“I wanted to paint my guest room recently. I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but no idea how to do it. I’ve never painted a room before. I tried once. But, my husband quickly swooped in and took over. Being married to a perfectionist certainly had its perks and one of those was that I pretty much never had to do anything handy. Paint? Nope. Mow? Not after I got the mower stuck in the mud once. Laundry? I only had to shrink two pairs of pants before that chore ended. Ironing? Phhhhhttt. Creases are hard. Vacuuming? Just fumble with the attachments one too many times and you’ll get out of that one, too.
But, now, my husband is gone, and he can’t rescue me anymore or make sure I am doing it right. I’m on my own. I lost him to pancreatic cancer. I am figuring out this widow thing as I go. At least, I’m trying.
I gathered up all the materials I needed and headed up the stairs to the room I decided to paint. Tarp, check. Paint, check. Brushes, check. Roller thing, check. Tape, check. I opened the door, ready and determined to tackle this project, walked in, dropped my things – and the strangest thing happened. Grief hit me, and it took me to my knees.
I can’t remember the last time that happened to me. I can’t remember the last time I cried like that. I think it was before he died when I was in the laundry room and the realization hit me that I would never wash his shirts again. Suddenly, I was standing in the middle of a stark room, realizing the same thing. I would never have him with me again to help me paint rooms or do chores or open a can. I don’t know why it hurt so bad in that moment, but what I do know is that grief hurts just as bad on a Monday afternoon as it does on a holiday.
I don’t know how long I laid on the floor. I don’t know how long the tears fell, or for how long I couldn’t catch my breath. I don’t know how long I held my stomach because it hurt so bad. I don’t know how many times I wiped my face or tried to stop, but when I finally did, it was silent. I could hear my heart pounding in my chest, just as I could feel my eyes swell. I almost packed my things up and cancelled the project. I almost took the paint back to the store and returned it. I almost gave up.
And, then, the next strangest thing happened. I got up. I wiped my face, straightened out my shirt, pulled my hair back and drew in a deep breath. I opened the paint can, picked up the brush and just started doing it.
He told me once to roll the paint on the wall in the shape of a letter. It was either an ‘M’ or a ‘W.’ I couldn’t remember which one. So, I did both. I couldn’t remember if I was supposed to do the trim before or after I painted the wall, so I did one wall one way and one wall the other, and believe it or not, they both worked. I didn’t spread out the tarp, though. That was kinda a pain. So, I just held the can as steady as I could and hoped for the best. I did half of a wall, stepped back and looked at it. I don’t know if I did it right, but there was paint on the wall and not on the floor and in my book, that was a win, whether it was perfect or not.
It might sound lame, but I was proud of myself. I stood in the room, looked around, put my hands on my hips and smirked. In that little moment, in my little world, I was a badass. And just when it felt like nothing could get any better, the third strangest thing happened. My teenager appeared. She sauntered in, checked out my work, paused, and then asked if she could help. My jaw almost hit the ground. I can’t remember the last time she volunteered to help me with something and instead of being sarcastic or funny about it, I held my tongue and smiled. ‘Yes, my love. You can help. You can help all you want.’ I figured she would help for about 10 minutes, or until she got bored. I was wrong. She stayed for an hour. She quietly painted and didn’t complain about my music. I didn’t complain about the dishes in her room. For one hour, this chore that I would have never done on my own before, brought us together in perfect symmetry.
I don’t know if she felt it, too. I don’t know if she knew we were missing something by not having her dad there. I don’t know. I didn’t ask. She didn’t say. There should have been three of us in the room. I should have been painting one wall, she should have been on the ladder, and he should have been there telling us how to do it. But, he’s not and my heart has a void. I guess it always will. I guess it will never really heal the way it once was. But like a broken bone, I’m pretty sure, that as time goes on and the more challenges I face, it’s going to heal a whole heck of a lot stronger.
I want to take just a second to thank those of you who have been following my story. I’m so appreciative of the likes, shares, laughs, comments and support. I’m gonna keep making you laugh, I promise you that, but today, I want to make you think. I want you to know, without a doubt that when you feel like you can’t do something, or it’s too big or too much – take a minute. Evaluate. Then do it anyway. Be the badass you are. Even if you don’t think you are, you are. Now go show them.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Diana Register of Meridian, Idaho. Her books “Grief Life” and “My Kid Is an Asshole, and So Is My Dog” are now available in print and kindle. You can follow her work on her author Facebook page, and Instagram.
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