10 things I miss since my husband’s death

The trouble with being on the road a lot is that I have too much time to think, and I’ve been on the road at least 90 percent of the weekends since mid-March.

It wasn’t my fault I was on the road so much — well, it was, but it wasn’t. It’s just that my interests outside of work involve travel and hands-on participation in events.

Consequently, there were a couple flyball tournaments (think dog relay races), three major Brittany breed club events and a kennel club event, plus practices, meetings, other dog shows (think scaled down Westminster) etc.

On top of that, I legally adopted my adult daughter Jessica, attended her college graduation and held a reception at my house for her, and am involved in helping her put together her upcoming nuptials, including putting on her bridal shower (I was Plan C).

It’s been busy and I’ve been on the road. And thinking. What I am thinking most about lately is what I miss.

This was in 1997. Jim and I had just arrived at a neighbor's house for one of our neighborhood's monthly dinners. We rotated houses between four couples and a widower.

Jim and I had just arrived at a neighbor’s house in 1997 for one of our neighborhood’s monthly dinners. We rotated houses between four couples and a widower.

There are the obvious things I miss, and have written about, since my husband Jim died from pancreatic cancer in December 2010: having someone to come home to, having someone to eat meals with and having someone to turn to in times of crisis — imagined or real. But there are so many other things, and they have been popping into my mind lately. Here are a few of them:

One of the first things I do when I arrive at our camper is set the chairs out on my small deck. Sometimes they feel particularly empty.

One of the first things I do when I arrive at our camper is set the chairs out on my small deck. Sometimes they feel particularly empty.

  1. When Jim and I would arrive at our camper in northern Maine, we would crack open cold beers and toast our time together and our time away from the rest of our world. I still keep that tradition, but now I often share the beer with friends at the campground and we toast Jim and friendship, or I drink it alone. But it’s not the same, and I sorely miss drinking that celebratory beer with my best friend, husband and lover.
  2. This is my 20th summer at the campground, and during a recent visit I realized how many special people I’ve known there over the years who have moved on or died. The most recent was a husband and wife who were longtime friends and camping neighbors who died from separate illnesses over the winter. I miss them all, but of course I miss Jim the most. It was a favorite place for us, and although I feel his presence still, I miss sharing the experience with him in person.
  3. Jim and I often tag-teamed housework. If I washed the dishes, he would put them away. If he washed and dried the laundry, I would fold it and put it away. He would vacuum; I would dust and wash floors. We were comfortable with our division of labor, and it seemed more manageable. Now I have to do it all. I sometimes forget I have to do it all and suddenly I’m looking for clean socks that aren’t there because I didn’t do the first half of the laundry chore. I miss my tag-team partner.
  4. I used to enjoy taking an occasional hot bath, drinking a glass of wine and listening to music. But I also would get beached in the tub and require Jim’s assistance to get out of it. Although I get along just fine most of the time, my rheumatoid arthritis gets in the way of some activities, and getting up out of a tub is one of those unpredictable things. Sometimes I can; sometimes I can’t. With no one around to help me, I cannot take the chance. I miss my leisurely baths, which Jim often would draw for me. He would pour the wine, keep the dogs away (they tended to jump in with me), and stay on standby for when I was ready to get out.
  5. Jim and I really enjoyed the summer growing season. Even though we did not have a garden our last few years together, we would stop at farm stands regularly and enjoyed coming up with new ways to eat the fresh produce. I have thought of this often as I have watched my little salad garden grow this year. It especially came to mind when I pulled a young radish this week, wiped the dirt onto my jeans and ate the fresh tidbit on the spot. Jim would have loved this little garden too, and I would be replanting radishes by now. I miss sharing the season’s bounty with Jim.
  6. There have been two chipmunks running around outside of my house lately. They drive the dogs nuts and I worry about them getting into the house. Jim would have declared war on them and had them gone by now. I would have heard about the results, but could have stayed out of the process. I know all I have to do is set the live trap and relocate them, but I don’t seem to think of it. I miss being oblivious to such issues.
  7. On rainy or stormy days, Jim and I would hole up in the living room and watch movies or other shows that interested us, or take on an indoor project. Or if we were at camp, we would play cribbage or some other game and listen to music. Rain gave us an excuse to kick back a little — to be lazy or a little carefree. I miss my rainy day partner.
  8. I really miss doing things as a couple with other couples. When you become single, either through widowhood or divorce, your dynamic within your circle of friends changes. They still love you and you love them, but you are no longer half of a couple. And in a circle of couples, that makes me odd woman out. Not their fault; not my fault. It just is. I have accepted it, but I still miss my former role in these circles.
  9. We are bombarded by decisions that need to be made every day. Some are little; some not so little. Jim and I talked over all kinds of things, big and little. I just like to hash over my logic with someone. Jim was that person for me. I miss our discussions.
  10. I am not much of a shopper, but when I felt forced into the role, or went willingly to my favorite craft store, I would take my cell phone with me. Inevitably, my phone would ring just as I was getting into shopping mode. It would be Jim, wanting to know how much longer I was going to be, what errands I had accomplished or what I had left on my list to do. It drove me crazy, but we both worked and our time together was precious. I understood that. So did he. Now, I really miss those calls, and strongly feel the absence of their potential whenever I am doing errands.
My little salad garden is growing well. The lush growth just outside of it is marjoram that escaped the garden last season and has gone crazy.

My little salad garden is growing well. The lush growth just outside of it is marjoram that escaped the garden last season and has gone crazy.

There are so many things to miss from my life with Jim. But the lesson here is to appreciate the small things, because someday they might have much bigger meaning. I’m trying to remember that as I live every day for the rest of my life.

Julie Harris

About Julie Harris

As a longtime employee of Bangor Daily News, I have served many roles over the years, but I now have a dream job as Community Editor. I live in Hermon with my four Brittany dogs: Sassy, Bullet, Thistle and Quincy, who keep me busy in various dog sports. I was widowed at age 51 when my husband, Jim, died of pancreatic cancer.