I’ve been alone for four-and-a-half years now. Sometimes, I count each year on my fingers and when I get to the half-a-year, I try to figure out a way to represent that with a whole finger. I wonder if I should cut off the finger or just bend the thumb. The thumb seems to be the most flexible on my left hand. I don’t mind the loneliness anymore—truth is that I don’t even feel it anymore. I’ve worked hard to overcome that most primitive human need for companionship, for affection, for love and now I accept the solitude; I even crave it. It wasn’t easy. No one ever said it would be easy.
During the first year, maybe a little longer, I remained numb. Reality didn’t sink in until I stopped talking to myself. I’ve since resumed talking to myself, my dog, my walls—anything really. I know that the echoes of my horrible voice will simply rise to the ceiling and then crash to the floor. Then I think that is one of the reasons people avoid me—my voice. I was born a girl, and every time I check—I’m still a girl, but my voice sounds like a heavy cable catching on the gears of an elevator. Can you imagine that? A small-framed woman with a booming voice like a faulty elevator cable—ugh. I consider all the nouns used to describe women—princess, angel, chick, babe, diva—and they all have one thing in common—the perfect sound. Stop laughing; they do. Close your eyes, picture each noun, and imagine how they sound when they talk. Heavenly, isn’t it? My husband once told me that was just one of the things that he found attractive about me—my voice. He always thought the raspy voice sounded sexy. He was twitterpated. Without him telling me how much he loved it, it took almost five years to accept my voice with all its deep raspy tones, but I’ve finally realized that it doesn’t matter how I sound; it’s what I have to say that matters. It wasn’t easy. No one ever said it would be easy.
The second year passed; there was still numbness, but it was like when your foot goes to sleep and the feeling starts to return—you know that weird, tingly feeling, sort of like needles pricking your skin all the way to the bone—it was like that. That was the year I had a breakdown because of a milk jug. Seriously—a milk jug. I was getting a glass of milk; I still drank the two percent then, but switched to skim milk since. There I was with the milk jug in my hand and it hit me—I could drink directly from the jug if I wanted. Just like that—BAM—the realization that I was truly—alone. I dropped the milk jug, spilling milk everywhere and fell to my knees. Remember the voice—yes, well; the hysterical cry is not a pretty thing either. It’s not that I wanted to drink from the jug—I didn’t; I just wanted him there to say, “Relinda, don’t drink from the jug.” He would know if the temptation to do so showed in any way. He was good at that. We were always joking with each other. I called him “ass” and he called me “master ass.” We were good like that—always joking and laughing. I miss that. Missing someone so much that you cry for them in your sleep because you don’t want anyone to see you crying is not easy. People said it would get easier—people lie.
The last two years have been the hardest. I’ve spent most of the last year accepting that he’s not coming back—ever. I’ve also been coming to terms with spending the rest of my life alone. I’m getting better. My new motto is “Alone but Strong.” I am strong. Doyle knew how strong I was; he told me countless times. He was amazed at my physical strength, but more amazed at my emotional strength. I carried dead chickens, thirty pounds in each hand; hauled hay; unloaded a ton of 50-pound bags of cow feed every week; carried 100-pound calves around; turned cows over when they couldn’t do it themselves; and pulled calves, of course, I was strong. I don’t think I can do those things anymore. I survived my children’s terrible twos and terrible teens; fought cancer; watched my Mom fight cancer; survived my son’s crisis; dried everyone else’s tears; never shed my own; and nursed everyone else back to health, of course, I was strong. I don’t know if I can do those things anymore. It was never easy. No one said it would be easy.
On December 19, 2014, I’ll be counting to five. At least I won’t have to contemplate removing a finger. I know I’ll still be alone, but I don’t think that will bother me. I don’t celebrate Christmas anymore; I have no desire to do so. He was in the ground for only three days when Christmas came. I buried him on the 22nd, and went to work the next day. Then, I couldn’t go to work for two days because of the stupid holiday. I wanted to work. I wanted to do anything but think. But I was still numb, so mostly I just stared at the wall—holding his shirt—wishing. . It wasn’t easy. No one ever said it would be easy.
I don’t mind the loneliness anymore—truth is it’s seeped into my soul and become a part of me. I don’t need affection or love anymore either. I have goals that I’ve worked hard to reach and solitude is my friend. I don’t need anyone to make me feel pretty or special anymore. When Doyle was dying, he made me promise that I would finish college and get my degree. He called me his college girl. I can still hear him, “College girl” in his southern drawl. I don’t need anything but to keep that promise. It’s not easy. No one ever said it would be easy.