13 years and 364 days after I am married, the man’s vows will be lost to wind the same way his ashes are, and try as I might, on this day, I will not remember a single word. There is no video of that day, no recording of his voice, except on the milestone day when our son first learns to walk, and this week, when the boy approaches another milestone someone will ask me how I feel, and when I say angry, tell me I should just be happy instead. And I will wonder why I cannot just be both, the same way for 13 years since claiming a man’s body I have been both sibling-less and still a sister, the same way I am mother and a kind of father both, the same way I am both still single and yet always someone’s wife. And though it is not my job to make others comfortable with my grief, still, I will try and explain this, that I can be happy for the boy and angry that his father is not here to see this. I can feel them both.
I am not married, and yet I will always be someone’s wife, think about this when, one night on my patio, two months in, I tell a man you are my longest, most stable involvement since my husband died, and we find this funny, for though he makes me laugh and texts me more days than he doesn’t, we are nothing to each other, not really, not yet anyway, except a way of passing time. He asks nothing of me that is hard for my heart to handle, does not, like that one man, tell me it feels nothing, does not, like another, say that hearing my husband makes it seem like we’re cheating, does not, like a third, ask me to open it and then decide he does not want what he sees. He does not ask anything that is hard for my heart to handle because he does not ask for it at all, and years from now, long after I will have last seen him, there will still be gift in this, that a man had not tried to fix me, that a man had not asked me to give him more than he was willing to return, that a man had not asked me not to feel something, had without saying, given me the space to feel both.
13 years and 364 days after I am married, there will be yellow daisies on a drive, petals swaying in wind, a kind of wildness bracketing the highway, early morning fog topping cornfields in blue, all those greens and golds below still so bright, like those paintings I had loved of Monet or Van Gogh, and I will be struck dumb by their beauty. And on the drive there will too be wind through someone’s trees and bright red silos near bright red barns, the boy in the backseat, singing. There will be wind, and it will not give me back the man’s vows any more than will my own memory, and I will ache with that loss even as I sing with that boy, both of us swaying. Because I will still love him, even if I love someone else, will still grieve him, even if I love someone else, will still miss him, even if I love someone else or else never do, on the days I am dizzy with laughter or drunk on joy or filled with some other bright, unnamed thing.
Because 13 years and 364 days after I am married, I am still his wife, even though I am not.
I am always both.