As the sixth anniversary of Rick’s death approaches, I realize I’ve had many shifts in my attitude about how I view my life here alone. For about the first two years, my whole identity was that of a widow. I was still part of a couple, one of us just wasn’t living. I continued to participate with most of the habits and activities we used to do together, like Sunday mornings in our booth at the diner, sitting under the gazebo in the evenings, working on home improvement projects, but life was a lot quieter doing those things alone. I think I wanted to preserve the feeling that he was still here. Making too many changes would negate the life we created.
But after a couple of years, I gave up. There was no bringing him back, and as I started to feel more single, and no longer half of a couple, I changed as a person. I created my own goals and lifestyle, and I worked hard to make new routines that fit with my new life without him. I cleaned out more of his stuff, downsized some of the furniture (since this big man wouldn’t be here to sit in it), and moved the photos of him that sat next to my chair in the living room into my office. I realized I had been trying to keep him a part of my everyday life, and I was ready to start living without him. I also made new goals and plans for what I wanted to do when I retired, since it would be different without him being a part of it. And, eventually, life moved on in this new existence, and became stable and more enjoyable again.
Once I began to start dating, I missed him all over again. There is just no one like him. And that’s normal, I guess. I picked him as the person I wanted to spend my life with, so we must’ve been pretty compatible, more so than I would be with some new man. But Rick and his own unique personality, sense of humor, vast scope of knowledge and intelligence, creativity, spunk, and kookiness, all rolled into one.. how would I ever find someone like that again?
I haven’t. I’ve been on dozens of first dates and have attempted relationships with three men, and none of them panned out. And even though I felt something for each of them, I just didn’t feel my heart go pitty-pat like it did with Rick. Not to say there’s anything wrong with any of these men (okay, maybe there was). But I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m not looking for a friend with benefits, or a pal, or a macho man who doesn’t respect my independence. I’m not looking for someone to take care of me, or someone who just wants a wife (and I hate to generalize, but I don’t think men – especially widowers – can handle living alone as well as women can, at least the men I’ve met, and they want to find a new wife pretty quickly). My goal for the past couple of years has been to find that one person that I just love hanging out with, who cares about me and shows it, like Rick did. Someone I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with. I know it will never be Rick, but I know how a man who truly cares about me acts, so I know what I’m looking for.
However, a friend said something to me the other night that made me shift my focus, again. She said you had the one great love of your life already; just focus on enjoying yourself now, and make that be enough.
I’ve been mulling that over since she said it. She’s right. Rick was the love of my life. He was my gentle giant, a guy who was literally and figuratively larger than life to me. There will never be another Rick. And I had the privilege of sharing a newlywed kind of love with him for more than 20 years – the “hold your hand walking, kiss each other when you pass in the hallway, grab each other and dance when a song comes on” kind of love. I HAD that. I had the type of love I only dreamed about before I met him, and I was lucky enough to have that for two decades! I think it’s time to stop hoping for a “love of my life,” part two.
This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop dating, or that I’ve lost my romantic notions of finding someone I click with. I wouldn’t mind feeling that pitty-pat feeling again with someone new, but I’m going to stop looking for a new life partner. When I hang out with friends at dinner or movies or parks, I don’t look for red flags or worry how they would fit into my life. I just enjoy the moment, with no worry about the future. So why don’t I look at dating the same way? Why don’t I just go out and have some fun with a variety of men and stop wondering if one of them may be “the one”?
I’m in a good place, and I need to appreciate that. I won’t say that I’m “over the grief.” I don’t like that phrase. I’m still grieving grandparents who died when I was a teenager, so I don’t think I’ll ever “get over it.” But I have learned to live with the loss. And life is pretty good. I live in my comfortable home, retired and free to do as I please. I’m attending fantastic writing courses and meeting other talented writers. I have grandchildren to play with, and friends to socialize with, family to share time with. I love my beautiful yard and vacations at the family cottage, and I’m healthy as a horse. It’s not the life I’d choose or the one I planned, because the one I want to share it with is gone, but I’m thankful for all I’ve got.
And I have this little bonus of men who want to take me to dinners and movies and kiss me once in a while. There’s nothing else I really need. I don’t need another love of my life. That special place was reserved for Rick. Sure, my attitude may shift again. I guess it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind. But for now, I’m going to focus on just having fun. I’m not going to hope for some great love in my future or wonder if someday I’ll find a new “Mr. Right.” I was fortunate to have a wonderful two decades with the love of my life and we made enough memories to last me a lifetime.