Distant Early Warning

One of the things I'd miss if I'd never met her.

Yeah, I know, the 2nd Rush reference, but it fits.

A friend of mine has a website called “Good Enough Mother” (http://www.goodenoughmother.com) and she posed a question the other day whose answer did not come easily to me. If I had a crystal ball, would I want to know the future, a finite point in distant time.

It’s not an easy thing to think about. The reason being the first question on everyone’s mind when they see these things is sadistically curious: if I had known what would happen to Andrea would I change how things came to pass? I’ve actually had someone pose this question to me before and I hate it.

Let me preface my comments with the fact that I truly do hate the way I feel right now. People who don’t know how to handle knowing someone who has lost their spouse try to get me to act like I’m normal and happy and everything’s OK. People who miss Andrea want to commiserate about how much they miss her because it makes them feel better, never mind how we feel. Others just don’t want to deal with it and use the old “you’ll get through this” or “those who loved once are twice as likely to love again” cliches. I hate that. I really mean it, I can’t hide my disgust and disdain for it. I know they have the best of intentions, at least in their own minds. In reality it makes them feel better because they’re uncomfortable around someone who is just not feeling whole anymore.

So in order to answer the crystal ball question – on both ends of my hypothetical life – let me start with the conundrum that I face when I approach this question. There truly is a part of me that absolutely wallows in the sorrow and thinks that nothing is worth this much pain. It really hurts, like nothing I’ve ever faced before. It’s funny, because all those studies that talk about how breakups and heartache can have the physical symptoms of real pain make me laugh. They’re the product of people who live in a clinical world and have obviously never, ever, faced any kind of relationship or breakup. But add to that the fact that I’m not just facing discomfort but the reality that I’ll never see the woman I love again and you scoff at the studies because nothing I’ve ever faced hurts that much.

Yes I’m avoiding answering the question thus far. But here’s my mindset: part of me thinks that if I’d known what would happen and stopped myself from going out with her and avoided all this she might still be alive. She might never have been here, never had 4 kids, never had the liver problems, circulation issues, none of it. She might have been a TV anchor living in DC or New York and one of the most successful people I ever met.

But look at the things neither of us would have had: no kids. No life together. She used to tell me she was on a self-destructive path, that she was falling apart and I came in at the perfect time to stop her from going down that road. I used to tell her that I was a shadow of who I am now, the real person buried under tons of emotional debris. She might have left us earlier had I not been around as well. I might never have moved up in my career, never done anything but shoot video in small town Iowa.

Then there’s the most important thing: I would never have had those four amazing children.

So what about my distant future? Don’t I want to know if my kids made it, if they’re OK, if they’re successful and able to function on their own?


Neither option works for me. Here’s why: as much as it hurts, and it is awful. It’s like the arrow pierced my heart and was ripped out, leaving shards and little pieces of her behind, but never enough that it stops from hurting. The scar tissue hasn’t even come close to growing around it yet. She’s gone, there’s nothing I can do, and it hurts. But I still have the most amazing memories.

I have the story of our lives up to this point. I see its tragic end, the horrible, awful moments in the hospital, hearing her ribs crack as they beat on her chest and seeing the doctor ask me to make the choice for them to keep going or to stop. It’s a position I hope none of you EVER face in your lives. It’s awful, it’s painful, and it’s messy. But if I saw only that without seeing the amazing night we spent together after her sorority formal, or the first time we made love realizing we’re both awkward, uncomfortable and breaking out in laughter that made us both starry-eyed, changing our feelings to honest-to-goodness love, I’d be missing so many things. I’d never see that beautiful baby Abbi coming out, fighting everyone who tried to hold her only to snuggle up to me and fall asleep in my arms and my arms alone. I’d never have a daughter whose birthday is also my birthday.

I’d miss the pain but I’d miss the memories more.

So if I saw that finite future, the ending to the kids’ stories or the way my life plays out I have no idea what the rest of the book says. It’s like looking at the end of the book before you even read the first few pages. Sure, you may know that butler did it, but what if the dead body was someone who tried to kill the butler’s daughter and he killed the man to save her life? You have no idea.

I don’t like the idea of knowing the ending. There’s far too much left out in that finite moment.

I hurt, a lot, and I wish it would go away, but I wish it would get worse, too. The pain is awful but it dredges up those memories and reminds me that she was here, it wasn’t all a dream. The better I feel the less her presence is in the forefront of my mind, and I don’t want it to fall into the background. I loved her, I miss her, and I see her slipping away day by day. This will be our first holiday without her, and when we get through it I’ll have been through almost every holiday without her.

I don’t want that. I have to have it, but I hate that it’s happening.

So keep your crystal balls. Tell your psychics to stay away.

I’m much happier here, looking at the anticipation of what happens next – waiting to find out how our story begins.


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