Grief Diary: On The Death Of A Mate

My father died five years ago. My parents were married for over fifty years. Mom was only nineteen years old when they got married and my father was thirteen years older than her.

When dad first asked my grandfather for mom’s hand in marriage (dad was old-fashioned like that), my grandfather said he wanted to speak privately with my mom before giving consent. He sat her down and told her that because my father was significantly older than her, she would most likely outlive him. Being nineteen and therefore, seemingly immortal, and also terribly in love, she shrugged it off, but she never forgot her father’s words–perhaps because he died only a couple of years after that conversation.

When my father first died, mom brought up that conversation with her father a lot. You can know from the time you are nineteen that you will most likely outlive your spouse, but knowing and experiencing are two different things.

My parents didn’t always have the happiest marriage. It’s not a “happily ever after” situation, but no marriage is. That’s just for fairy tales. Dad was a good man, but he was also was an alcoholic. I never met him, but from everything I’ve heard, my grandfather was also a good man and an alcoholic. My mother, having been raised by an alcoholic, was blind to my dad’s alcoholism as most children of alcoholics are.

Mom was the last to know about dad’s drinking problem. When she found out, she gave him an ultimatum–his family or his alcohol. Strangely, it worked. He chose family. With a few early stumbles, he stopped drinking cold turkey. My father had willpower unlike any I’ve ever known. He was sober for almost the last 25 years of his life.

So, when it came time to choose a mate for myself, as the child of an alcoholic, I was blind to the red flags just like my mother. Male was a good man and an alcoholic, too. So the cycle continues. Happily ever after.

In the fifteen years I knew him, we didn’t have the happiest relationship either. In fact, other than the first year and the last few years, we didn’t even have a defined relationship. The years in the middle, we tried to push each other away, but we always snapped back. We were electrons zipping around the same nucleus.

Not long after dad died, a coworker said to me, “I feel badly for your mom. While both of you lost your mates, you’re still young and attractive. You can find someone else. Your mom probably won’t.”

Aside from generally being an idiotic and insensitive thing to say to anyone, my coworker clearly didn’t understand how profound the loss of my father was to my mom and Male was to me. My parents were together for over fifty years. Even if my mom found someone else to love, there’s just no replacing that.

As for Male and I, we were both broken and our jagged edges matched perfectly. I can’t ever replace him. We were bonded at an atomic level. We couldn’t be separated without nuclear fission; in this case, death.

I’ve never loved, trusted or truly known another human as much or as long as I did Male, and I probably never will. That may seem sad, but the fact that two broken people even made it there at all is nothing short of astounding. Some people never experience a bond like that. It is a cause for celebration.

Of course, if I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t have skirted around the issue as long as I did. I wouldn’t have let him die alone from a seizure in another state. I would have tried to keep him from dying at all. But, that’s not possible. It is what it is (which has to be the dumbest phrase in the English language, but it fits).

So, my mom and I, both having lost the loves of our lives, are single and will likely stay that way. I’m not saying that we are incapable of loving again, but we can never find what we lost.