By Lisa Gastaldo
I've begun this missive multiple times. Spurts of dialogue verbalized in my dreams. Numerous scribbled passages were wadded up and subsequently rescued. I stared blankly at a flashing cursor for hours.
How do I write a letter to you on the occasion of our 25th wedding anniversary when death did us part?
Do I recount the details of our nuptials? How I had fantasized about a ceremony with the pomp of the Sound of Music? Should I divulge that we desired a reception that rivaled the Godfather? Do I elaborate on how my cathedral-length veil and our 45-minute tarantella helped to realize the vision?
We opted for spring in a vain attempt to evade the valley heat. (It was 110!) The priest that had witnessed the birth of our relationship was enlisted to perform the nuptial rite. "All I Ask of You" from Phantom was sung as we lit the unity candle.
I feel as if our life's story has been ripped in half. The latter chapters were snatched away and callously thrown into the wind. I've tried to recapture some of the pages, frantically grasping whatever I could as they whirled about. Re-affixing the adrift sheets has been haphazard at best. Puckered with tear stains, they don't quite fit. Their fragility only permits a tenuous binding.
What tales would exist had we not lost a chief protagonist? Would we have stayed in our home? Would our sons have chosen different paths? Which friends would we still socialize with? I have an entirely new circle of acquaintances and confidantes that only know you through my memories. To them, you are a historical figure. In what aspects would our future history have been different?
We had modest aspirations: Raising a family, becoming grandparents, taking a trip to Italy.
We anticipated bumps along the road and gathered provisions. But, circumstances quickly depleted our physical supplies and drained our emotional reserves. Still, we mustered through it all, as couples do, and deepened the bonds between us. When it was abruptly torn asunder, our peace was no longer held. The dreams we conceived together are forever unrequited.
Shall I reminisce about our early years as man and wife? Recall the challenges of choreographing our lives until we crafted our marriage dance? How shall I illuminate the notes of composing our matrimonial song? Describe the harmonies and the discords? Play the unfinished symphony?
Your presence continually resonates with me. Like the faint hum of a ham radio, I can't quite catch the frequency. It's a blurry shadow that won't come into focus. The image is veiled, behind existence.
Yet, bits and pieces of you materialize in our sons. Your devotion to family is reflected in our oldest. Our youngest frequently echoes your dry wit. They are the manifestations of your legacy: the proof of us.
Time to time, I quote lines from an obscure movie or recite a catchphrase from bygone commercial, but the references fall flat. No chuckle or twinkle of the eye is returned. I'm sharing inside jokes with a ghost. Speaking a lost language no one else understands.
Do I have the privilege of acknowledging this anniversary? Should I celebrate with wine and song or mourn with sackcloth and ashes? What is the proper etiquette?
"Say you'll share with me one love, one lifetime. Let me lead you from your solitude."
In the two-and-a-half decades that have passed since we recited our vows, nearly a fourth of that era has been spent without you. Nevertheless, the years with you by my side outnumber the ones without. A few more and the timeline of my life will teeter towards your absence. I am apprehensive of that juncture. I don't want your significance to be lessened.
Little things you tried to teach me continue to impact me: The best place to park your car, how to install a computer, the joys of cold pizza. Still not on board with the last one, but it explains why coagulated cheese brings you to mind.
Time has smoothed the rough edges of loss, making the bitter pill slightly easier to swallow, but the major void in my life exists as a persistent lump in my throat. It wells up at the birth of a new family member who will never experience your tender affection. It hinders my enthusiasm for a movie I know you would have enjoyed. It is the reason cheers for our children are a solo effort instead of a duet. No vitamin or tonic can alleviate this sharing deficiency.
"Love me -- that's all I ask of you."
The tokens of your love exist everywhere: The vase you bought one Valentine's and faithfully filled with flowers each year. The heartfelt anniversary cards you created. The countless photo albums you obsessively compiled. Did you instinctively know these would one day be your testimony? My talismans?
After you first departed, I went silently, but briefly, insane. I imagined rubbing one of my amulets or wishing upon a star could make you suddenly reappear. True love's kiss could awaken me from the nightmare. My intellect tried to tether me to reality, but my broken heart desperately sought a miracle.
A quarter of a century ago, when we first viewed our wedding pictures, we were flabbergasted. As the couple notoriously known for being non-photogenic, we jested that the photographer had employed a stunt bride and groom. But there we were, exuding the glow of newly-wedded bliss. Our staircase pose became the hallmark photo of the studio, luring other aspiring newlyweds with the promise of picture perfection.
I seem to have no choice but to commemorate the inaugural date of our legend. If our dating years were the prelude, I now inhabit the postscript of our tale. Our saga was stunted, but to me it had all the components of an epic narrative: obstacles and love, triumph and tragedy. And, as in all poignant stories, it left me wanting more.
Loving you always,
Lisa Gastaldo is a Writer. Mother. Widow. Survivor. Looking for life's perfect fit at SearchingForBigGirlPanties.com
This article was recently featured on Kindness Blog.