He wanted me to go through my dead daughter’s apartment like a common pilferer and leave everything I didn’t want for the landlord to sort and discard. I was numb with grief. Being numb with grief does not stop people from saying some very offensive things. Much of what is said can be dismissed as unintended blundering. A time of mourning can often leave people tongue-tied. However, some of it is cannot be rationalized away and is simply mean and callous. My husband is and has always been an asshole. Behaviors that were rationalized away before he cheated are now missed red flags waving forward. Red flags asking me how did I miss their bright color.
We learned about my daughter’s death on a Tuesday morning. She had been ill with the flu. After no one heard from her and she wouldn’t answer her phone or door, the police were called. According to the autopsy, she had died shortly after the first day she stayed home alone to get over the flu. By Wednesday afternoon, we were on the road. We had needed 24 hours to get a bank loan for the funeral expenses and rent a large van because we had decided that her children would come back with us.
From Wednesday to Friday we drove. By Friday afternoon, I had met with the funeral director and arranged my daughter’s funeral for Tuesday. Her funeral would be exactly one week from the time she was found dead. That didn’t stop people from grumbling about how it was taking so long. There was the obituary and eulogy to write, as well as meeting with the florist, church, post office, apartment landlord, police, and print shop, all in the span of four days. Through tears and disbelief. After the funeral, there was the task of cleaning out her apartment and sorting through the children’s things and deciding what we could take that would fit in the van, go to family members, and charities.
My husband refused to help me with her apartment. Instead, he spent all of his time food shopping and making dinner for one of my friends we were staying with. At night when we readied ourselves for bed, he would complain that she didn’t appreciate the meals he was making. My daughter, my first-born, the sweetest woman in the whole world had just died. I didn’t give a damn about food, much less his grilled salmon, steak or lobster tail. Who cared that the Walmart deli sold fried shrimp for $2.99 a container. It was all ridiculous.
Two of my brothers and two close friends worked together with me over three days to make sure all of my daughter’s things were carefully considered and directed properly. The husband used those days to spend money and act as if he was on vacation. The church did not have a large pull down projector screen for the funeral service. What did the husband do? He bought a large and expensive screen, and then donated it to the church. He bought little flowers for all the churchwomen who helped with the food and the music. He told anyone who expressed concern about the children’s future that no one should worry, that he would make sure they wouldn’t need anything. While it was happening, it seemed very kind and I was very appreciative. As the months of grieving went by, he fished more and more for gratitude. He never grew tired of hearing about how much he had done. His appetite for compliments was insatiable.
For the first year, I tried to process my grief, stay well (I was physically sick with cold, bronchitis, chest congestion, headache, eye infections, backaches, generalized pain all the time), aid the children through their loss, console my teenager and help her adjust to having more children around, and stroke the husband’s ego for all he had done, —which was to spend money. He did no handholding, no hugging children, no consoling, and no reassuring his daughter or wife. He set an expiration date for our mourning without consulting us.
Today my teenager and I were talking about that sad time and before I said anything she said, “Remember how daddy decided after a month that we had had enough time to get over Charlotte.”