I’m not a woman who goes to marches and stands in front of elected officials’ offices demanding things. I’m not a woman who refuses to go into Walmart because of claims that some kid in a foreign country may have made the cheap items in a sweat shop. I haven’t stopped shopping at Whole Foods from time to time just because Amazon bought it.
But what I’ve learned through the death of my husband is that I protest it. Daily. In so many small, subtle ways.
A family member sent me a birthday card every year. She sent birthday cards to everyone in the family. However, when Eric died, she stopped sending them. I didn’t receive a birthday card on my next birthday, a month and half after he passed, and I haven’t received one since. My girls haven’t received one. And I don’t think that anyone else has received a birthday card either.
When I asked another family member about this change in routine and tradition, her response was, “It’s her way of protesting. If she can’t send a birthday card to Eric, then she doesn’t want to send one to anyone.”
I’ve been thinking about that explanation for quite a while now, and it prompted me to begin to observe the ways in which I, too, protest his death.
Survivor: I stopped watching Survivor because he can’t watch it with me anymore. When that show first came out in 2000, he was living in North Carolina working his new job, while the girls and I were still in Maryland selling our house and finishing the school year. Eric watched the first episode and called to tell me how good this show was and that we should watch it. Ever since then, we watched every single season and every single episode, including the reunion shows. And while Survivor still airs to this day, in Fall 2016, I stopped watching it. What is the point anymore? He is not here to watch it with me. There is no one to commiserate with about strategies, personalities, villains and heroes. There is no one to yell, “SURVIVOR!” in that cracked baritone voice he’d use, announcing that it was now 8:00 PM on Wednesday night, and I needed to get my ass into my spot on the couch. And Survivor went on…surviving without us…
Bojangles: I don’t believe that I’ve stepped foot inside a Bojangles or even gone through a Bojangles drive-through since Eric died. He loved their fried chicken, and while I tried to stay away from it for the most part, I, too, love their fried chicken. I love their biscuits, and in particular, their Bo-berry biscuits. Almost weekly, he would text me to stop on my way home from work to bring him a fried chicken meal. He’d like a breast, a thigh, and a leg. He wanted mashed potatoes and slaw with his meal. Sometimes he wanted the fries instead. And always, he’d whack at my hand if I picked at the fried coating when I got it home to him. He’d give me half of his biscuit. No matter how much I’d like to stop and get a Bo-berry biscuit these days, I don’t go into a Bojangles. I don’t want to. And I might never again.
Photos: As the eternal amateur photographer, I am always taking photos. I used to annoy my family with the constant snapping of my many cameras over the years, the bouncy home movie footage of soccer games and family vacations, and the volumes of scrapbooks and videos I’ve created to tell and share our memories. I knew I would stop making so many scrapbooks when the girls turned 18, which I did. But I still wanted to print photos and make art from them, display them on our walls and in other ways, document this part of our lives as a family. When Eric went in for his abdominal surgery, before we knew he had cancer, I took some photos of him. Through the years, he’d get kidney stones from time to time, and I’d document those experiences so we could laugh about it all later. I documented Ally’s ankle surgery when she was 12. I did these types of things to crack jokes to make spirits lighter. But when a routine colon resection surgery turned into a death sentence, my normal “life” documentation habits became skewed. I didn’t want to take a photo of him in a chemo chair. I didn’t want to have photos of him at the hospital. I didn’t want a picture of his chemo fanny pack, saddled to his hip. I didn’t want any of this part of this experience documented. If a photo isn’t taken, it didn’t happen…right? Since Eric died, I still take photos. But they just sit inside my Mac. Other than Ally’s college graduation and a couple of individual prints, I don’t print photos anymore. I don’t put them in frames and on tables and try to outwardly document our lives, going along without him. Just like his life, my photography, one of my favorite forms of storytelling, has essentially stopped in time.
This list could go on and include my lack of participation in the holidays, my refusal to give away certain Patriots items (even though I hate the Patriots) to family members who would no doubt appreciate having them, my absence from the local remembrance service (for two years now), even though I purchased luminaries for him and made plans to go…they read his name out loud, and I’m not there to hear it. I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to hear his name listed among the dead…no matter what I know to be true.