Double TroubleBy Emma Pearson
May 24, 2022
All photos our own
13th April 2021
13th April. One of those dates that – I assume – will always be lodged in my mind, in my heart, in my body, in my soul.
Today is 25 years to the day since Mike and I got married, on a cold, grey day in Grasmere, Cumbria. A few snowflakes fell, which I loved. At least it wasn’t raining. There were daffodils (I’d bloody hope so, in mid-April), and (I was less ecologically-conscious in those days), syrupy strawberries floating in champagne. 13th April 1996.
Fast forward 19 years, we were at the exact same spot on the same day of the year. It wasn’t snowing, but it was chilly and grey. Mike and I kissed each other in the gardens where we’d had enormous fun when we were almost 20 years younger. The kids duly rolled their eyes. 13th April 2015.
Just two years later, a mere snap of the fingers later in the grand scheme of time, on what would have been our 21st wedding anniversary, Mike was dead and we had his cremation and funeral service. Not in frozen late winter Cumbria but in unseasonably, early summer Geneva. 13th April 2017.
And today, just like that, another snippety snap of the fingers, the date has come around again. 13th April 2021.
“Had Mike lived” we would have been married 25 years today. Noteworthy.
I can’t help but notice that there was no card from Mike with my morning coffee, congratulating me, congratulating us, thanking me, thanking us, for that unfathomably long time together.
“Had Mike lived” we would have been doing something to celebrate, even in Corona-times. We would have taken the day off, gone for a long run or walk, had delicious food and wine, and renewed our commitment to each other. As it is, I have ordered a special take-away menu for one for this Saturday night from our favourite local, Rita & Albert, in our village. It also happens to be Megan’s 20th birthday. The end of teenager-hood. Noteworthy and more noteworthy.
“Had Mike lived” I know that both of his surviving sisters, Helen and Ros, would have sent us wedding anniversary cards. I always appreciated receiving them, even though we were both slightly bemused at the practice. I put it down to one of the numerous “Kemp family traditions” that I was unwilling to take on as “wifey”, and Mike didn’t seem interested in appropriating it on our behalf. So we didn’t send cards to the sisters ourselves. But we did appreciate receiving them. I have never been one for remembering other people’s wedding anniversaries – except my parents’, which mum has a handy dandy “jingle” for – “Seven Nines are Sixty-Three”, i.e., 7 x 9 = 63. Or, 7 Sept 1963. And my sister’s. It was the day before her own birthday. I had just recently had our Julia, and in most photos I am breast-feeding her and looking more than uncomfortable in too-tight clothes. Less noteworthy.
It has been surprisingly hard, though, not to receive wedding anniversary cards from 2017 onwards. I noticed their absence immediately. I still do. I feel more married than widowed, mostly. I didn’t at first. I felt very widowed in 2017 and 2018. Very widowed indeed. But over this past year, I have found being widowed more onerous. Heavier. Wearisome. Wearing. It could be about my relationship with Medjool but I don’t think so. It might sound odd, but I feel like I am in a relationship with Medjool, but married to Mike. Something about engrained habits and patterns, I suspect. Perhaps when I have been widowed as long as we were married I might start to feel widowed.
I have missed being married. I have missed wearing a ring (which got transformed into a necklace), and bought myself a new one. For my birthday just a few weeks ago. “From Mike”. I have started to refer to Mike as “my husband” rather than “my dead husband”. I notice my pen hovers for longer over the dreaded “categories” on official forms. What should I tick today? Single? Married? Widowed? I feel a curious blend of all three.
Today is one of those days when I feel both utterly married, and at the same time, utterly widowed. How can this be any other way on the day when, 25 years ago, Mike and I formalised our relationship, never for a moment thinking that on that same date, just 21 years hence, he would be rigid with death and turning to ash?
Yup, on balance, I’d rather be celebrating 25 years of marriage today. It feels more “right”. More what 13th April should be – is – about.