As we drove, he would always put his hand on my knee, clasping my hand in his. Or I’d put my hand on the back of his neck, or my arm under his.
He opened car doors, and all doors, for me. We only figured this out in our 2nd year of travel. (yes, it took that long). He asked me once why I didn’t let him open doors and I had no real answer for him, other than to say that I didn’t think about it. I just did it automatically on my own. So he said he’d like me to think about it and let him do it for me. I did. And loved it. He opened doors for me right up until he walked up those stairs at our condo in California for the first time, 2 months before he died. And I know it killed him that he couldn’t perform this gallantry for me any longer.
No matter where I was in a room, or if I just entered a room, he’d look across at me and smile. Or wink. He had the sexiest wink.
When we had a house and it was about time for him to get home, my body could sense when his car approached the turn into our street, and my skin would buzz with electricity. That feeling never left me, no matter where we were. Or I’d feel his gaze on me. And get that same feeling.
We’d be watching TV, or each of us reading, or otherwise occupied, and a tune would come on from something on a CD, and he’d stand up, come over to me and hold out his hand for mine and he’d pull me up into him, take my left hand in his right, put his left arm behind me and we’d dance. In the few years it took me to get completely comfortable in letting him lead, I’d try to lead and he’d stop us in our tracks and humorously remind me who was leading. And then start again. We weren’t fancy in our dancing, but he did know how to swirl and move his feet and make it look like something fancy. And he knew how to gracefully dip me at the end of a dance. I loved that. He was a good lead in life in general, not just on the dance floor. And I trusted him enough to follow.
When we went to sleep, he’d curl into me from behind, giving me a feeling of being loved and secure. When I went into the heat surges of menopause and I’d overheat and he’d start sweating and we couldn’t curl into one another for more than a few minutes, we’d still clasp hands as we drifted to sleep. And maybe touch our feet together.
He loved being touched. My fingertips sweeping along his arm especially. Which actually physically irritated my fingertips, weirdly enough. So I never did it for as long as he would have wished. Now I wish I had.
I loved painting our house when we had one, and every 6 months or so, I’d paint each of the rooms a different color. Ultimately most of our house was painted in some shade of pink, which never bothered him. I used to tell him that it emphasized his masculinity, standing with such a background. His wry smile clearly accepted my declaration while not believing me for a minute. But he never complained.
I also loved moving furniture around, constantly searching for a new look. I told him I did that because I’d been raised an Army brat, always moving around. I loved that he was in the Air Force when we got married, and hoped that we’d move frequently. That definitely didn’t happen-he stayed put at McGuire AFB in Jersey. So I moved furniture. He would joke that it was good he wasn’t a blind man, or drunk, because when he came home he’d end up killing himself crashing into newly moved furniture in the dark.
He told me frequently that he loved me but was fully aware that love is an action word, so he showed me always. Fall and winter evenings would see him brewing up a cup of Chai or hot chocolate for me. I can only say it was flavored with love because it was always perfect. I don’t know what he added to make it so good but since his death I’ve been unable to drink either. He supported me in whatever made me happy, and was always proud of me.
Just as often I would, of course, tell him I loved him in return. But I also would tell him in response “I feel loved” acknowledging and affirming for him that all he did was recognized by me. Such a response gave it an entirely different energy from automatically telling him I loved him too.
I’m still very much in love with him but here’s a harsh reality (I read this in a book recently) that is a truth I need to accept and it’s what the struggle of grief is all about for me. The was and the now.
I’m in love with a dead man.