Posted by: carolyn / through a widow's eyes | January 20, 2015

I blame the Redbreast.

 I’m at my local watering hole, unwinding after a productive work day. I am happy, relaxed, drinking a glass of wine, chatting with the regulars, the usual suspects. These people are my friends now; I enjoy spending time in their presence. It’s a peaceful, easy feeling. Really. This is new to me: I never had a place like this, where everybody knows my name and is always glad to see me, generous with compliments and hugs. (Not to mention rounds of drinks.) I built this camaraderie myself, by showing up. I made it happen in the aftermath of my little cancer widow tragedy. Once I could face being around people again a bit, it was refreshing to have some new friends, who don’t know my Before. Or maybe they do, but it’s just a narrative, just my back story. We all have one.


The happy hour crew tonight is mostly family men – my age, respectful and appreciative of women, comfortable in their own skin, with careers, retirement plans, grown children. They are drinking beers and sipping shots of Irish whiskey, twelve-year-old Redbreast. The men stand around in their shirtsleeves, their wedding rings glinting in the dark pub, the blue tv screen light. They are jubilantly discussing the playoff game the night before, in which our team prevailed. Superbowl soon come.

All of a sudden my eyes are full of tears and I have to turn away. Thanks for nothing, Redbreast!

How happy my Jeff would have been here! What this place, this Irish pub, needs is a Flanagan! How he would have enjoyed their company, the give and take of the conversation. How he would have waxed eloquent about the theory and practice of the game! How he would have relished standing around with these men, in his shirtsleeves, his wedding ring glinting in the dark pub, his big rough hand cradling a glass of Irish whiskey. Shit. The only reason I’m here, the only reason I know these guys at all is because he’s not here. I never stepped foot in this bar until years after he died, through twists of fate and timing that never would have occurred if he were here.

I’m trying to hide that suddenly I’m crying, but Mark sees it. He’s concerned. I try to tell him in the fewest amount of words, and without actually sobbing, the weird dichotomy of past and present – how much Jeff would love this. And he’s not here. And I am. And why and how.

I’m fine, I really am. My life is good and getting better. But there are still these moments of vertigo, this feeling of suddenly falling through time and space, that maybe will always be here, at least as long as I am. Here, that is. Jeff will always be in my life in the present, even though our time together is in the past. How weird this fact is. He’s not at all here, but he’s still present. Mostly I can accept this, these days, that which was so unacceptable in the early days and years. But tonight I’ve tripped into one of those wormholes, when he should so clearly be here, even though it makes no sense. My head spins with the strangeness of it all.

Mark unobtrusively takes me aside, our heads bowed together so we can speak privately in the happy hour pub hubbub.

“You’re fine,” he says. “You’re here. Keep doing what you’re doing.”

I am. I am. And I will.



  1. Carolyn ~ thank you for the gift of your words. I stumbled across your blog tonight as a fellow widow. You describe so beautifully so many of the sentiments I, too, have experienced in the last 18 months and am struggling through tonight in particular. Thank you. ~namaste~ ~jill


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