*originally published online 9.14.16
Dear two bikers coming down the big hill at Battelle Darby Creek, as you rounded the path that parallels the creek itself:
What you saw: me, sobbing as I power walked up the hill, body heaving, face shiny and wet with so many tears it was impossible to see if I even had eyes, smiling at you, a reflex of my solid, Midwestern upbringing, as you chatted about the descent but immediately grew silent when you crossed my path
What you didn’t see:
*A Starbucks Sunday morning date, now a weekly solo venture, usually spent working on my teaching blog, writing, or catching up on email, but today spent conversing with the parent of one of the varsity basketball players my deceased husband coached over his 32 years in education. The parent reminded me that now that I was a widow, football season was going to be difficult for me, as that was my hubby and my biggest shared love throughout the 25 years we were together, the start of school was going to be hard with no one to talk to, that the upcoming basketball season I would now be spending alone after 31 years would as well. Good thing, because I never realized these things on my own.
*A decision to go walk at BDC because I needed the movement to rid my body of the sadness and pain that had settled in my muscles and bones after starting my 22nd year of teaching without someone to vent with nightly about the stupid things parents, students and administrators did to make teaching no longer enjoyable…or teaching.
*An Eagles song popping up on my Pandora as I walked, reminding me of the reunion concert we went to so many years ago in Cleveland, in the stadium that no longer existed, much resembling our marriage post-prostate cancer.
*The excited and prancing German Shepherd bounding along the creek’s edge, pausing to bite at the water, shaking his head, his proper and pointed ears remaining alert at all times.
You didn’t know my husband, so you wouldn’t have known his lifetime love affair with teaching, shepherds, walking, the Eagles, fall sports or Battelle Darby Creek.
But if you did, you’d know why I was sobbing. Thank you so much for not asking if I was ok, because I wasn’t. Also, thanks for not asking if you could help, because you couldn’t. You gave me the best gift a stranger can give a sobbing, grieving woman: the space to cry in public without being ashamed or whispered about.