It began with a pumpkin cream muffin.
I was meeting a friend in a new coffee shop. I hadn’t had lunch and was hoping they had sandwiches. But all they had were baked goods.
The tasty treats came from a sandwich shop and bakery in another town, one Dale and I used to frequent a lot.
That week, a good friend reminded me I used to call intentionally triggering myself “ripping off the band aid,” as in, I’d rather get it over with quickly and let the wound begin to heal slowly.
That idea was born from the very first very raw days of my loss, when my friend, Kathy, was still staying with me. As we drove by Dale’s workplace on our way to town, she said, “I just can’t bear the thought of you having to drive by this place every single time you go to town.”
I thought about that and decided the more I did it – the more I ripped off that band aid – the more normal it would become. Slowly, I began to rip the band aid off. It took awhile and a lot of tears, but eventually, things I used to do with Dale that I now am doing alone, became my normal. I sometimes don’t even think of that being Dale’s former workplace when I drive by.
So, I ordered a pumpkin cream muffin, my favorite from that bakery I had only been to once since Dale died. I sat there, alone, waiting for my friend and allowed my sense of taste take me back, back to my life “before.”
It was hot out that day, but I imagined the cold, dreary days we’d gone to that restaurant and ordered a hot sandwich and soup and loaded up with baked goods to take home. I always got the pumpkin cream muffins. Dale’s favorite were the oatmeal raisin cookies. From there, we’d browse the cabin store when we had bought our log bed.
The trigger did bring on a grief wave, one that lasted longer than I intended. It was kind of a rough rest of the week. On top of it. plans didn’t come together for the weekend in my new life and I found myself once again alone.
Something a good widow friend told me just that week resonated, “There’s things to do, but I don’t want to go out and do them alone.”
I decided my plans falling apart, however, was a sign I needed to get out and do some things alone. Getting out on a Saturday to do things is also different for me. It is one thing I have avoided, not just because it’s more crowded on the weekend, but that was the day Dale and I always went out together.
That Saturday, I went to an airplane show in my town. I then headed over to the local state park gift shop; something Dale and I used to do. I shopped then sat for awhile on a bench where we’d sat many times before, overlooking the lake and dam.
Along the way, I allowed the memories to wash over me. I allowed myself to imagine riding along with Dale, watching him smile as I guessed the year by the song the local radio station was featuring with a rerun of “American Top 40.” My worthless talent is my knowledge of classic rock. I thought of all the times “Still the One” played on the radio and how I would sing it to him (badly) and he never complained.
I smiled as I saw a VW bug and how we always played “punch bug,” playfully hitting each other in the arm.
I drove on, hitting a couple more stores and ended up at the local pet supply that has a little bakery (barkery) case with baked doggy treats. Dale and I would splurge once a week and get our fur kids something special while buying dog food.
I chose three cookies with paw prints to take home.
When I walked into MyLittle House that hot afternoon, the dogs were, predictably, very happy to see me, especially when they got their “special treats” I kept telling them I had in my hand.
For the first time that week, I felt a sense of release. I realized I was getting used to being alone, driving alone, doing things alone.
It began with a pumpkin cream muffin and ended with paw print cookies.
I ripped off the band aid and I am continuing to heal.