Winter of Our Discontent: Two Years of Winter


Two years ago today I wrote this. Since then it has been two years of being always winter. There is still a Janet-shape hole in my heart and always will be.

Do not get me wrong. I have been in many ways fortunate over the last two years. While it is always winter it is not always winter and never Christmas. My winter is not the Norse Fimbulwinter. There are thaws and mild days. Christmas comes.

I have paid off the debts incurred due to her illness (and my trip to the emergency room the month following her death – a severe medical episode on the part of a caregiver frequently occurs shortly after a spouse’s death). I am on my way to restoring my retirement fund by the time I plan to retire. I have a new and challenging job, one that is fun. I am writing more than ever. I have a new granddaughter and a new daughter in law.

I have put my life back together. I do my laundry every week, make my bed every day, fix a full dinner almost every evening (reality sometimes intrudes), and clean up afterward. I go to work weekdays, and go to church Sunday. After living alone for six months, my nephew moved in with me, having found a job in Houston, and needing a place to stay. I am no longer in the house alone.

Nor do I keep to myself. I found a job outside my house to keep myself interacting with other people. I have become more involved in my church. I have gone out on dates. I enjoy things. I have become more active in my hobby groups.

Yet winter it remains. My day is filled with reminders of Janet’s absence. Something I cannot find, which she would have known the location of. Advice she no longer gives me. (I especially miss that.) An address for someone that she would have known but cannot now provide. I find something that would interest her, then suddenly remember I can no longer share it. It is hard to explain – there are just times when I feel a lack of something, and I suddenly realize it was something I could have gotten from her. When others are around I hardly notice. Rather, it is when I am alone, by myself.

The most pointed reminders occur after midnight. Asleep, I reach for her in bed … and she is not there. It is not as noticeable in the Houston summer (although it happens occasionally). But in the winter months when it is cold, I miss her warmth, when we would snuggle together and slumber.

Will I get used to it? I think I have – but only in the sense that someone who has lost a limb gets used to its absence. We were a team, part of a larger whole despite our individuality and independent identities. Now I am not. The team has been sundered forever after over 40 years together.

I miss her – and always will.

If I could erase the 45 years I knew her from my life and had gone through life alone, I would not do it. Living a life without commitment is seductive, but ultimately hollow. The years we had together are worth the pain of separation. More than that, it means I would have spent 47 years like the last two. Forty-seven years of winter instead of two. Winter is the season where things do not grow, and over our life together we grew much. You cannot grow a family without commitment.

As I said two years ago, if you are married, do me a favor. Today give your spouse a hug, a kiss, and tell them you love them. For no particular reason – just because. You will never regret having done that. After you no longer can, you will regret every opportunity you passed up doing so. That hour might arrive sooner than you think. And then winter arrives.

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There are 18 comments.

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  1. Arahant Member

    God bless, Mark.

    • #1
  2. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens

    I think of that post often, friend, and I have told my wife that no matter what, I would never trade what we have had so far.

    We heal from loss, but we are never who we were with the person who made us better. 

    Love ya Man.

    • #2
  3. EODmom Coolidge

    @seawriter I am loved as you love your Janet. But I might not have appreciated quite the whole depth of that love if not for your original post. I am wondrously blessed. We are married for 33 years and I hope to be married your 45 – but we started a little late. I am sorry for your grief but am so grateful for what you reveal about what love makes possible and helping me to be more grateful. Thank you. 

    • #3
  4. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat

    I remember that post too.  It was beautiful and so is this one.  I am glad you have found peace.

    I sometimes tell people that right now I’m living my “other” life.  It’s not the life I would have preferred, not the one I planned for myself, but it is the life I have.  I have made peace with it and take joy where I can, focusing on the positives instead of the negatives.  

    • #4
  5. KentForrester Coolidge

    An eloquent post, Seawriter.

    I particularly like the fourth paragraph, the one that describes the routines that make up our lives.  They somehow help to keep things together, don’t they?   It’s so easy to let things go.  I admire your ability to stick to your routines. (I don’t think I would make the bed.)

    The passage in which you reach for her in bed is just wonderful.

    I guess your post struck me so hard because I’ve started to think about what I would do without Marie.  We’ve been married 57 years, so we’re a lot closer to the end than we are to the beginning.  I’m a male and five years older than she is, so I’ll probably go first.  But who knows?

    It may sound a bit silly, but I know that Bob the dog will be a great comfort to either of us.

    • #5
  6. Seawriter Contributor

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    It may sound a bit silly, but I know that Bob the dog will be a great comfort to either of us.

    We lost our dog, Dixie, a few years before Janet fell ill. The dog literally worshiped me (in a Roman god of belly-rubs and walks  way) and her loss really shook me. I remember thinking at the time if that was how much it hurt to lose a dog how much worse would it be like if I lost my wife? Now I know.

    • #6
  7. AQ Member

    I remember your post, and this one today is, if possible, even more touching.  

    My husband and I will soon celebrate our 48th anniversary.  We met 50 years ago this month.  I can only hope and pray that, when the time comes, the one of us who is left will have as much courage as you. 

    • #7
  8. Seawriter Contributor

    AQ (View Comment):
    My husband and I will soon celebrate our 48th anniversary. We met 50 years ago this month. I can only hope and pray that, when the time comes, the one of us who is left will have as much courage as you. 

    You have to go forward, because you cannot go back.

    One thing this made me realize was the pain the loss of a loved one created. I have three sons.  While the loss of a parent is not as devastating as a loss of a spouse (or a child), it still causes pain. I know how much it hurt when my father and my father-in-law died, although that was ameliorated by both of them being in their nineties when they died.

    I was (and still am) in my early sixties, which by today’s standards is relatively young. If I had simply given up, sunk into despair, and died it would have hurt my sons terribly. I could not do that to them, or to my grandchild or potential future grandchildren. They want me to be part of their lives. I need to be there for them as long as I can. It would take more courage (or narcissism) than I possess to abandon that obligation. The are part of what makes the winter mild.

    • #8
  9. GLDIII Temporarily Essential Reagan
    GLDIII Temporarily Essential


    Our biographies seem remarkably similar, marrying our high school sweethearts, having a few of boys, we are both engineers working for NASA a good chunk of our lives. Six weeks ago my sweetheart got into a head on collision, which totaled her newish car, but it’s sacrifice allowed her to go almost unscathed (just a fractured heel and hand). The casts have immobilized her, so no writing, (just a little sewing, but her quilting is on hold), no walking, sort of moving around on a knee scooter for the moment. Stairs are a real hurdle, so she has been sleeping on the house’s main floor on the guest convertible couch. 

    I could have lost her in the blink of an eye at the cusp of us finally retiring, well at least for me getting to retire anyway, she already finished last year.  We are going to do the travel, and other dreams we planned for when we could follow our whims again, like when we were essentially kids and had nothing, but each other and our paid as we went degrees.

    Tonight I think we get her up the stair to our bed, because like you, she has been missing the comfort. I’ll share this second remembrance of Janet with her and think of you guys in her honor.

    • #9
  10. JustmeinAZ Member

    I am not going to “follow” this post because it and the comments are stirring up pain. Must avoid pain.

    • #10
  11. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue

    Thank you for a moving reflection on grief and love. The Lord be with you, Mark.

    • #11
  12. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    Your post brought a tear to my eyes.  I remember your other post, too.  Please allow me to make a small suggestion.  You mentioned that you sometimes find things that would interest her, but she is not there to hear them.  Maybe you could start a new book, called “Letters to Janet”, of those things you think she would be interested in, when you think of them.  Keep the narrative open, adding new things when you think of them.  Then, later, you could self-publish it to hand down to your children and grandchildren.  And you could keep the lines of communication open to her, even now, since she is actually there in spirit, and probably would smile down from Heaven at you.

    • #12
  13. DaleGustafson Coolidge

    I’m mostly a lurker here but for now I will come out of the shadows. 16 years ago my wife died, I still cry some, songs as I’m driving will do that. A while ago I ran across a Garth Brooks song that has meant something to me for awhile. One single line distilled it all:

    Our lives are better left to chance (aside, or God, but to us unknowable). I could have missed the pain, but I would have had to miss the dance.

    The song is “The Dance” The pain remains but so do the memories of the dance.

    • #13
  14. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat

    DaleGustafson (View Comment):
    Our lives are better left to chance (aside, or God, but to us unknowable). I could have missed the pain, but I would have had to miss the dance.

    I love that line.  

    • #14
  15. Mike Rapkoch Moderator
    Mike Rapkoch


    • #15
  16. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown

    This great story of love, and a long winter of loss is part of our Group Writing Series under the January 2020 Group Writing Theme: Winter of Our Discontent. Share your tale of winter, discontent, content, or maybe tell us a tale of someone done wrong by an author or film maker. There are plenty of dates still available. Our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits.

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #16
  17. GrannyDude Member

    Seawriter, I could just write “ditto…yup…ditto….ditto….” 

    I am 24 years out,  and am now…what shall we call it? Mentoring? A new, ridiculously young widow.

    She’s doing so well…but she feels, strongly, that her real life was an interrupted thing. She knows the “before” life, can feel it more vividly than the life she is in now.  “I know,” I say, because I do. “That gets better,” I tell her, and it is true. Her life won’t always feel so strange. At the same time—and this, too, is comfort—-there will never come a day when she doesn’t miss him, though it won’t always be as excruciating as it is right now.

    Whenever I think of her, my heart hurts for all that is ahead of her, mixed in confusing ways with pride at her strength and awe at just how brave we are to love each other. 

     I’ll go hug my just-in-time (as opposed to late) husband now.

    • #17
  18. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo

    Seawriter: As I said two years ago, if you are married, do me a favor. Today give your spouse a hug, a kiss, and tell them you love them. For no particular reason – just because. You will never regret having done that.

    Done and done.

    Thank you, Seawriter.

    • #18
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