I had a brief encounter with “normal” today. It crept down two long aisles and snuck up on me from behind the art supplies. I startled momentarily because I could not immediately identify my interloper. Gradual recognition dawned, and I realized I was face to face with the person who used to be me.
I was a little surprised that between the front door and the back of the store, I had not noticed her stealthy advance. I cannot blame her solely. The soft sounds of Christmas music, the pleasant sight of beckoning merchandise and countless shoppers who seemed not to notice the half of a woman I have become all abetted her.
My first impulse was to send her away. What business did I have keeping company with someone so carefree and happy? I was perplexed by this turn of events, but she was a familiar companion, and I found it refreshing to let her stay, if only for a while.
Together we shopped, walking among the other women as if life were normal, as if I was not half of the person I used to be. A stranger asked my advice as if I were just any grandmotherly type. My suggestions enhanced her project, and she was grateful. In return, and without knowing it, she gifted me with a few moments of being just any woman.
For a couple of hours, with normal at my side, I was caught up in the spirit of giving. I had no burden other than checking off the boxes on my errand list. I think I was happier than other more harried shoppers, who found the crowded stores and seasonal traffic their greatest woe. I finished my tasks and headed home. Normal slipped away as the brightness of the day was fading, but not before I had the chance to call out softly, “Thanks for a pleasant afternoon.”
I have taken over twenty-four hours to process Friday’s experience. I had not realized the great extent to which “normal” went away until suddenly it reappeared—although only for two hours. Loss multiplies loss, and in the equation, I have lost not only my husband but also any notion of who I am. I am an oozing, gaping wound; the crippled half of what was once a vibrant whole. Loss of identity is my widow’s wear.