|self portrait (M.A. Reilly, 2016)|
It's the way he tucks her arm through his with such delicate care that catches my heart and holds my attention. I notice the older couple, most likely in their late 80s or early 90s, seated opposite me at the local diner. The couple sits next to one another on the same side of a booth. Opposite them is another gentleman, not quite as old. The husband stands and he waits for his wife to zip her jacket and then holds a hand out to help her stand, before moving her arm through his. This is practiced love, I think.
|Dev at a restaurant, checking out a camera (2015)|
"We'll see you next week, Michele," the man calls to the waitress. And then he laughs and adds, "if the good Lord makes it so."
I'm quiet until they pass.
"When I thought about the future, I always imagined that your dad and I would be just like that," I say to Devon, using the napkin to carefully wipe away a few tears. "I never doubted that your dad and I would grow old together. Nothing gained by doubting."
One of the interesting things about my son is he knows how to gather silence around him. And so he doesn't rush in to say something.
"You okay?" he asks a minute or two later.
I nod and then say, "I'm not crying because I'm sad." He smiles and I add on, "It's just they are so beautiful. So careful with one another. You know?"
The last 24 hours have been tough on both of us. Yesterday morning I finally got my hair cut, after 8 months and on the way out people expressed condolences and also wished me a happy holiday. On the way home I stopped at a wine shop so I could bring some wine to my cousin as we will be eating Easter dinner with them tomorrow. Easter has never been a big holiday at our house. And though Rob was Jewish, we celebrated Easter with usually just my brothers or sometimes friends. I didn't expect the holiday to matter and find it does. At the wine shop as I am checking out, the cashier told me, "Have a happy Easter." Later I ran into a grocery store and the clerk at the check out said, "Have a great holiday tomorrow."
In the early afternoon, I took Devon for his driver's test only to find out Motor Vehicle was closed. Rob was supposed to take Devon last August after his friends who had visited with us went home. Rob became sick and Devon being who he is told us both to not worry about it. "I'm not in any hurry," he would say. Rob and I appreciated his patience.
"How about we go to Cheesecake Factory and you can get that burger you like?" I asked him knowing we were just a few miles from the restaurant.
"Sounds good," he said.
After lunch we stopped off to look for a kitchen table and chairs.
"I want to do this with you so you can sit in the chair. It needs to be comfortable," I explained and I laughed a bit at the look my son gave me. I imagined him thinking, We really need to do this now? He is not a shopper.
Last February, in order to make room for Rob's hospital bed, Devon and I got rid of a round table that had been in our kitchen for the last 14 years. It had seen better days and Rob and I had been looking to replace it last summer but never got it done. Now the room is empty and Devon and I keep hitting our heads on a low hanging light fixture. We finally settled on a table and four chairs and as we leave the store I turned and said to Dev, "I can't recall buying any furniture for the last couple of decades without Rob. This feels so strange to buy this without him."
Last night a little after 10 p.m. Devon came in and sat on the bed. This is a signal that he wants to talk.
"Nothing much," he said and his face held a sadness that tugged at me.
I waited a bit hoping he'd talk but he remained silent. "You okay?" I asked.
"Just a hard day," he told me and was quiet again.
I keep the quiet with him.
"Kept thinking about the restaurant and all the times I went there with dad."
"Yeah, you both loved it there. Your dad was always stealing a French fry or two."
We both laughed a bit thinking of Rob, thinking of us together.
"Good burgers," Dev said.
"Good memories, too."
It was their kind of place, I think. Love is so difficult, so effortless, so tenacious. We are nothing if we are not equally complex and simple.
These dichotomies define grief as well.
For it is both the small imperceptible ordinary happenings and the larger already known events that trip us up--let us know that we have loved so profoundly and lost equally so.