In my apartment, where I just marked my one-year anniversary after my marriage of 28 years ended, my sixth-floor apartment is down a hallway past a half-dozen apartment doors I pass to and from the elevators.
I don’t know my neighbors. I know their dogs, who I take grest pleasure in seeing on the odd occasion we meet. Most of the pooches are enthusiastic to see me. I take a weird, secret pride imagining the enthusiastic dogs instinctively recognize me as someone more connected to them than most humans. It is a silly, and emotionally satisfying.
One of my neighbors has small children. I see a nanny loading a toddler and infant into a stroller occasionally. I also hear the infant, almost always in the morning. I suspect it is the trauma of the mother’s departure sparking the wails but I may be projecting.
The reason I’m mentioning this one neighbor is the frequency of hand-drawn signs adorning their door. Mom must travel for work. Every so often, I’ll see a “Welcome Back Mommy!” sign taped to the door. Their home must be well-organized, at least better than the one in which my ex-wife and I raised three daughters. The same sign has been used a few times, layers of tape over tape like a faded license plate with small rectangles of month and year stickers built up over time.
On holidays, Valentine’s Day, Hanukkah, and Mother’s Day, other signs have popped up. I am not sure if there’s a dad in the picture. I honestly can’t recall seeing the parents with the kids or if I’ve ever seen the mother with them. While the signs do not trigger grieving every time I see them, they often do. The time I spend dwelling on the memories they invoke vary. Evidently, today is on the longer side.
I realized I haven’t respected my mourning. I’ve tried to push it away. I have talked frequently, with pride, about accepting mourning as something I no longer ignore or hope to “get over,” but something that exists even when good things happen. And yet, some of my mourning is so big, so painful, I simply refused to acknowledge it.
I’ve talked about the depth of the metamorphosis I have undergone since my marriage ended. I’ve said I can’t imagine reuniting with my ex-wife based on my growth and where she is on her journey. So, when I stroll down the dark hallway of my new home and see a sign that reminds me of my last chapter, 3.2 miles away in Arlington, there are times, I fantasize I go home and everything returns to “normal.”
And then I lose compassion for myself, get angry at my self for thinking such heresy. Rationally, I know there is no going back. I know facing the thing that I feared the most has had a profoundly positive effect on me. The problem is, I wasn’t appreciating the depth of the grieving I still experiencing, or respecting its presence.
I am now.
Thanks for listening. Stay in touch. Connect.
P.S. Since we are on the subject of mourning. A scene that holds up 23 years later.