When I am 22 and my future husband asks me to move in, I tell him I won’t be tried out and returned if I don’t work. Because I’m the break it, you bought it kind, the put all or put nothing in kind, not the kind to say it’s okay politely while sweeping up all the heart’s bits into some plastic dust bin, as though it were replaceable, like the daily china, as though what you are losing is replaceable.
When you break a heart you need to own it, always, if for no other reason than so you can be kinder to the next heart in your path, because loss, through trauma or incomprehensible silence or some other means, is a scar that heart will bear always. I broke his. I think some days that this is what he died of, not the cold, not the other contributing factors, not the fall, but heartbreak.
It is nearly Thanksgiving, and it was my husband’s favorite, and even though several years have passed, it is still the hardest holiday for me. This year it is also my son’s fifth birthday, and because I am trying to focus more on gratitude and less on grief, the boy and I assemble a chipboard tree with small cardboard leaves we bought from Target. Each one has a place in which to write something we are thankful for. He says toys and so I say warm socks. He says candy and so I say good food and my son and winter sunrises. He says my new Crocs and I want to write another man’s name down, thinking of last year, when I spent part of Thanksgiving on the phone with him, how he had been a tether to the gratitude, even if he hadn’t realized it, but I can’t. This year he’s a stutter in breathing, a broken string.
Instead, I just write love. It’s what I’m most thankful for, the way the small boy loves me, the way he holds my hand when we are walking, leaps at me for a hug. The way he rests his head on my arm when we’re reading. The way he giggles and runs and yells and takes up space and does life with his whole being behind it. Love. I’m thankful for him to love.
And soon enough the tree is done, and there’s no room for the man at all. No room for him at all, except in my heart where I will bear the mark always, alongside other types of love, alongside husband, alongside brother.
Alongside other scars.