“It has to stay on for 24-hours,” I said, not aloud, just in my head as I have done for many of our afterlife conversations. “It’s a memorial candle, it marks your November 2 anniversary.”
“Your people are weird,” Tommy said. “Why celebrate my death? Why not my birthday? Our marriage?”
“It’s not a celebration,” I said. “More an occasion to remember our loved ones. Did you hear me recite the memorial prayer; His resting place shall be in the Garden of Eden? I like that. It helps me cope.”
I went on, “I imagine you in my version of the Garden of Eden, playing golf with Bill and some other departed duffers. Your voice is fully repaired, so you’re teasing each other with each shot. Am I close?”
“Pretty good,” Tommy said. “Add in that we never have to reserve a tee time. We can walk on any course, any time of day or night.”
I loved that image, so I took our conversation a step further. “Can you believe, sweetheart, it’s been an entire year? Blink of an eye,” I said.
“Well, you’ve been a busy girl during that year.”
In my mind, his voice was proud not angry. I recognized that cherished tone because it was one that bound me so closely to this second mate. I could see him at the 2006 book launch for my memoir; first row, first seat, beaming at me as I stood on the stage of Women and Children First.
Tommy was my first reader for the book. I’d hand him 10 pages, which he grabbed as eagerly as if I was writing one of the Elmore Leonard or Ruth Rendell novels he loved.
“Great,” he’d say. Or sometimes, “I don’t like the chapter title,” or “I don’t understand this Yiddish word.” Those reviews were my cue to alter or translate.
“Yes, it has been quite a year,” I said, winding back to his assessment. “You supported all of my activities, right, honey?”
There was a hush from my illusive conversation partner. He’s likely reminiscing about our house, I thought, the one we lived happily in with our Golden Retriever, Buddy. The house I sold.
A few beats later, his response: “It was hard to watch you leave Dakin Street,” he said, confirming my suspicion. “But I understood you had no choice. Without me to do the maintenance stuff and without Buddy to protect you, it was too large and too risky to stay alone. Still, I felt a pang.”
I quickly changed the subject that was raw for both of us. “So, Tommy,” I said. “How are you keep tabs on me? Watching on high from a cloud?”
“I read your blogs,” he said.
I hit pause on our chat as I quickly reviewed a year’s worth of posts. Were they all favorable? Had I exposed anything he would prefer hidden? When I started the first blog, “The Rookie Caregiver,” I called him to my computer and asked if he’d like to read what I had written.
“Pull up a chair,” I said, nervous about his reaction. My husband was more private than I, even elusive about his past, so I worried how he would feel about this Internet publicity.
But he avoided a seat and instead stood behind me as I scrolled through the pages. He patted my shoulder, and raised two thumbs, his universal sign back then of “Okay by me.”
“You’re fine with all of this past year’s posts?” I said to my dearly departed. I wanted to be sure I understood him correctly. I knew there could be several filters between heaven and earth that might mess with communication.
“Sure,” he said, “I’m quite the superstar up here,”. “Everyone is jealous they’re not kept alive – well, sort of – like me.”
“Your privacy,” I said, “you don’t have a problem with me sharing our stories with the world?”
“Sweetheart, don’t get a big head. It’s your world, your friends, and your fans. You’ve never kept secrets from them.”
I was relieved to hear this, to get Tommy’s blessing. “Okay, honey,” I said. “You can rest easy. I promise to blow out the candle before I go to bed.”
“Good girl,” he said, then, “love you, Wifey.”
“Love you, too, Hubber, I said; misting at the memory of our pet names for each other.