We drove in an ice storm once during the part of the day where light surrenders to darkness. The bullets of frozen rain ricocheted off the roof of the car in a deafening beat. Frozen streaks of water clung to the windshield, not letting go even when the wipers tried to push it off. We reached areas where the storm stopped and blankets of black ice laid before us. Sure, in our thirty-one years together, we had driven through many storms, but this one was the scariest.
I don’t even remember exactly where Peter and I were headed home from. We traveled a lot together, just the two of us. We would take a day trip to his hometown one and half hours away or drive five hours to see my daughter in college. In the past few years, we planned long weekends in surrounding states. He loved to drive. I loved the lull of a moving car and music blaring in my headphones as I daydreamed another story. He was not a talker, and I learned, through him, the peace of just enjoying the ride.
During this ice storm, I said a mental rosary to make it home. From time to time, I looked at Peter telling him I was scared. He assured me we were okay and that he had seen worse. Peter frequently told me he learned to drive on country roads in dangerous conditions. Sometimes he would expound with details, other times he left it at that. I would ask, with my typical sarcasm and tease laced in my voice, if he also walked to school in six feet of snow, backward. He would smile and I would laugh every time. During this storm, there was no back and forth. His concentration was on the road while I focused on the prayer order of the rosary. We did get home that night. And when we did, there was an overwhelming sense of pride in me because I was married to a superhero.
There were so many times in our relationship where I didn’t doubt Peter or his abilities. Most times, I felt he would make it home safely driving through a storm. During his routine physicals, I knew the outcome would be positive – the man didn’t take any medications, for anything, even in his late 50’s. I was confident Peter would be able to fix yet another thing I broke. Even when Peter faced numerous layoffs during his thirty-seven years with the same company, he showed off his powers by dodging those bullets. I was comforted with the knowledge he would be there for me through another one of my own health scares. I knew in a crowd of unruly people, Peter would assure my safety. I knew all of this because he was my protector, through everything. And he did come home to me, safely, with a job, in good health, through a storm…until he didn’t.
One of the things I thought over these past three weeks and lost hours of sleep last night – and believe me, there have been millions – was the man I thought was infallible, died. Not only did he die, but he died in an accident, an accident where he took all the precautions in the world including checking the weather radar, wearing head to toe protective gear, and, knowing him, riding the speed limit. I thought how this man, who got us home in a violent ice storm, died in an accident, on a clear, sunny day. Not only that, but he died before me, a woman who almost touched cancer a few times, and was in more fender benders than him. It was not fair, and it took away a part of what he was to me.
There are so many losses I experienced through the death of Peter, my chosen life-partner. I lost the smell of him, the taste of him, the feel of him, the look of him, the everydayness of him, the humor of him, the quietness of him, and as of last night, I lost an image of him.
I guess you really can tug on Superman’s cape…and bring him to his death.