The Reason Why
Whenever I find myself in a conversation with someone who doesn't know me, or hasn't heard my story yet, I suddenly become socially awkward. In the past, I could find commonality with just about anyone, especially other moms. We could commiserate about our impossible kids, our incompetent husbands, or our deep need for wine. I could talk story about the beautiful weather or something I saw online or a book I've read. I've been known to strike up conversations with perfect strangers in Target and then become best Facebook friends (you know who you are). I'm not shy. Anyone who knows me knows I can talk. So it was confusing when I started to develop social anxiety.
The anticipation of the get-to-know-you questions turning toward the topic of my husband makes me outright anxious. Someone might ask, casually, how long my husband and I have been living on island. They might want to know what he does for a living. They might ask if, like many people who live in our community, we are military. And the more nervous I become, the more quickly I blurt out that my husband died.
In some conversations, I last longer than in others, but I am sure to mention it at one point or another. It's like I can't help myself. I've learned to just drop in "my late husband" so they will get the idea. This works well because now they are aware that he is gone without me having to say out loud that he died. Most people are respectful enough to make a mental note of this and move on from there. That, or they just don't know what to say, so they say nothing at all. I almost wonder in those situations if they heard me correctly. Some people will offer condolences. Some will pause and give me the look. Once in a while, a person will tell me that I'm way too young to be a widow. I can only agree.
Sometimes, though, a person might ask how he died. This always throws me off a bit. I'm never quite sure whether I should be offended by their nosiness or impressed with their gall. I also must confess that it makes me somewhat uncomfortable. Because now I'm worrying about how my answer will make them feel. It's my own hangup. People that love me like to remind me that I don't owe anyone an explanation. They tell me these people shouldn't be asking me in the first place. I've never been good at boundaries. The asshole in me is tempted to answer with graphic details in order to punish them for their intrusion. To shock them into silence. To teach them a lesson about minding their own business. But instead I just respond with a simple answer. , trying not to relive that terrible night in my mind.
I struggle with just the right facial expression and tone of voice to use. I am aiming for neutral. I remain calm, trying not to relive that horrible night in my mind. I say in a matter of fact way that it was suicide. They usually crinkle their brow and say oh. They were probably not prepared for that information. They most likely regret asking. And there's almost always an awkward silence to follow. Not only have some people had the nerve to ask me how my husband died, but a rare few have had the audacity to ask me why.
I spent long hours and late nights, drinking in the dark. I talked to the pictures of him on the refrigerator. I sat on the kitchen floor. Crying and begging. Reviewing and repeating all the moments and events leading up to this. All the unspoken words. All the gestures. Searching for what I missed. Working to uncover clues. Looking for something to blame. Asking why. Why he didn't talk to someone. Why he didn't ask for help. Why none of us saw what was happening. Why I couldn't save his life. I was terrified of what I might find. I wasn't sure I wanted to know. I might not like what I found.
There was a time not too long ago where I felt responsible. My answer would have been that it was because of me. It was my fault. I wasn't paying attention. I missed the signs. He had mentioned he was depressed. I didn't take him seriously. Getting sober was a challenge for him. I didn't try hard enough to convince him to go to rehab. He was hinting that something wasn't right. I didn't ask enough questions. He asked if he could move back home and I asked him if he really thought that was a good idea. I was starting to feel like I didn't know him. His behavior was giving me the same uneasy feeling that I felt in childhood. The manipulation. The unpredictability. The lack of safety. I wasn't sure I could trust him. I should have put my pride aside and been there for him. I should have done more. I should have known.
Some could say he had it all. Living in paradise with a wife and son. Wearing a Rolex, drinking top shelf scotch. A bookcase full of awards. Family vacations, date nights and Aloha Friday pics posted on social media. Some could say it was all falling apart. He had left his wife and son. He was at risk for losing his job. His coworkers had watched him start to slip. He had run out of money. He had nowhere to go. He was struggling to get clean. Some could say he was mentally ill, although he was never diagnosed with depression or bipolar or any other mental health disorder. Some could say that some people just aren't meant to live on this earth.
I wanted so badly for there to be an easy answer. A reasonable explanation. A valid reason he ended his life. It would let me off the hook. It would ease my conscience. It would end the search. It would quiet my racing mind. It would fulfill my curiosity. Clues uncovered. Mystery solved. Wrap it up and put a bow on top. But it doesn't work that way. The only person who knows what truly happened it gone. And it's been a hard pill to swallow. I've had to learn about suicide and mental illness. I have to remember he wasn't well. I have to remind myself that what he did doesn't mean anything about who he was or how he felt about us. I try hard to love myself and to allow the feeling to come, even though that feels awful sometimes. It takes constant practice to have patience with myself and other people and to not argue with reality. This shouldn't have happened but it did. There is no reason why. It just is.