What I wouldn’t give for something to happen without my direct involvement

Sometimes I look around my house and I wish in the most fervent way that something I had left in a certain place had been moved.

But not by my Brittany dog Sassy, who loves to steal my belongings and store them in her crate, or try to trade them with me for something she wants.

No, I am talking about the kind of possession relocation that occurs when you live with a spouse or significant other.

You know. The kind of thing where you put an object in a specific place so that you would remember to do something further with it, and then your husband comes along and, realizing it’s out of place, puts it where he thinks it belongs.

Spouses do it to each other all the time, because how we place and store possessions is a very individual thing. We are not exactly programmed like squirrels are to store our acorns in specific places.

If you truly get to know your spouse or significant other, you can make an educated guess as to where the missing object might be. Or you can always ask.

This phenomenon becomes a part of the fabric of your daily life when you are half of a couple, and you learn to take it for granted. At least I did.

I hadn’t realized the truth of it until my husband Jim died from pancreatic cancer six years ago. You wouldn’t think details such as these would hold much significance, but believe me, when they are gone, it’s like hitting a brick wall.


The fact that everything stays exactly where I had left it is a rent in the fabric that can never be repaired. And it constantly reminds me of who is missing and how drastically my life has changed.

When Jim was alive, there were many times that I would go to work with dishes in the sink and come home to a clean kitchen, and supper on the stove, almost ready for the table. Laundry would be percolating. Things would be happening. The house was alive.

Now if I go to work with dishes in the sink, they are still there, waiting for me, when I return home. The quiet hum of the refrigerator and the low sound of the fan in the pellet stove in winter greet me as the backdrop for the music I had left playing for the dogs, confined securely in their crates.

And the old farmhouse that always felt so alive when Jim was in it feels dormant, waiting for my presence to breathe life back into it.

Everything is exactly the same as it was when I gave my domain a final glance before closing the door behind me to go to work.

I am dealing with that part much better than I was. Focusing on what I have to do immediately when I get home — such as letting the dogs out of their crates — helps me ignore the pangs of loss.

But the other — the fact that nothing moves without my intervention — honestly makes me feel weary at times. To know the salt doesn’t get dumped into the water softener, or the pellets lugged in and dumped into the pellet stove, or the mail and newspaper brought in, or the path to the oil fill pipes shoveled, or the errands done, or the clean glass left inadvertently on the counter because I got distracted doesn’t get put away without my participation, gets old.

Coupled with a difficult winter of weather and bouts with seasonal illness, the enormity of the situation can be overwhelming.

What I wouldn’t give for something to happen without my direct involvement.

In other words, I miss Jim well beyond the loss I feel in my heart. I miss him every day on a practical level. I miss his humanness and the sense of partnership we had for the day-to-day doings of our lives. I miss sharing the burdens and the joys that are part of living.

I recently had a humdinger of a cold. As I sat at my grandmother’s table in my kitchen, I saw the stack of bowls from a couple days of cereal and soup peeking over the edge of the sink, which I knew also contained a few Tupperware tumblers, and random silverware that needed to be washed.

And I suddenly couldn’t stand the mess, nor did I have the energy to wash the dishes, and it was all too much. I sat there and cried like I had just lost Jim, instead of it having been more than six years ago — all because the dishes wouldn’t get done if I didn’t do them myself. I suddenly felt so tired.

This is not about independence vs. being tied to someone. It’s about a shared life, and what it really means every day to mourn the loss of it.

Jim would have thought me silly had he seen me sitting there crying, but he would have put his arms around me anyway and hugged me to him to let me know he loved me and I was not alone.

Yeah. I miss that too.


Julie Harris

About Julie Harris

As a longtime employee of Bangor Daily News, I have served many roles over the years, but I now have a dream job as Community Editor. I live in Hermon with my four Brittany dogs: Sassy, Bullet, Thistle and Quincy, who keep me busy in various dog sports. I was widowed at age 51 when my husband, Jim, died of pancreatic cancer.