Ever been a 5th wheel dining alone with other couples? I never had until I was recently invited out to Happy Hour at a restaurant with two other couples. It was my first time since my husband, Jack, had passed, and my monkey mind was coming up with all kinds of worries about being a “half a couple”, and especially needing to “hold up” my husband’s large, funny, entertaining presence as we were all used to. In fact, the favorite part of our prior gatherings was how he and the others loved to have sparring contests, exchanging clever (never hurtful) insults and laughing at their wit and cleverness. It was always so much fun.
Now, I’m not that funny, or witty, or good at “roasting” so it wasn’t my thing, and I feared being the boring one in stark contrast to the combined coupled role we had played before. My husband was an easy partner at any gathering, since he loved the laughter and took the pressure off of me to carry that responsibility. And now, by contrast, the last thing I needed was to be a Debby Downer replacing “us”. I knew it would be hard enough to suppress those sneaky grief moments when it felt impossible to stop my eyes from filling up, but now I thought I also had to find a social spark that would replace what we represented as a couple. Afterall, this group hadn’t been together for eight and a half months since he passed, and so this was important to me to help make it upbeat and be happy. The challenge was on!
Right before one couple came to pick me up, I had been on my cell phone and getting my purse ready to go. As I started mindlessly looking for my phone to put in it, it hit me that I was talking on it. It made me laugh out loud! When they pulled up and I joined them in their car, all I had to do was to tell them the dumb thing I just did making us all laugh. Everyone then shared their own “I can’t believe I did that” story, and the evening was at least started off with some laughs.
When we got to the restaurant, the other couple arrived. I hadn’t spent time with them since Jack passed and, as most everyone has done when they first see me now, they ask, with a lowered voice and sincere compassion, “How have you been doing?” It’s one of the hardest parts of putting yourself “out there” once you decide to come up for air and socialize again. Being reminded that it’s hard, is also hard. I have to find a quick diversion so my brain doesn’t drop naturally back to a thought that makes my eyes fill up and my jaw get weak. I immediately said that I was enjoying all of the clever messages and signs from his spirit, and that they were so entertaining and gave a few examples. Afterall, who doesn’t like a good ghost story? Once I saw a complete change in the energy at the table…almost a relief that it wasn’t going to be a sad widow moment.. everything changed. We all actually enjoyed retelling our old, funny stories about him. It felt like we were honoring him and his energy was with us.
Of course the discomfort came back when it was time for the waitress to give out the checks. She asked if we all wanted separate checks. One couple indicated they were together, and then the other couple did, too. My husband had always handled that when we went out, so I wasn’t sure what to say since I was the fifth one and alone, so I just smiled and jokingly said to the waitress, “And I’m single!” It felt awkward, and I made a mental note to come up with something better next time, but the waitress was sharp and compassionate. She immediately said, “Great, then I can be your plus one!” I was relieved and so appreciated her comic relief and kindness. I told her I’d get this check, to which she answered, “And I’ll get it next time.” As she and I played the game out, everyone laughed and enjoyed the release of tension. What an angel she turned out to be (no surprise), and exactly when I needed it!
Isn’t it amazing how much time we waste worrying about something in the future that all works out okay in the end? And how angels on earth seem to be there at just the perfect time? I’d love to hear your stories if you’d like to share.