My daughter and I are in Ashland, Oregon. Last night we went to the Whiskey Room in nearby Medford to listen to our friend Dani sing. She has a voice of gold.
The last time I heard her sing was with Handsome Husband and we were at a dance club with a group of our daughter’s friends. He and I closed the place down, spinning to almost every tune. That night was exhilarating and romantic for us-we were in our element. Last night, in this different club, Dani dedicated a song to him. As the band played I could picture he and I swirling around the room, his strong hand covering mine.
Rachael and I have been on the road for just over a week now, making our way up the California coast. Our first year of travel, Handsome Husband and I traveled these very roads, thrilled with the discovery of northern California and the Pacific Northwest. His show of excitement was always much more subdued than mine. Primarily what he loved was seeing me so thrilled and knowing that he’d been the creator of that. Now we’re traveling those roads with me a widow, our daughter grieving the absence of her dad.
Layer upon layer will be stripped away as we travel this Odyssey of Love. There are depths to this for both she and I that we will only know afterwards, after these 6 months are behind us.
I’m deeply grieving in a way that other widows will recognize, as I stand on the beaches where he and I stood, raise my eyes up to the magnificence of the Redwoods, as he and I did. Now I’m maneuvering my pink car around the switchbacks of Route 1 but on the dash I have a picture of him as he drove and my eyes are continually drawn to that.
Our daughter stands in the places where her dad stood and hears my stories and imagines it through his eyes now, connecting with him in a new way. He loved the life we lived on the road. He lived his dream in our years of adventure. If he could see us doing this now he’d be both impressed and not surprised. He knew the women in his life. He knew our strength.
She’s making memories to carry with her after I die. Yes, we’ve had those intense conversations already. Not because we’re morbid but because they are conversations that must happen between parent and child. I will not ever leave my kids wondering about disposition of my belongings, about my end-of-life intentions, about financial matters, simply because I don’t want to have that conversation. She and I have spoken in-depth and the conversation will continue as we spend this time together. I hope she will be able to look back on this Odyssey and remember not only what she experienced, but will take away an example of healthy grieving. I can already see her growing into. (No, that isn’t an incomplete sentence-that is a descriptor). I am also growing into. I don’t know into what and it doesn’t matter. The woman I was with my husband disappeared one year and two months and a few days ago. That life with him burned to ashes, the same as his body in the crematorium.
There is nothing easy about this road we’re on, but that’s okay and there is no melodrama involved. It simply is what it is. I needed to do this for my grief. I need to drive headlong into it-that’s who I am. Nothing beautiful was ever born from easy.
And there is so much beauty out here. Seriously.
Every minute of every day.