom Waits, Lyle Lovett, or playing Shawn Mendez on the guitar… I can’t tell you how important it has been for me throughout this experience. I also never thought I could get so emotional listening to modern pop songs… but I have.
- Well, now I’ve gotta go shovel the driveway because I still haven’t gotten a snow blower… and there is more snow coming tomorrow. Yup, a widower still has to put pants on, water the plants, go to work, get oil changes, feed the chickens, do the laundry, clean the house, chop the kindling and bring in wood, replace faucets, fix gutters, shop for food… prepare that food… and to eat that food (which sounds easier that it is)… all while living in a world that isn’t gonna slow down because you are sad. Soooo… I’m gonna do what is hard for a widower to do many a mornings, but we do it anyways… and get out of bed.