MyTurn: In Her Shadow
Some days, I feel like the mistress of the house. Some days, I feel like an interloper prying into someone else’s home. And some days I feel as though I am the shadow following her footsteps.
“Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”
– C .S. Lewis.
Building a life is not easy. Rebuilding is even more so, especially at an older age with tumultuous histories and baggage.
My husband’s first wife passed away a few years ago. I live in the house they built together. I never knew her, but I feel her aura all around me. Her photographs and knickknacks are strewn about around the house, gently reminding me of her absence… and of my presence.
Some days, I feel like the mistress of the house. Some days, I feel like an interloper prying into someone else’s home.
I love my home. Every room feels familiar. It’s hers, it’s mine, it’s ours. Some days I feel her eyes, her shadow behind me, beside me, when I am walking the corridors of the house. And some days I feel as though I am the shadow following her footsteps.
My husband is a gentle, caring man. I feel so lucky to have him in my life. Some days, when he looks at me, I feel I am on cloud nine and bask in the love and feel safe and happy. And some days, I feel he is looking past me, searching, comparing?
I sit on the patio sipping my morning coffee looking out at the towering, swaying trees. I hold the cup and think this was her cup, her lips had touched its rim. Some days, I hold the cup tight letting the heat of the coffee warm my fingers, trying to feel some connection. And some days, I want to run to the nearest store and buy new cups all of my own.
At parties and family get-togethers, I meet her friends who are now my friends. Someone or the other invariably brings up her name fondly, extolling her virtues.
Some days, I smile brightly, proud to be associated with her at any level. Some days, I smile sadly, sorry for not having known her. Some days, I feel a cold fear gripping my heart, filling me with dread, with an inane insecurity that I cannot compete with her memories. And some days, I just feel anger and hurt at the insensitivity of the person who had brought up her name.
Their children are really so wonderful. They have accepted me into their family, their lives wholeheartedly. I am immensely gratified with their generosity.
Some days it breaks my heart to see a child without their mother. They are all adults but the loss of a mother is a deep aching cavern of agony. I can fathom it, feel it, and want to hold them and comfort them. And sometimes, I feel their eyes, trying to comprehend that I am here because their mother isn’t.
Let me repeat that. I am here because she isn’t. That is a very heavy cross to bear.
I write this in the study where there are six photographs of her of various sizes and at different levels. Some smiling at me, seraphic, like an old friend, an older sister. Some not so smiling, pensive, as though she can read my dippy thoughts and is not happy. And some laughing. Is it at me? Did she get the last laugh? Not here but still here.
The other day I couldn’t find my flip-flops. You know the kind you wear around the house, that are so worn and comfortable. I looked for them everywhere. Maybe the dog hid it, maybe the robotic vacuum cleaner pushed it somewhere. This was so frustrating! As I was rummaging through some shelves in the garage, I came across a pair of old dusty black flip-flops with faded gold dots on them. I stared at them knowing them to be hers. I looked at them for a long while and then I plopped them on the floor and put them on.
And just like that, I had slipped into her shoes.
Sonia Handa Kumar, whose work has appeared on platforms like medium.com and allpoetry.com, is putting together a collection of short stories.
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