Most of my friends know that I have a difficult period each year during the months of February, March, and April. I lost my wife Betty to pneumonia and renal failure on February 12 in 2009. That was one month and one day short of her birthday (March 13) and about two months shy of our fifty-first wedding anniversary. Ergo, my “blue quarter.”
It is interesting to note how my feelings have changed in the intervening seven years. I recognize now what I did not comprehend at the time. My reaction to her death was almost despair, which could be said to be normal. But from this distance, I understand it for what it was. Selfish grief. Apart from missing a companionship built over a long period of time, I can see now that my reactions centered around my losses. I couldn’t cook… who was going to feed me now? Who would wash my clothes, my dishes, keep me presentable? (I’ve always been something of a slob.) See to the upkeep of the household?
My grief didn’t mature into a true sorrow for the loss of Betty until probably the first anniversay of her death. Then I began to appreciate the things she brought to our relationship rather than simply resent the loss of them. Perversely, that made her loss more keenly felt than when I was wallowing in self pity. Ironic that I had to stop resenting the loss of her contributions to the marriage before I could really appreciate them. Human nature… or just Don’s nature? I honestly don’t know.
I’ve chuckled with friends over the fact that Betty and I couldn’t agree on a lot of things, including the year we came from Denver to Albuquerque. I thought it was 1961; she insisted it was 1963. Judging from our younger son’s birthday (he was born in Albuquerque), she was likely right. We also disagreed over our wedding date. She was certain it was April 8, and I knew for dead fact it was April 12. Our marriage license had been misplaced, so eventually she sent to Denver for a copy. Guess what? My dead fact was a dead duck. We were married on April 8 back when they were still using the Julian calendar. The two dates I have never confused were the day of her birth and the day of her death.
The picture above is not one of my favorites because of the background the photographer chose. Betty had bright, copper-red hair which doesn’t show up in the photograph. In the actual picture, she’s holding our younger son on her lap when he was about a year old, but I had to crop it. Grant is taller and stronger than I am these days, and he’d tear my head off if I were to show him in that pose.
So I’ll be a little quieter and more restrained over these next three months. Not as much so as in prior years, but my meloncholy will never totally disappear… just become more bearable. I miss you, Betty Darlene Claiborne Morgan.
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