Well here comes his birthday again. If one more person says something stupid about their advice or experiences regarding what I should do about it, I'm going to jail. I have heard everything from "You should release balloons in his honor!" (Doesn't that kill something innocent somewhere when they drop? You do know they don't really make it to heaven right?) to "Why not buy him a cake and celebrate?" (Well you know he was a diabetic and couldn't have a piece of cake if he were here right?) How about I do whatever in the hell it takes for me to see the sun rise the next morning? I might cry. I might work. I might drink. I might sleep. I very well might do everything I said and more. But as long as I get out of the bed the next morning, then I did what I should have to celebrate his birthday. We generally spent his birthday quietly. A card. A waffle. A present. Last year I walked outside at midnight and whispered to the sky. I cried. Because I well and truly miss him.
Strangely I find that people also tend to forget who Richard was in real life. They forget a hot temper and at times a foul mouth. They don't remember the man. They remember the myth. He was perfect and good and true. Just like a saint. Saint Richard. Never forget I loved this man. I loved him because of his faults not in-spite of them. I loved his clumsiness.I loved his silliness. I loved the fire in his belly when things were wrong or unfair. But I argued with him incessantly. We fought like we loved each other: Hard and without mercy. He laughed when I practiced my "flying phone technique" on a customer service representative and when I picked it up to continue yelling. I laughed when he was offended and lost his mind on doctors, lawyers and police officers. The man I loved had to go sit in his truck when our son had a car accident because the man who hit him was uninjured in the wreck. The man I loved was the most feared of his brothers and the smallest. The man I loved was a hard man and he loved me hard. He was mischievous. He could be malicious. Richard was many things in this life, but never, was he ever, a Saint.
The same people who have canonized my husband have determined that I am to be a Martyr. I am a poor victim of life and I should lie down. Lie down to die. I have been through many things in this life. The key word here is through. I have survived things that could chill your blood. Sometimes they have chilled mine. But I am no ones victim. The same woman who beat the phone over the granite counter-top until it was in fifty pieces whilst on the phone with the customer service representative is the same one beating on this keyboard. (That was the same phone call by the way.) I am the same woman who made my son's teachers cry and the principal called Saint Richard to say "Don't you ever let her come here alone again." To which he replied, "I can't do a thing with her. I would advise you don't make her mad again." I was the deacon's wife that they never asked a question for fear I would give them an answer. Richard and I shared many an adventure in our marriage from dust in his eyes that got us escorted out of the grocery store by police to a near fight in Wal-Mart with a woman who kept hitting him in the foot with her cart at Thanksgiving. We also shared thousands of waffles and millions of tears. But he loved me as I am and not some fictionalized version that some would paint of me. I will not lay my life down for the cause. Well, not this one. I am no ones Martyr.
However one of those people used to tell me she had a perfect marriage. Then I got closer and listened to the love story. He was 20 years older than her. He was a gentleman and her mother was in a conniption fit because she was seeing him. He had a good job. He was good to her boys. What she forgot to tell me was that he was married at the time. She also neglected to tell me he had a gambling issue. Or that she had a drug problem. When he passed away, she was cold. Cold to the fact that her perfect marriage was over. Cold to the fact that he was gone and she was alone. Their love had grown cold. If you have a perfect marriage, please stay away from me. You are either in denial or you are an accomplished liar. Neither are welcomed in my life. My marriage was messy. It was never cold. But my sainted grandmother used to say, things don't grow without heat and rain. He loved me the same the day he closed his eyes as he did the day I met him. There was a kinetic energy between us. I was empty when he left. Real things are not perfect. Real people are not perfect.
Let me explain something ladies and gentlemen. Real love is fire. Fire that is in your bones as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow. Love is commitment that holds fast when the world would tear you apart. Because in love you will work to the others weakness. Love makes you better. Not necessarily better humans, but a better version of you. To pull together in adversity. To turn on a dime to defend what you believe in and whom you love. Love does not need encouragement from outside parties. It should drive you to run faster, to work harder, to strive and to achieve. Love should be a place where you are there regardless of circumstances. Richard and I had that illusive thing. The thing that held us together. Love is not perfect. Flawed people make the best lovers. So when you think of my husband and I, I would ask that you temper you memories with some truth. With some laughter. With some anger. For just as God in heaven welcomed my beloved Richard home, he knew he was no Saint. Just as I am sure he looks at me sometimes with laughter in those beautiful green eyes and says that I am no Martyr.