Full disclosure — summer not my favorite season. I’m not a hater; I’m just not feelin’ it. Oh, I feel the heat alright. As temps rise, I melt and it’s not pretty. (think Wicked Witch of the West) My husband, however, loved everything about summer. Despite my dire warnings about skin cancer (duh), he basked au soleil whenever he could. Neatly positioning himself wherever rays beamed, he thrived on getting ‘color’, which he hardly needed given his robust black Irish coloring. Bright blue eyes and full head of thick, wavy grey hair made him sufficiently handsome without another cancer to worry about. He never saw it that way.
Still, even now I can envision every freckle, crinkle of skin and strand of hair in startling detail. That in itself is kind of ironic knowing these days I can’t remember where I put my glasses or what I had for dinner the night before. Loss creates a really annoying photographic memory.
“I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summer’s day
In everything that’s light and gay
I’ll always think of you that way”
The light and gay part kind of escapes me, but I remember well how that man thrived in summer warmth. (That made one of us) As I baked, he bloomed. Even days when side effects weighed heavily on him, he wanted to be on the move. Despite soaring temps, he’d be ready to rock. Well, maybe not quite that energetic but you get the gist. To me, summer just meant pressure to DO stuff. When the sun lights all the trees and you can smell the freshness of grass before you see it, what reasonable excuse can you give for staying inside? You’re absolutely obligated to take a day trip, walk, anything but curling up in your house. Yet, though I still often crave a nice comfy, rainy day, I admit the memories of those summer moments with my hot weather boy remain.
This summer, I’m not quite sure how I feel. Two thirds done already, the weeks have been pretty uneventful. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I’ve had quite enough life changing ‘events’, thank you very much. Still, I don’t foresee a trek abroad, a palm tree packed island cruise or even a visit to my favorite place – Cape Cod. (more about that another time.) It’s now the second summer without the guy who loved this season and I haven’t yet gotten my sea legs. Summer is still — meh.
Yet, despite the fact that no postcards will be written from my living room this year, I’m oddly and shockingly chill. In spite of myself, the passing weeks have been calm and even, dare I say it, very okay. I even had a sleepover at the shore two weeks ago at a lovely, generous friend’s house. Consciously committed to being ‘in the moment’, I totally relaxed in the balmy summer night on the deck of a riverside restaurant. I was even actually peaceful sitting under a cloudless night sky as black waters lapped against a pier near her home. (except for when I considered what would happen if I fell in) Did I miss the man who had brought this woman and I together? Yes. She met him before I did, respected him as her PR counsel in the years after — and danced at our wedding. In the year after the man we both knew so well, albeit in very different ways, died she checked on me every week and I’m thankful for her kindnesses and friendship. This mini getaway may not seem like a big deal for anyone else but to a kid who falls asleep driving, a trip to the shore can be as tricky as one to Montana!
Overnight getaway not withstanding, my ‘what did you do this summer’ list seems a little thin. Travel reservations don’t make themselves. If they did, I wouldn’t have any excuse now would I? Instead, I tend to be a little too comfy on my couch to give in to a travel bug, even realizing that I need to do and go where I can, while I can. Though I don’t expect to get grounded anytime soon, the day will come when I might not be able to fly away. Unfortunately, there’s a small problem. The guy who was my best seatmate is not longer able to travel, at least where I can see him so my summertime Carpe Diem still feels a little challenging.
“And I remember how you loved me
Time was all we had until the day we said goodbye
I remember every moment of those endless summer nights”
I think most people would agree that there is such a lazy comfort in having someone who knows you snore and adjusts. (something my dear friend Sue knows well from our California trip!) Someone who understands that your stomach will always be wonky and instantly grasps your eye roll exit sign. Your ‘other’ is the person you sit, shoes off, next to on long vacation drives, feeling free to talk — or not. They are the person who you decide, by long rehearsed shorthand, what to eat or where to explore. When you know you are forever ‘without’, you cross bridges that have nothing to do with a map. To walk through the missing, yearning, and even resenting those forever losses, is a trip in itself. And it’s the roughest trip I’ve ever made.
The empty space created when life’s partner leaves the building affects not just huge obvious things but little stuff we all take for granted. When you’re not looking, that stuff can invite a real pity party. Trips out of town will no longer include any calls to see if you arrived, returned safely, or in my husband’s case, a goodly amount of ‘just because’. He was legendary that way. When your other is no longer by your side, often no one knows where you are at all; you travel in a different time capsule now. Yet, it’s so easy to believe the simple comfort of that one person who, as my husband’s doctor told me, ‘loves you ridiculous’, will always be with you —— until they’re not.
It’s easy to be a teensy bit envious of Facebook vacation check-ins or friends’ travel pics, overflowing your Instagram feed. But these days I think I’m content to just tread water as I get adjusted to the new pool. Wanderlust doesn’t have a timetable and new experiences aren’t relegated just to summertime. I’ve told my kids (and everyone who’ll listen) that I’m going to grab every opportunity that comes my way. And I will, I promise; just not this summer.
After all, as Robert Frost said “I have miles to go before I sleep’ so, right now, I’m pacing myself.