I have a running conversation with Jimmy in my head that only stops when I'm asleep. I doze off and we both rest in peace. This is not all that different from our marriage.
I'm sure his version of heaven didn't include hearing me whine, "Why can't you help me find my keys? Wait a minute...are you deliberately hiding them so I can't go out? Will something bad happen to me if I leave the house today?"
Then I wonder if he's protecting me from harm so that he doesn't have be with me again so soon. That's my theory for my mother-in-law's longevity. Fanny's husband's been dead for almost 25 years and he's probably up there whooping it up. Our loss will be his gain...or the end of his fun (for all eternity)
When I really want to have a heart to heart with Jimmy I go into the closet. Surrounded by all his shirts and slacks and shoes I am more with him than anywhere else. It's easier to find than the cemetery. And, let's face it, there's no pressure to bring flowers.
The other day I needed to talk with him about whether or not I should go to Atlantic City to gamble. Casinos have always been our playground. On our honeymoon we went to Las Vegas. Just last January we spent New Year's Eve in Atlantic City and two weeks later we were in Vegas for a few days.
In July I made plans with Barbara and Judy to go for my birthday and I cancelled a week before. It just didn't feel right. I couldn't imagine walking by the familiar statues at Caesar's or seeing a heavy set guy leaning over the crap table. Jimmy's voice would be the voice I'd hear each time a "Yo - Eleven!" would ring out throughout the casino. And, okay - I felt guilty that I was still here able to enjoy what he never could again.
The day we had chosen to go was July 6th - the day before my birthday and only day in the history of New Jersey that they closed the state for 24 hours including all casinos. I don't remember the reason for that political move by the governor, but I do remember getting the heebie jeebies thinking if I hadn't cancelled I would have been convinced Jimmy was pulling some strings saying, "Oh, no you don't. You're not stepping into a casino without me!"
Now it's seven months and I stood in the closet waiting for permission. Defensively, I told him I was pretty sure he would have gone by now if I was the one who died. I promised him I wouldn't bet more than I usually do. I knew as soon as I said that it wasn't true. I took it back.
"Come on" I said - "You know I'm going to bet a little heavier without you to answer to." I felt his exasperation. He was sensing that I was experiencing a new kind of liberation, something a wife never feels within a marriage and if it's a good one, shouldn't.
So, now I'm liberated. I'm standing in the closet explaining myself to four rows of neatly folded sweaters.