One of my son’s teachers just called. My son goes to a relatively small public high school with a lot of teacher-parent communication, but still, when a teacher calls, it’s never really a good thing ― you know what I mean?
My husband died in January and the kids and I seem to be tiptoeing across a field of landmines every day, never knowing what to expect when we step out of bed each morning. But I have developed a pattern of reaction: Whatever pile of bad news I step in, I find a way to blame my dead husband.
Like when I went to the supermarket and forgot to buy the plump chicken breasts that a recipe called for. I was so accustomed to buying the thin cutlets for his renal-friendly diet that I grabbed them by mistake ― muscle memory, rote, operating on two cylinders ― call it whatever you want. The meal came out dry, the kids said. It was my husband’s fault.
Or when our AAA membership lapsed and I swear I never got a notice and now I have to pay $20 extra to renew it for no good reason except AAA says so― that’s also my husband’s fault. He took care of all that stuff and now I’m supposed to do it?
Don’t get me started on all the things he put on automatic renewal. (But not AAA.) These subscriptions to sports channels, magazines, prescription drugs that just keep on coming even though there is no one here to watch, read or need any of it. His fault, all of it. How do you cancel things that you don’t know exist? Or that you don’t have a password to?
Same for the overdue oil changes on the cars and the kitchen ceiling light bulbs that I can’t reach without a ladder. That was always “Vic stuff,” not “Ann stuff.” Dammit.
So yes, my phone just rang and it was a teacher calling to ask how I was doing, except not really. He was really calling to let me know that my son didn’t turn in a big paper that was due last week that counts for a million percent of his grade or something like that. And he could have been doing some extra credit, but didn’t. And he was supposed to turn in X, Y and Z, but maybe at least Y and Z are in his backpack? I ran out of yellow stick-em notes midway through the call and just jotted down highlights on my arm with a pen so I didn’t forget them.
My husband was the homework king. He was the one who would read the English literature books along with the kids and talk with them about themes and symbols. And now, because he is not here anymore, my arm looks like I’m besties with Kat Von D and apparently there is a lot of homework that isn’t getting done.
This is the part of losing a spouse that nobody talks about: Who does all the shit that he used to do when he’s not there to do it anymore?
A marriage is a partnership; at least a good marriage is. It’s not that I’m a damsel in distress who can’t figure out how to call the cable company or deal with the insurance or fix the broken sprinkler head or make sure the flashlights have batteries in them.
What I can’t do is be him. Or bring him back ― which is the landmine I stepped on today when I got that phone call from my son’s teacher.