My daughter and I traveled yesterday from the Raleigh, NC area to the coast. It was only a couple of hours ride in distance but for the first time since Handsome Husband’s death, I drove the back roads and two-lane highways.
Since I went solo on traveling I’ve stayed on the major highways; eyes forward to what is directly in front of me, no interest in the beautiful countryside and small towns of this America or what lies too distantly ahead; a vastly different style of travel than I was accustomed to. Handsome Husband and I always drove the back roads, stopping to investigate at will. But who cares what my eyes see when he isn’t there to offer comment with me? Who cares to figure out alternate routes when he was the explorer, the map planner? Too much for my lack-of-focus brain to navigate…
It is still meaningless to me, what lies to either side of me outside the car windows and as I ventured forth, I knew the possibility of pain sharpening inside of me should a road-side landmark pass by. But those land-marks are everywhere anyways, and I’m full-time on the road and it has already happened numerous times and the pain is unavoidable in any case, so I turned my car to the two-lane.
My body and my muscle memory recognize places and things before my mind can even engage and so it was as PinkMagic wended her way along the perimeter fence of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and my mind picked up what my body already knew and oh, yes, here was one of those roads traveled and the axe blade that is the constant hum of pain in my heart (that is merely a recognized companion now) was withdrawn by the invisible hand of grief and hacked down afresh. My insides can be most fairly described as a grisly horror movie scene in any case, and moments like this serve to freshen the kill aspect. Which is weirdly okay in some ways, in that it is known to me by now and I kind of just close my eyes and absorb it into me once again.
It is, and isn’t, as severe as it sounds as you read this. I’m not a glutton for punishment; I’ve chosen to live a life on the road without him and this is the territory of grief for me. Handsome Husband is out here everywhere and he is not out here at all. Grief and pain and the agony of without-ness are with me always and recognizable to me because they simmer under my skin constantly and we are uneasy, intimate companions in a way that makes it possible to co-exist.
Old roads. Memories that thrust into my consciousness and bring no comfort because now it is the same roads without him so it is a new road for me. New territory, in a new world. Unfamiliar. Certainly unwelcome. But it is what is my here and now and must be faced.