A Husband's Colloquium
When my wife died I wasn't sure what to do. Rightfully so, shed probably feel
the same if roles reversed. Death is where all share a common
ground, so Ive heard. She died so suddenly and without
warning. But, since when do we get fair warning? Isnt that
the catch? Sinatra sang a phrase, Thats Life.
Alanis had rain. I wonder if Murphys Law could apply.
Forest had it best when he said, shit happens. We had
one child. Id gotten a new job, all was going well. At the
rate I was going Id run the office and peopled
brown-nose me! Id deem myself, Office Pope.
Kim worked mothershours at the bank. She had experience in fieldwork but
pencil-pushed for a living. She enjoyed fieldwork but was paid
better and could work around her mothers hours behind a
desk. She was always handy with tools. Hand her something
electronic, she could take it apart and put it back together
fully functional. She was a female Tim Taylor (just better
looking). She died on a hot and humid day walking to her car from
the bank. The banks parking lot was always full. Her only
alternative was the parking-garage a mile away. She didn't mind
the walks. She used to say, "it's good exercise. I don't get
to do it often anyway. Shed give her Betty Boop and
say, A girl needs to maintain her figure, you know."
It must have been ahundred
in the shade. The forecasters said to avoid prolonged periods of
sun. Yeah, right! Kim walked along a sidewalk in what mustve
felt like the Sahara desert. Rooted to her shoes chasing from
behind was the only shade available. To add to it, walking
through rush hour was impossible . . . in heels.
She also was
carrying a box of files for her home office. She had paperwork
and ran out of time at the office. The heat became so intense she
became light-headed. Apparently she skipped lunch and had little
to drink all day. When entangled in work nothing stopped her. She
was the nicest woman youd ever met, but slow her down at
work and she became Dr. Jekyll. She left early everyday to be
home for Emily. Taking work home was unavoidable so I understood
why shed get upset. Light-headed, she passed out from
dehydration hit the concrete and broke her nose. Peggy, a friend
of ours, was walking to her car when she found Kim. Blood spread
under her face on the sidewalk discolored from the heat.
She was already
gone when the ambulance arrived. She died on the Summer solstice,
her neck near blisters, her skirt scolded from the sun. Her legs
burned where there was no protection. The autopsy report gave a
full summary of what happened. A copy had been forwarded to me
upon request. I dont know why, I just wanted it. As much as
my curiosity peeked, I couldnt bring myself to read it
though. I went through strange phases blaming myself, the
doctors, even Kim. She was too busy with work to properly care
for herself. I eventually realized fate was to blame. Carrying a
box of files she must have noticed the heat too late. She was
oblivious to the world when in her mode.
Scenarios unraveled once the initial shock dissipated. Why didnt passersby
stop? People in their cars wouldve seen! Someone couldve
resuscitated her till the ambulance arrived. I hated the
city, the people, the world, life. I'm glad for most of what I've
got but, when bad shit happens I wonder what kind of world we
live in. I don't want Emily to lose her innocence. I dont
want her to suffer! I can only imagine how life will be in twenty
years. Historians say were living in the age of
Humanitarianism. Im no Rousseau, but Id say
Emily was quiet those couple days before the funeral. She watched a lot of
television. I know I should have kept a closer watch but . . .
things worked out. I tinkered around the house with jobs Id
meant to get to for so long. Couldnt have been a better
time forem than now. Arranging the funeral was easy. Kim
and I had already picked our plots and how the ceremonyd be
set up. It was weird. You hear about celebrities picking plots,
for publicity, but doing it yourself . . . Ill be honest, Im
glad we did. The way I carry on so casually seems careless. Its
just easier now. Ive realized how fragile life is and how
death can rob you. Ive realized how damn scared I am for
Emily. Emily was quiet and withdrawn in the days following the
incident. She knew her mother was gone but I never knew how
well she understood. Kim had spent a lot of quality time with her
. . . I expected a struggle.
Emily needed me but, I needed her more. She was my stability. Shes like Kim
. . . in most ways. Shes stubborn like me, though. I know
shell always be around. Emilys one of those girls you
love to be friends with. Shes easy to warm up to. Thats
why I watch her closely. Too many horn-balls out there.
Shes become a beautiful woman. Shell make a great wife and mother. I see
Kim in her everyday. Of course, shell always have my eyes.
I know she has a good head on her shoulders. Shes taken all
our good traits and few bad ones (I could be biased). I can still
remember how she cried after hearing the news. Some nights Id
console her until she slept then go back to an empty bed. I still
scoot over to Kims side of the bed when I get cold. Old
habits . . . pass . . . hard. I wake up some mornings
reaching over to see Kims curved body. Her hip and shoulder
look like dunes on smooth dry sand under the covers. I even
thought I heard her voice in the distance one night. Then, there
Everyone was understanding and gave me space. Im not one to talk about
my problems so I knew counseling conversation would come. I
thought there was a rule against bringing that up. That
was the last thing Emily and I (wanted) needed. I saw family
members I hadnt seen in years. I had many calls and people
stopping to give condolences. Flowers, pictures, cards you name
it, we got it.
The following morning I awoke from a troubling dream I couldnt understand
and never remember. It recurs but evaporates as quick as it was
there. Putting it aside the funeral was held that morning and
everyone there was there. Family, friends, and co-workers had all
shown. I sat in front with Emily withdrawn hollow and emotionally
debilitated. At times I could only sit and stare. No words. It
goes with the territory, I guess. I watched over Emily. She was
young and this was her first funeral which wasnt easy.
We had an open casket. I wanted to see Kim once more and it was good for Emily too. The mortician
did a good job. You cant expect perfection. For one thing,
hes a man, however feminine he may have been. But, what can
I say? They knew it was important that we see her. The burns were
mild. An acquaintance of mine specialized in reconstructive
surgery and offered fixing the bone structure in her face.
Most of my patients arent . . .
If you think you can do it, be my guest. Just be careful! Shes a picky broad. He
smiled but said nothing. It wasnt in his place. I was
lightening the mood, he knew.
Looking down at her, I thought of our lives our moments, good and bad. Its
important to remember the struggles you got through and held
together. Not that I wanted an award of achievement . . . Last we
spoke, we kissed goodbye said our, I love yous, and were
out the door. Typical American family, huh? Off to work,
see you tonight, honey. I went my way . . . and she went
Before the casket closed Emily arose. I swallowed hard as our daughter went
to her mothers side one last time. I gently lifted her to
see. She touched Kims hand. She shook from the repressed
emotional wails of grief and mourning. Seems shes inherited
a little more from me than anticipated.
Dont worry Daddy, she said hitching softly, youll
see her again. I hugged her tightly, I know, honey,
was all I could manage. A single tear rolled down my cheek. Emily
buried her face in my shoulder and wept. I could tell she was
hoping she would wake up from this nightmare. That wed see
her again was what she held onto. At the site words were spoken,
I dropped a rose onto the casket, turned and sat motionless. I
heard little. My world was mute.
After the funeral, life fell back into a semi-order. It was very different. For a
while the house was quiet. Emily and I spoke only when spoken to.
I moved on (sort of) in my way and let Emily deal with it in
hers. Cant say it was best, but I figured, shes
better off not having me step in.
One night, several weeks later, I fell asleep in front of the television. Not much
had changed. You could say things were worse. Emily was asleep
hours ago. I got up drowsy and drunk. In between moving from
recliner to bed it was all a blur. Suddenly asleep again I dreamt
I was in bed and cold. I rolled over to put my arm around Kim. I
realized, theres that old habit again. Then a
floorboard creaked. A hand lay on mine. I opened my eyes, to Kims.
My heart stopped, my eyes closed. I opened them again and
nothing. I looked around the room. Nothing. The bathroom light
was on and the door hung at an inch crack. Did I leave the
light on? The light looked different. Im still drunk
. . .
The door opened and out came Kim illuminated in light. I sat up wide-eyed as she
walked to her vanity. That mortician has no chance in drag.
Just look at his make-up job, she said from the mirror. I
couldnt speak, only stare. Well, youre no help,
she said sarcastically. You should send a thank you card to
Dr. Matthews. It was a bad break and . . . she mustve
read my expression as exasperation. Well, whatd you
expect? Youre falling behind in responsibilities, honey. I
have to set you straight! I tried speaking but only flapped
Oh, I suppose its easier believing this is all a dream. Well, dear,
she said walking to the bed sitting next to me. Youre
killing yourself. Im concerned. Her cold pale hand
fell on mine. Now, honey. Dont take this wrong but,
dont be a boob! Emily needs you she said sternly.
I love you . . . Now, lay down. Soft cold hands lay
me to the pillow. I brought my hand up to brace her head for a
kiss and clumsily smacked my face. I shook off the semi-conscious
sleep. Startled, sweaty, tears lining my face I scoped the room,
but she was gone (Isnt it ironic?). I knew it had to
be real. Ive never been delusional . . . Id
also never lost a wife before. I believe the recurring dreams are
somehow connected with Kims apparition.
Since then, Ive thought about the dream and what Emily said. As days before the
funeral, I wondered how well she understood death. Ive
never asked if shed known anything I hadnt (Isnt
it ironic?). Mothers and daughters have special bonds only
women can share, I guess.
Copyright ©2003 Kurt Echols