Dear Walt,

I am sick. I woke at 2:30 a.m. with a coughing fit that flattened me and realized I had no one to hear. Both of our older kids were asleep upstairs with theirs. My door was shut. I had one cat and three dogs in the room and they’re useless. The coughing seemed unending but after about twenty minutes I was able to rest.

This is what it’s been like the last two years without you. I have family I can count on but I don’t have you. You, who would be awake listening to me breathe to make sure I was. To ask if I needed water or a throat lozenge or Tylenol in the middle of the night. These are the hardest times without you. The times when you would know, and you would be here, no matter what I might need, sick or healthy.

I took off my wedding ring this morning. I’d decided a while ago this would be the day I would try. I’m going to wear it on my right hand this year. Unless by the end of the day I can’t stand it and move it back to my left. I want to wear it because you chose it. You, who said you didn’t want to wear a ring went and picked them out and only then brought me to see the pair of simple sterling silver bands. You, who said you didn’t want to wear a ring and lost it playing Frisbee with our dog early into our marriage, then walked off a grid on the median until you found it. I bought a ring sizer to wear yours, too, but it’s so big it’s just too bulky. It’s in my nightstand with my migraine meds and my stash of chocolate. All the important things together.

I’m not doing Christmas again this year but decided while out the other evening and seeing all the lights that next year will be the time. This year I’m still not ready. Next year I will be. I’m not sure how I know that, but I do. I’ve made it through this second horrible year and tomorrow the days begin growing longer again. It’s as if you gave me that gift after leaving me, knowing how much I love the sun. I have your birthday left to get through on January 2nd, then my third year without you begins.

I was sitting on the toilet crying a couple of days ago (grief doesn’t give a crap about when and where it strikes), sucked into the reality that I’ve been without you for two years. It makes no sense. How has time passed without you here to spend it with me? So much has happened that you weren’t here for and I hope you know how much we all have felt that loss, that big fat hole where your sarcasm belongs. The roll of your eyes then the loving crinkle at the corners. Oh, how I miss your eyes.

I’ve not been able to drive my car since summer. It has an emissions issue which means it won’t pass inspection even though it’s perfectly drivable. (You would’ve handled this by now but it’s in next month’s budget.) I sit in it sometimes and talk to a picture of you on my phone. I still feel you there, less so in the house since so much of it is not the house you lived in before the flood. And today, even though I have a houseful of little people awake before their dad, I’m holed up in my room feeding my soul and leaving them to the Pop-Tarts. Today I need to be with you. To talk to you and feel you. Two years into this life I never wanted but always knew with your heart would be mine, and I still don’t know how to do life without you. Yet I do. As do too many others I’ve met who are making their way through this passage of grief. I get up, I make the coffee, I do the work.

I’m not sure that’s what life is supposed to be but for now that’s what it is. You and I never talked about life after us because we had no reason and then you were gone. It wouldn’t have mattered. I’m only able to do what I’m doing. I know you’d be happy that I’m working again. I know this because of the crinkles at the corners of your eyes when I tell you and you smile. I think about the day you read my final edits of your work, got up from my desk, crossed to the couch where I was sitting, leaned down to kiss me and said, “You are good.”

I hold your faith in me in my heart. Your pride. Your support. Your love. I feel your arms around me when I lie in bed and drift off to sleep. It’s not the same as having you here but it’s all I will have of you for the rest of my life and maybe one day, maybe next Christmas, I’ll be at peace with that.