The Senses of Him

man s hand in shallow focus and grayscale photography
Photo by lalesh aldarwish on

I heard Peter sneeze this morning. He has…had, damn it…allergies. They’re especially bad in the Spring and Fall when all the changes happen. I’d like to say he was allergic to change, but that’d be me. Peter had a unique sneeze. I suppose sneezes are like snowflakes, no two are alike. And I heard his unique sneeze this morning. At first, I took it as a circumstance, then I realized he was dead. It hit me all over again like it does every time I realize he’s dead – with despair and shock.

I have phantom limb syndrome when it comes to Peter. You know, the sensational pain one still feels even after a limb is cut off. That’s how I am without Peter in my life. Like, when I’ll pull a Betsyism – those moments when I mispronounce a word and/or say something unintentionally humorous – I’ll pick up my cell to text him about them because Peter and I laughed our hardest with those. Or, something will come up in the news and I want to call Peter for his opinion, one I didn’t always agree with, but always respected. Or, I’ll eat a certain food, drink a certain drink, have a particular conversation, meet up with a mutual friend,  experience unnecessary drama, or any and all of the above and I want to share with Peter. Only Peter isn’t here and the pain of his absence stabs me repeatedly, like slasher in a bad B-movie on a loop.

Recently, I felt Peter’s arms around me, holding me when I opened the refrigerator door to grab the cream for my tea. The feeling was strong and real and one that warmed me with the protection of him. And then, I smelled him. In my mind’s ear I heard his caramelly voice and his soft chuckle. In my mind’s eye, I saw his crooked smile. And then, I longed to taste him again. My senses grew overloaded from this, from the memory of him, and I stood, cream in hand, taking it, taking him all in. It was comforting and sad and it just was.

Peter and I were bonded in so many ways. He taught me a lot in my life, aa I did the same.  We learned from each other. He taught me about restraint, balance, patience, kindness, and dedication. I’d like to think I taught him about silliness, indulgence, loyalty and empathy. I know he was the Yin to my Yang and we were each other’s balance. Once he died, I became off-kilter and, perhaps I need to feel him, hear him, envision him in order to right myself again.  People are filled with coping mechanisms to help them survive and I am no different. I don’t know. What I do know, is what I see, feel and hear are all real…to me.

I’ve been told the missing and the wanting and the pain from the absence never goes away. When people lose their life’s person, all of the byproducts of grief remain forever and always. The survivors just learn to live with it, learn to live with the missing part of them. In my deepest of grief, I can’t fathom, nor want to think, how I can learn to live with any of this for years, let alone the rest of my life, but that’s what the people who have gone through this say.

Maybe my phantom pain from the amputation of him in my life is my first step in this learning to live without Peter. Maybe my senses are becoming more aware of Peter and serve as my first coping skill. Maybe I need to feel, hear and see Peter in my mind so I can keep moving on because the paing from the absence of him, only stalls me. Maybe I long for him so much, my mind is trying to protect my heart. What I believe, what I want to believe, is the bond Peter and I had till death did us part, still exists, will always exist and Peter is still balancing me along this reluctant path of widowhood…even with a sneeze.