Today, I set off to honor my husband on his birthday in the same way I have for the past six years – something that he would have done and would have made him happy. I go out to breakfast. He took the day off from work every year (something I didn’t do), he would go out to breakfast and order steak and eggs, and then if he was lucky, play golf (Chicago in March sometimes allowed for this, but not often). If he couldn’t play, he’d spend the day doing whatever he wanted. It was his day. We, as a family, would go out to dinner wherever he wanted. It’s just what we did as tradition.
Today, I went to the “greasy spoon” that I had gone to – we had gone to – every year on this day. For the first time in 10 years, it was closed. The owner happened to be standing outside, so I jumped out of my truck to find out what had happened. Why, especially today, were they closed? It turned out there was a small fire in the kitchen, so they had to do a bunch of rewiring. He went on to tell me that since they had to close down for a time, they decided to do some additional remodeling. “Come on in and take a look,” he said as he opened the door for me. Appreciatively, I went in, and everything looked the same but better. Fresher. He pointed out the updates they made including the new paint, hanging light fixtures, carpet, and table tops. As he pointed things out, I shook my head yep, yep, yep. I could see everything only when highlighted, and I went onto note, “It looks great, but the changes are so subtle. The place looks and feels the same, but the new finishes make it….better”. I felt just as at home and comfortably welcomed here as I did the first time I entered. The changes were understated. I could see them but couldn’t feel them.
That is how the past five years have felt for me. Slight changes that have evolved life over time without really noticing.
I spent much of February thinking about why the fifth year anniversary, and now this birthday, felt so different than years’ past. For some reason, this year felt like a major milestone. It was different than the four prior. Bigger somehow. It was harder, but for reasons, I could not explain. Every emotion surrounding it was heightened. Could it be, like the restaurant, the changes over time have been so subtle, that until I looked at each of them individually, I didn’t realize how big they are? How much life has moved forward without my even noticing or feeling them?
I looked at what’s happened over time to try and figure things out. Has life moved on without me?
- I look at my dogs who were a young four and five years old when he died, and are now considered a “senior” at ages nine and ten. The reality is that I have less time with them here then I have had with them to date. This notion weighs on me, but I don’t dwell. I appreciate them every day.
- My children were in their mid-twenties when their dad passed away, and now they are both in their early thirties. They are growing into their worlds and lives with my involvement being less and less. It’s beautiful to see them “fly,” yet it is another sign that time ticking on the clock is the movement of life. The idea of becoming a Nana is right around the corner. OY!
- At age forty-four, I was a “young widow” and this year, and I will turn fifty which feels much older and not nearly as young as I was five years ago. Perhaps it’s because I also realize that similar to my dogs, my time left here in life is less than the years that have passed.
- So many more…home projects, landscape projects, new cars, selling the boat, technology changes…the list goes on.
Five years have gone by since my own “kitchen fire.” I am not the same person I was at age forty-four and married as I am at age fifty and widowed. Maybe it’s because of the wisdom and “badassery” I have gained in this short amount of time. The small changes over time that I hadn’t even noticed until I took a good look. I’m looking now.
Back to the closed restaurant where the owner’s phone rang, and it was a call he had to take. I let myself out, waving goodbye and mouthing, “thank you.” My dilemma of the day now sat before me. “What am I going to do for breakfast now?” The tradition was now about to change, and that was more troublesome than breakfast itself. Changing tradition is just that – change, which is not always wanted, but often leads to good things. Like life, sometimes the unexpected happens, and we have to do something that we didn’t plan. We ask ourselves, “now what?” What is my plan B? Perhaps breakfast tradition changes is a metaphor for my life today. Now what? Time for a change. Breakfast was easy. I just went elsewhere. Life is a bit more challenging.
As I look back at these past five years, a lot has changed, mostly in myself as a person. I have not recognized that until recently. The person I have grown into. The things I have done that I never in a million years could have imagined doing. Things that my husband would be proud of, but also, never in a million years would he have believed me doing. But here I am living as this new person in this not-so-new-normal any more. It’s taken me five years to settle into this life, and while I didn’t like the “new normal,” nor is this the life I would have asked for, I tend to embrace it more and more every day. I kind of like this “new me,” this changed life, and I think he’d like it too. He might not recognize me, but I think he’d like how much stronger I am now. More resilient. More grounded. More caring and compassionate. He’d like the fact that I now take meticulous care of the lawn, and he’d be very jealous of my professional grade leaf blower J
Ed would have been 54 today. A far distance from the 48 that he was when he passed away. I am now a year older than he was when he passed away. It is a strange phenomenon to realize that I have now outlived him. You know that there is too much left to do and too much life to live when someone is taken so young, which is why I still celebrate him on this day. It’s why I work so hard to continue living a life that I in which I am happy. Tonight, I will sip a little scotch in his honor and toast him. Toast the past five years, and the next five to come.
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