Yesterday, I grabbed my camera, loaded Grinch into the truck, and drove to the state forest. The same state forest where Joe and I spent so much of our time over the years, camping. I’d been feeling the pull to do this for days, and decided that NOW was the time; the weather has been amazing with the cooler temperatures, so I seized the moment. I also knew this was one task I wanted to do alone. Being surrounded by friends and family over these last (almost six weeks) has been a godsend, but sometimes there are things I want to do, need to do, alone. And this was one of them.
There are so many memories in that place. So. Many. Memories. I won’t bore you with all of my pictures and videos, but believe me, they are some of the best! (right, Christie?!) It was hard. It was so. Damn. Hard. As I said in one of my earlier posts, the last time we were there was July 2019. That seems like a lifetime ago now. I didn’t have a plan except to go to one of our favorite two spots. One was taken, so that made it easy.
I got out of the truck and took it all in. I was crying before I arrived, but when I sat at the picnic table, where we’ve played so many hands of rummy 500 and shared many meals- it hit me hard. I still have scorecards in notebooks that I will hang onto forever now because they remind me of some of the best times we shared. And it all matters, now. Playing cards, listening to music, and having a beer. And I loved to remind Joe every time he wanted to play, “are you sure? you know I’m gonna win.” And I almost always did. He was a good loser. I loved his determination, though. He always thought he would win by playing it safe (the irony), but I showed him time and time again, that the only way to win is to take chances. I’d pick up as many cards as necessary for “the” play. 🙂
The weight of the grief overtook me. I could not stop my tears. I just sat there and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. I let it run through me the way “it” needed, too, until. I don’t know how long that was, and it didn’t matter. It felt good to go there alone and just cry my eyes out.
I was thinking about Kenny and Christie and Travis’ birthday, and Joe’s 50th birthday, him floating around in his fishing innertube with his broken foot and Christie almost peeing her pants laughing. The grandkids, and the last family campout we shared there after dad died. Swimming in “forbidden” water. Should we had gotten caught, well, we heard it would’ve been quite a hefty fine, but we’d rather ask for forgiveness than permission (taking chances.) I let every memory come up, and I was so, so grateful for all of them.
We walked down the hill to where we always parked the boat and sat by the water. More tears. It may seem at this point as though I was tormenting myself, but I wasn’t. I had to go. I had to do this. I want to go to all of the places that we’ve been to. I don’t know why. Maybe to bring him back, perhaps to say a final farewell? Who knows. I just need to be in the places where we’ve been- and go to the places where we went, where all of the memories are still very much alive.
Christie sent me a text while I was sitting there. No surprise as I’d been thinking about her, and I’m getting good at drawing the people to me that I need when I need them. I needed her words at that very moment. Even though I was alone, I was not alone. I’m never “alone.” God is right here. I can feel Him.
I sat there, and I absolutely surrendered. I let God hold me, and I let go of any thought that I can do this by myself. I can’t control anything except my thoughts. What’s going on in the world right now is not in my hands. I have to believe that we are all doing the very best that we can and that everything will work out for the better. My focus is on being present in the moment and not on what someone tells me I should focus on. God’s got this. And whether anyone else believes that does not matter to me. I believe it. I have absolute faith.
I sat there until I was cried-out and then I had a good talk with myself. “Alright, Marie…you CAN DO HARD THINGS. You MUST do hard things. God has been preparing you for this your WHOLE life! Now, get off your ass, grab your camera, and take Grinch for a walk.” And that’s what I did. Grinch and I walked, and I snapped a few pictures, and I made it through. The view is a lot different now without Joe in the frame, and I’m going to have to work on Grinch; he doesn’t have a good camera etiquette yet.
When I got home, my brother and his family came over and spent the evening with me on the deck. Amanda arrived shortly after they did, with Charlie and Emerson. We, adults, shared a couple of toasts to Joe and listened to some fantastic music. I’m trying on some new artists, ones that remind me of Joe but that I’ve never experienced with him. That makes sense, right? Like the new furniture arrangement on the deck. Shifting energy. We also had some hard conversations because that’s what we do on the deck. If it needs to be said, it is said—love, compassion, and kindness. When you remember those three things, hard conversations are much easier.
So that’s done. I’d never been there alone before, but I have now. Amanda and I will head that way in the next week or so and try out our camping skills- me without Joe for the first time. She knows how to do these things alone, she’s a solo-world traveler, but it will be all-new for me. Maybe others will join us too, who knows. That would be great! We will remember all of the good times and look back with laughter and tears as we build new memories and experiences without Joe there with us. I miss him so.
And I can do hard things.