Still

Twenty-six years ago Kim and I put rings on each others’ fingers and made promises to each other that we intended to keep for our entire married life.

I don’t remember if they included a “til death do us part” clause, but if they did I’m sure we would have interpreted that as a promise to be with each other and only each other for the rest of our lives.

There’s nothing in those vows about “and then what”.

Rings.

That outward sign of marriage.

A couple of years after Kim died, I found myself looking at ring fingers of women I would encounter. But there were married women who didn’t wear rings and non-married women who did. It was beyond me.

I had hoped that a ring would be an easy outward sign of whether a woman was married or not.

It wasn’t.

Then again, after our first year of marriage Kim and I didn’t wear rings.

We always said it was because we had gained so much weight by then that the rings no longer comfortably fit. So we decided not to wear them.

Could have been.

We talked about resizing them but we thought it would be a matter of time before we lost the weight again.

We never lost the weight.

We never resized the rings.

But we had developed other outward signs. I carried Kim with me wherever I went.

I always told stories about her.

What about now? Now that death has parted us? What are the rules for “and then what?”

About ten months ago Maggie encouraged me to try online dating.

I didn’t like dating in my twenties and I’m not liking it much now. But I did it as part of trying to figure out “and then what”.

It’s been ok but I think I’ll wrap it up when I get to a year.

I don’t know what I expected.

When Kim died, she and I had trips booked to conferences in Spain, Italy, and the Swiss Alps.

I’ve been invited back to Spain and Italy – there was a problem with the Swiss Alps where my flight was cancelled and they never invited me back.

When I go to these places, I carry Kim with me.

Recently, I was in Barcelona.

I went to two of Gaudi’s famous buildings, the Picasso museum, several Tapas restaurants, the Cathedral, and then I booked a visit to La Sagrada Familia.

I almost didn’t go.

I’d seen Gaudi’s La Pedrera with its stunning roof and nature themes and the nearby Casa Battlo with its sea themes.

I asked my brother and he said “you have to go. It blew me away.”   So I booked a ticket to La Sagrada Familia.

From the outside it was impressive. Each face represented a different part in Christ’s life. The entrance is on the side of the nativity and the exit is on the side of the passion.

In between was stunning.

The inside of the church was so high and open with stain glass that transformed the towering columns into trees in a grove in a forest at dawn on the side of the nativity and at sunset on the side of the passion.

I walked around and around and took picture after picture that won’t do it justice.

Then I walked between the towering columns towards the alter and sat quietly and felt the peace.

After a while, Kim joined me.

I don’t mean she was there. I don’t mean anything ghostly or other worldly.

I just mean that the site was so moving that I sat and thought “Kim would have loved this.”

I sat with her memory and so she was there.

Had she really been there I would have apologized for being inappropriate two nights before.

She may have said it was ok. She may have said, “you really shouldn’t have.”

Whatever she would have said, I shouldn’t have said what I said.

I’d been at dinner with the speakers from the conference I was in town for.

The young man across from me had asked me a question and I said something like “my wife used to love to do that.”

“Your wife?” he asked.

“Kim,” I said.

“But you don’t wear a ring,” he said.

“I haven’t for years,” I answered.

He lectured me that it was wrong for married men not to wear rings.

He pointed to his own and explained that he would never go out without his. It was deceitful, it would mean that he was ready to cheat on his wife.

I could have interrupted him to let him know that in all of my years of not wearing a ring  neither Kim nor I had ever been anywhere near cheating on each other. I could have told him that this was an issue that is so black and white with me that it bothers me when characters in movies or television shows cheat.

But I didn’t.

But he wasn’t done. He had a bit more to say about the character of someone who leaves his wedding ring at home.

And then he looked at me and said, “and what about your wife? Does she mind that you are here without your ring?”

And that’s when I said what I shouldn’t have said.

I said, “I don’t know. She was killed in a car accident nearly three years ago.”

And then I felt really bad.

Two days later I sat with Kim in La Sagrada Familia.

I smiled and thought that had she really been here, she might have told me that he had it coming or she might have told me that I had been really mean and inappropriate.

If you knew her you know it could have gone either way.

I sat a while longer with Kim.

I sat until it was time for us to go.

I stood up and we walked around the church one more time looking at the stained glass, the columns, and the carvings.

I blinked as I walked back out of the church and looked at the statues on the passion side.

I haven’t worn a ring in twenty-five years.

My Facebook page lists me as a widow.

My Twitter bio lists me as a “Dad, husband, and storyteller.”

I wonder if something has changed in me that the young man across the table saw no outward signs. No one has ever asked me why I don’t wear a ring before. Not once in the years when I was married but didn’t.

Maybe I’m wrong, but twenty-six years ago, the rings were not the important part.

The promises were the important part.

We kept all of those promises and more during our marriage.

So, what about the “and then what”?

It turns out we keep some of those promises after death has forced us to part.

And we keep those parts of our loved one that death doesn’t take with it.

Happy Anniversary Kimmy.

 

 

 

Published in: on August 8, 2019 at 5:49 am  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Oh he had it coming all right. We should respect other people’s choices and not judge. You showed a lot of restraint actually.

  2. You guided me through that entire story with great care; thanks for being so thoughtful.

  3. Every story touches me deeply Daniel. Thanks so much for sharing.


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