Excerpt: 'Love You, Mean It'

"So what's everyone going to do?" asked Julia. There was such overwhelming anxiety surrounding this question. Every eleventh of every month was a date to be reckoned with. We counted every day, week, and month that slipped away from us. How could it have been three months since my husband and I talked? How could it be seven months since I last saw him smile? How could it be six weeks until the one-year anniversary?

"I don't want the time to go," said Ann. "It's too soon for it to be a year." "I know," said Claudia. "It's only July and I'm already sick to my stomach." We all knew there was going to be a ceremony downtown, and we all felt the push and the pull to go. "I want to go," Pattie told the others. "After everything our husbands went through that day -- I couldn't imagine being anywhere else." We knew that Pattie was right. And if we went together, maybe somehow we could make it through the day.

Pattie picked up the wineglass in front of her, but as her hand brought the glass to her mouth for the much-needed gulp, her elbow slipped from the table edge. The full glass of wine emptied itself across the tablecloth, and all over Pattie. Ann, Claudia, and Julia were reaching for napkins. The four of us were suddenly laughing and calling to the waitress for more napkins. This, like so many other things, came under the category of "not a problem." In our former lives, we might have said "disaster." Not surprisingly, that word had a whole new connotation these days.

Claudia started digging around in her bag. She'd remembered the gifts she had brought for Ann and Julia, two small books in colored calfskin leather made by the company she worked for, Cole Haan. Pattie always carried around a little black photo album filled with pictures of her husband, Caz; Claudia had been inspired and done the same with photos of her own husband. "Here, ladies, pick a color," Claudia explained. "They're called brag books. They are supposed to be for new parents to show off pictures of their children, but Pattie and I use ours for pictures of The Boys." When we were with one another we could actually laugh about such things. Putting pictures of dead husbands instead of new babies in brag books. Saying good night to the empty urn on the bedside stand. Wondering if a person can "roll over in a grave" if they don't have one. In the moments of black humor there was connection and hope. Because if we could make one another smile that meant that we could inch ourselves up from the bottom. We'd paid for these laughs with a million tears. Someone made a toast to being able to laugh again. "I'll drink to that," we said, before remembering that Pattie had emptied the last of the wine. Perfectly on cue, the waitress appeared carrying another bottle of red. "It's on the house," she said.

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