Monday, April 16, 2012
Tom was never big on holidays…or celebrating anything that was defined by a specific date on the calendar. Valentine's was "fabricated by Hallmark." Our birthdays were a week apart, so we just celebrated both at the same time whenever was convenient which often just worked out to be Thanksgiving. Neither one of us could remember our anniversary. My sister used to send a congratulatory e-mail each year and I'd run into Tom's office and say, "Guess what? Happy anniversary!" When we first moved in together Tom's neighbors were thrilled when I put up Christmas lights. Even the grumpy old man next door could be counted on to hang one string around one window. One string more than Tom.
This was difficult for me. I loved looking forward to holidays. I loved the decorations and the food associated with them. For me the passing of the year was punctuated, if not defined, by these specific calendar dates. Over time I switched my focus. It became about the seasons. As an avid gardener, I'd anxiously anticipate Spring. Each new wildflower that appeared brought joy. What plants were going to return to my garden? What new ones could I try out? The smell of jasmine. I even love weeding. Summer became about the lake, the reappearance of lightning bugs and the sounds of the cicadas and sweet honeysuckle vine. Fall, my favorite season, was all about the colors, the orange pumpkins and gourds, the oaks turning vivid maroon, orange and yellow. A second garden growing season, the reblooming of my mums. Also, a welcome respite from the intense heat of a Texas summer when that first cool breeze touched my skin. Winter was still about Christmas. I couldn't give up the traditions surrounding it, not to mention a growing antique ornament collection, but my holiday decorating had grown on Tom. One year when I was still struggling with my illness, I could barely walk let alone climb a ladder hanging garland, wreaths and ornaments, Tom admitted missing the decorations; that it just didn't feel like Christmas. He bought me a little cut tree that I could sit on the sofa to decorate, giving me a little bit of normalcy.
I found that Tom loved and looked forward to the changing seasons as much as me. He had an avid love of nature and saw the same beauty in it I did. This was our compromise. Perhaps dates weren't all that important. Every day holds limitless possibilities. Each and every date important.
Today the smell of jasmine hung heavy in the air as I walked out the door. Today I will sit in what was Tom's office at work, now a meeting room, and see in my mind how it used to look with little wind-up robots on the desk and photos of the furry and feathered kids pinned to a bulletin board. Today is the anniversary of Tom's death. I will not dwell on the sadness but instead remember how grateful I am for the time I was given with him and how he taught me that I was worth something. How thankful I was that he was with his other best friend at the time of the accident and how lucky I was that he told me he had never been happier in his life, shortly before his death.