It wasn’t supposed to snow that night, but it did, draping like a soft, white fabric over the wooden gazebo, manicured evergreens, and my pathway to Roger. Family and friends all stood in a circle in the center of the rotary in Easthampton, Massachusetts. Lights, Christmas and police, guided me to the center of the gazebo where Roger stood. He was dressed in blues and a crooked smile that protected me from the icy air that people tell me surrounded us that night. With the backdrop of a black sky and multi-colored Christmas lights, I, in my rented white gown and green plaid sneakers, walked up to my marine in his dress blues, and we were married. I wasn’t nervous. That was twenty-six years ago today.
What does that mean? Do I celebrate, commemorate the date, or sit in a corner and hug my knees while I wallow. I do love a good wallow. I’ll shoo away the cats when they wonder what I’m doing, and when someone knocks on my door I’ll say, “Go away!” Maybe I can take a tiny screwdriver and remove the backing of the display case and take out Roger’s dress blues from it, hold them close to my heart as I sneak them to the corner in my room. I’ll sit there and hold on tightly to the soft and scratchy fabric until it wrinkles and droops, and hope a medal or two comes undone and pierces my skin, just enough to feel it, but not enough to bleed. I can also watch old wedding videos and remind myself how much it sucks that he’s not here, listen to his deep laugh and watch him nervously get ready. I loved him in a bright white t-shirt. There are many ways to wallow, but it sucks the energy out of me slowly and loudly, so maybe I’ll wallow the first half of the day and celebrate after noon appears, because I can.
Widows and widowers torture ourselves on special dates like anniversaries, birthdays, and so many others, and focus on how we should feel. Many will offer advice, good intentions, yes, but you really just don’t know unless you’re in it. Some survivors commemorate. Some don’t. I don’t have any anniversary traditions but allow my mood that day to guide me. Healthy? Maybe not, but I’m in control of what I do and how I feel. “Happy Anniversary?” Not really, but I still like to hear it. After years of missed anniversaries, I am finally in control with no explanations or guilt, of how I want to live this day. It’s all mine. Heck, maybe I’ll just wrap presents. Alone.