Moving Slowly On

It’s hard to believe that I’m observing the two month anniversary of Oliver’s death.  The feedback from my previous  blog as my husband’s end-of-life caretaker was profound—and helpful. I didn’t feel alone.  However, after all the loving words, floral offerings and special gifts  sent “in memory of…,”  I have yet to complete this transition and embrace the reality that my husband is truly gone.

Every one of the many kind, giving people who contacted me softens the blow and refers to Ollie’s “passing.”   Indeed, that is their reality because no matter how long a friendship or how tied together as colleagues, my husband only “passed” through their lives.  Even my children remind me that I had lived almost a third of my life before we even met, that it should be easier for me.  “We knew “daddy” all our lives,” they say, “he was here as long as we can remember.”  For them, an entire limb of the family is missing, a parent vanished; suddenly they feel like semi-orphans—their first major loss.  For adult children, it’s also a first glimpse of their personal mortality. Nor am I quite ready to admit my own.

For us all, old habits are broken and a strong voice stilled.  So we linger in the past.  We hear Ollie’s tuneless whistle coming down the hall, the crackle of the newspaper he read daily; we can’t decide to keep or give away his chair.  If we are blessed with the solace of independent lives which should enable us to more easily “move on,” we’re all somewhat stranded by the deep loss and obvious change.

As I continue my own slow steps toward a final acceptance, I’m learning an amazing lesson and a corollary to most transitions.  Even when we think we know everything about a spouse or sibling, mom or dad, it often turns out there can be dozens of sincere and eloquent extras.What I’m finding in Ollie’s after-life are so many uncovered memories through personal vignettes that are often a total surprise to me.

One cousin we haven’t seen in years called my husband a role model.  “When I was just a kid,” this young man wrote, “I was absolutely wide-eyed at Ollie’s low slung, classic, Triumph sports car, proof that you can grow older without getting old.  That message stuck fast,” he ended, “and has meant a great deal as I move into middle age.”

My daughter’s former roommate especially remembers my husband’s wit and wisdom that shored up her confidence during her college years.  I never had a clue, which make these recollections all the more meaningful to me now.  Learning how one person’s presence and contact can affect another person’s life flavors those connections like a rare spice.

Other friends refresh the decades telescoped by time.  The poolside get-togethers, the New Year’s Eves and July 4th  parties did create ties that bind.  And quotes!  My new journey  is peppered with Oliver’s jokes and “bon mots” that always light the way.  Oliver said it took man 5,000 years to come indoors to eat and he wasn’t about to go back out, so he always refused to bar-be-que!  We still laugh that Ollie hit the pool only twice in 40 years, once to rescue our toddler within seconds and again when a teenage visitor playfully pushed him in—sharp and welcome snapshots not found in any album.  Maybe we dredge up the old and familiar to further cushion the letting go.

My husband and I were very different from background to personality.  Our shared values, more than anything else, kept us together all these years. For him, life was all good, and his legacy boils down to: “If you can’t find a bright side, make one”—a worthy epitaph.  ‘Though I promised my husband I wouldn’t make a big deal when he died, I promised myself that I couldn’t say goodbye without affirming that he was the most moral, ethical person I have ever met.  He said we’d be rich if I charged a dime for every cup of coffee I gave away to our constant visitors.  I think he would have agreed that along the way we subtly changed each other.

So much can be lost as the times of our lives roll by, an unedited movie peopled with a vast variety of characters.  That’s why we blow out candles, take vows, celebrate, commemorate.  We decide to remember and mark the milestones—transitions tabulated!

I can do no less. I will honor my husband’s Spartan take on dying and plan only a low-key get-together of well-wishers, a “thank you” kind of closure that I need.  “No speeches or accolades,” I tell friends, “just stop by, reminisce a bit.”  We’ll raise a glass and offer a “Give it a bloody go, Mate” Australian style toast to honor Ollie’s roots.  That would be his idea of  a transition accomplished—if not completely mine.

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13 Responses to Moving Slowly On

  1. Elana says:

    Evie – that is beautiful and touching. Is it true that you dont know how someone touches another person and Ollie touched us all! There is never a final toast bc he will never be gone from our hearts and every time you see that chair, the space, coffee or anything related to Australia we will toast to him!
    xoxo

  2. Dear Evie,

    Thank you for sharing your tribute to your wonderful husband. It was very uplifting to read your reflections.

    I am sorry for your loss.

    Warm regards, Marilyn Ritter

  3. Lori Ellingson says:

    Sharing is always a way to work through life’s situations–thank you for sharing this. I never met Oliver but your written words make me feel as though I now have met the person that was such a large part of your life.

  4. Amy Magnuson says:

    Evie,
    I was moved by your wonderful writing and reminiscing. Then I came to the end of the post and had to guffaw at the weird “Possibly related posts.” How could these be related? Anyway, thanks for including me in your post distribution. I really enjoy hearing what you have to say and how you say it.
    Amy

  5. Suzanne says:

    I am weeping. This was so beautiful. You write so well. You have such grace “under fire.” I hope I can be like you when I grow up. Much love. S.

  6. Taru Fisher says:

    Your writing makes me feel as if I knew “Ollie” – although I am just acquainted with you. Evie – keep writing and sharing. Your words are eloquent, heart-filled and filled with wisdom. Thank you for sharing this piece of yourself.

  7. Dee Macres says:

    Dear Evie, As I read your beautiful words so eloquently written and heartfelt, tears streaming down my face, I look forward to seeing you again dear friend on May 31st – We’ll have a good cry, then you’ll crack a joke and we both will laugh. Ollie wouldn’t want it any other way.

    Dee Macres, April 30, 2009

  8. kay says:

    Evie, You are an amazing woman and your way with words is grippingly real. So often people gloss over the pangs of greiving. The memories that you share and the discoveries you are making about Ollie are a good reminder to us all to take the time to really listen to our mates.

  9. jessica says:

    Beautiful Evelyn….I just want to know who the brave soul was that pushed Oliver in the pool….
    xoxoxo

  10. Deborah Benham says:

    I love that quote and one I’ve now written down – “If you can’t think of a bright side -make one.” Your writing is wonderful — keep on.

  11. Phyllis Gustavson says:

    I am stunned, Evie. Somewhere along the way I’ve missed something as I did not know of Ollie’s passing.

    As always, your eloquence is stunning. But that we could all have a relationship such as you describe.

    My heart goes out to you and your family.

    Would love to have dinner at “our place”. Your call, just let me know.

    Love, Phyllis

  12. M. J. Capper says:

    Dear Evie … so good (and sad) to read your writings of “Life with Ollie”. I didn’t know him well but now I feel as though we had sat and talked frequently. Thank you. And be good to yourself.

  13. Verna says:

    Just a note to say I love you and think of you often. Its hard to
    write a response to such eloquint writing as yours, so I’ll just say
    how much we always enjoyed the times spent with Oliver and you
    and how welcome he made us feel at your home…..we will truly
    miss him!
    We hope to see you again at the First Cousins Annual luncheon,
    held on Wed. Sept. 9th, place and time to be advised !!
    Its so wonderful how you can verbally connect w/your thoughts
    and I’m sure this ability will help you find the best place you can
    be! Love always, Verna

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