First 4th of July
Reg’s mom decided to have a memorial celebration for him on July 5. So for my first Fourth of July without him, I traveled to his hometown in Wisconsin. We had never traveled to Wisconsin for the Fourth of July, but he had told me what he did as a child. Therefore, his sister and I, along with her kids, went to the lake where they had watched fireworks as children. In many ways, it was nice because I was with his family and because my brother-in-law had passed away many years before, Reg’s sister understood my pain. We watched the fireworks over the lake, and I tried to imagine what Reg was like as a little boy.
After watching the fireworks, we went back to Reg’s parents’ house. I remember sitting on Reg’s childhood bed and sobbing uncontrollably. Feeling completely alone, I almost hyperventilated because I was crying so hard. I called my mom and finally calmed down when I crawled into Reg’s bed. Although it had probably been 25 years since he had slept in that bed, I felt comforted knowing I was in his bed. I felt safer and protected, as if young Reg were there.
My next Fourth of July without him, the first one I experienced in Denver, felt incredibly difficult as well. For many years, Reg and I had watched a wonderful fireworks display in a nearby section of Denver. We would pack a picnic dinner and lounge chairs, and we would stake out our spot relatively early in the evening. I loved those evenings and watching fireworks with him. After he died, I didn’t want to go back to that same location, as I figured it would be unbearable. (In fact, just driving by that spot at other times of the year brought me to tears.) But, I didn’t want to spend the Fourth of July alone. I reached out to numerous people to see if they had plans or wanted to do something. They either didn’t respond or already had plans.
I ran a 5K Liberty Race in the morning and got a massage in the afternoon. Otherwise, I was entirely alone on the Fourth of July for the first time in my entire life. I had sobbed for days before the Fourth of July holiday, knowing this would happen. The Fourth of July is a time to be with families, and my friends all have spouses and families. So, everyone was busy. After reaching out to the fourth person who had plans or just didn’t respond to me, I finally got tired of trying. I realize people’s lives were busy, and they weren’t consciously excluding or abandoning me. But, I felt completely rejected and distraught. My friend Meg (who is not a widow) texted me to see if I was okay; everyone else was busy and didn’t even check to make sure I was surviving, which made me feel so sad.
That Fourth of July fell on a Saturday. After feeling so much pain and shedding so many tears, I finally decided to treat it like any other Saturday night, which I usually spent alone. I decided there was no reason to expect to be happy or okay that day. I decided older widows probably stay home alone on the Fourth of July. I generally think people my age are supposed to be out having fun with others. But, I decided to just be like an old widow: content being alone.
Once I told myself I would be alone and that I shouldn’t expect to be happy, I felt okay. Many years ago, I had an outdoor cat enclosure built for my cats, which is a large cage with a doggie door to let the cats into the space. I decided to sit in the cat enclosure with my cats, who didn’t know it was a holiday, and read. To them it was just another day, so I tried to imitate them and treat the day like any other. They were thrilled to have me in the enclosure with them, and I felt so thankful to them. While everyone else had rejected me, they still loved me and were happy to have me home with them. I finally settled down. I read my book outside all day and night. It was pretty relaxing, and I felt content. I felt sad when I had to hear fireworks throughout the city for about two hours. But otherwise, I was all right.
At one point, it poured rain. I felt happy about that, as I figured other people’s plans were getting ruined for at least an hour. I imagined they had to get soaked or run for shelter and abandon their barbecues, picnics, and gatherings, at least for an hour. I know that doesn’t make me sound like a nice person, but the rain made me feel better.
While I felt awful that I was all alone on the Fourth of July, Dakota had the exact opposite experience. She had always spent the Fourth of July with her family. After her husband passed away, she didn’t want to be around any of them. Although they missed her husband, they were happy and celebrating, and she understandably didn’t want to be near them. Therefore, she just stayed home by herself and felt miserable.
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