One day some time ago while I was visiting my mom (my secret keeper) I shared with her that “all Joe wanted to do anymore was watch TV,” and how hard it was for me because there were so many other things I’d rather be doing. Like reading. Like writing. Like making pictures. Like, go camping. I don’t know if I was complaining or just stating this fact to her because we were having deep conversations around what was going on in Joe’s world, my world. But I do I remember what she said to me in response, she said “if Joe wants to spend time on the couch with you watching TV then spend time on the couch with him watching TV. You can never get that time back.” (one of Joe’s favorite sayings, “you can always make more money, but you can’t make more time.) This was coming from her place of knowing, of course. She’d already been a widow for long enough to know that she would give anything for my dad to be here to sit and watch TV with her.
Joe was never a “needy” person. He was extremely self-sufficient and could figure things out on his own most of the time. And if not, he had YouTube- his goto for all things mechanical, technical, or pretty much anything he had a question about. He dreamed of moving to the cape permanently and becoming a handyman just so he could fish every day that he possibly could. It would’ve been a perfect fit for him. But he did get to the point, over the last couple of years, where he hated for us to be apart. He wanted me sitting on the couch with him even I was going to be on my laptop editing pictures, and not paying attention to what was playing on the screen in front of us. He didn’t care. He just wanted me close. And I loved him more for it.
So I acquiesced and did as my mom suggested. I spent as much time with Joe as I could, and watching TV was where a lot of that time went. We only camped once last year, and before that, another year had passed. I gave up a lot of things that I wanted to do- but you know what? It was all worth it. We had fun watching our shows together. They’ll be some of my best memories and fondest times remembered, even though they were the toughest years that we had. We would make fun of shows and dissect them to get every bit of meaning that we could out of them. What was the message? Or the agenda? And we loved talking about what we were watching with Lane when he would make his weekly phone calls. He would go in deep with us. We didn’t always come to the same conclusions and that made the conversation even richer. I have many shows to go back and watch if I want to, and I know Joe will be fully present when I do. I’m so glad I took my mom’s wise advice to heart.
The TV hasn’t been on for maybe two months at this point. And look at me now; I have all the time I need to read, now. To write, now. To make pictures, now. To do whatever “I” want, now. It wasn’t my time before, that was Joe’s time. I can see that now. I’m so glad he wanted to share every waking moment with me. How amazing is that, that we got to work and play, together? Those hours spent in front of the stupid TV- GRATEFUL. Just so grateful. And look at the words that are flowing from me, NOW. They won’t stop, now. This is my time, now.
The morning after he told me ‘what’ was haunting his mind and causing him to be depressed, well, now that secret was haunting me, too. I was shattered. I had a chiropractor appointment early the following morning- I remember it all so well. We were in busy season and my back was in terrible shape- but before I left town, my first stop was my mom’s. I was so broken and so overwhelmed with the story that he’d shared that I had to talk to someone. My world had just flipped upside down. Nothing made sense to me. And I knew that my mom would take the information I was giving her, to her grave. Of course, she doesn’t have to now; Joe took it to his, instead.
I felt so guilty afterward. I had just betrayed Joe. I wanted to take it all back. I made him a promise and I broke it in less than twenty-four hours. I was so ashamed of myself and terrified that he’d ask me about it. And if he did, would I tell him the truth? If I told him the truth would he ever trust me again? But I never had to worry about it because that’s the kind of man Joe was. He wouldn’t have put me in the position to have to make that decision. I know (intuitively) that he knew, she knew. I also know how much Joe loved and trusted my mom. And even though he never told her his story, he was okay knowing that I had. Another gift.
It was hard going to her house for coffee the other morning. The last time Joe was there he walked in and told my mom, “Kathy, I need a hug.” (another clue.) It was one of the first things my mom said after he died. “He wanted a hug the last time I saw him. He asked me for a hug as soon as he walked into the house.” But I already remembered that. All kinds of memories came up for me there. Going to my mom’s 2/3 times a week is part of my routine. I haven’t been doing anything “normal” since he left. And I miss that so much, those visits. I’m going to get back to it. Soon. Very soon. I have so many great memories shared there. Some of the best! It’s where all of our holidays, for years, have been spent. It’s where our family gathered as we helped my dad to leave this world and surround my mom with our love. Joe was a big part of that process. And he was my rock.
Now my mom’s here to support me through losing my husband (because she knows how that feels) instead of the other way around. It’s all upside down. But I am reminded of one of my favorite Rumi quotes:
“Do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know the side you are used to is better than the one to come?”Rumi
Today is my mom’s birthday. She told me yesterday that she didn’t want anyone to mention or acknowledge it. But I could never do that. So happy birthday mom! I love you so very much. Thank you for all of your wise words, your broad shoulders, for loving Joe, and for being my secret keeper. You’re the BEST!