Learning to grieve – because of a screwdriver

I ended a relationship of seven years last summer. At the time, I was so exhausted from the trying and the counseling and the guilt, I cut the cord without looking back. The moment the words “it’s over” left my lips, relief flooded me.

The next month or two was a series of arguments, negotiations, and rapid-fire change as we separated households and dismantled the life we’d built together. Everything in me was focused on getting my ex moved out, starting over, and reconnecting with myself.

Shortly after, I took a lover who would change my life. I called him Mr. 45 (the age he had listed on his AFF profile), and he called me kitten. Our love affair was intense from the night of our first date. We stoked the flames of desire in one another, and the world was suddenly alight with passion, need, intimacy, and unending fantasies. My ex and I hadn’t had sex for the last half of our relationship, and being with men was new to me after being with women for 12 years. So, being touched and appreciated unlocked something I’d thought long dead.

Mr. 45 worshipped me the way no other lover ever had. He spent hours using only his hands and mouth, granting me orgasm after orgasm, and then he would fuck me spectacularly. He took many of my firsts as we explored each other, and every time we’d rendez-vous at the hotel, our lovemaking would be even more earth shattering than the last.

Months of sheer perfection unfolded, and I fell in love in a way I didn’t know was possible. When we were near each other, the faintest whiff of his skin would send me into a frenzy. It was physically impossible to keep our hands to ourselves, and he would whisper a prayer of “Oh my god” thousands of times as he touched me, marveling at how wet I got for him, completely astounded at the things his body was doing for the first time in years. Because of me.

It was perfect. We were perfect.

And then it came to an end.

To be fair, I’d known our time together would be short-lived before we started our affair. But, telling myself I’d lose him soon was nothing like the reality of a life without him.

We had one final night. He made it more special than all the others. It was hours of the most incredibly tender, raw intimacy I’d ever known. We bared our souls, leaving nothing behind, and then he kissed my forehead and was gone.

The months that followed were a blur of tears, pain, and grief. I lost count of the number of times a thought of him would take me to my knees, the air knocked out of me. Learning how to live again, without my Mr. 45…well, it is a pain we all know, but can never truly describe.

Picking up the pieces wasn’t easy, especially because we tried to maintain a friendship. But, every time his name popped up in my inbox, I’d feel myself ripped back open and the bleeding would start all over again. I finally had to ask him to stop. I begged for time, space to heal. He graciously disappeared, and the mourning started again.

Life has a way of moving on, even if you dig your heels in and beg it to slow down. So many things had happened, I never allowed myself time to grieve the loss of my partnership. Seven years of habits and routines and patterns is a lot to say goodbye to.

That’s why this morning I was shocked by what came up.

I spent several hours moving furniture out of the house, shoving it into my hatchback, and going to and from Goodwill and the dump. Most of it was much too heavy for one person, but I’m stubborn and found a way (even if my back disagrees).

After a few hours of sweaty, nail-breaking work, I took myself to buy a new bookcase for my office. I loaded it into my car and got it home alone. As I was unpacking the boxes, I had a tiny little thought:

“I wonder if J left the screwdriver in the utility drawer.”

In that instant, I imagined my ex taking pictures off the refrigerator, going through the utility drawer to remove what wasn’t mine. I pictured J moving through the house, deconstructing our life together, done while I was at the office and didn’t have to witness the change.

As I stood in the garage, wondering if that screwdriver would be in the drawer I started crying. That screwdriver was the one I’d used to build our entertainment center, to assemble the coffee table, to replace the switch plates in the kitchen after renovating it. That screwdriver held so many mundane little memories of seven years of cohabitation.

I was overwhelmed with nostalgia. Our trips to Europe. Adopting our kitty, Thor. Holidays with family. The fights. Oh, the fucking fights. But, also the laughter.

Finally, the grief that had crept up at odd little moments rolled over and through me. I let it happen. It was time to start the process of letting go.

One foot in front of the other, I shuffled into the house and made my way into the kitchen. I stood with my hand on the drawer for a few seconds. For some reason, if that stupid goddamn screwdriver wasn’t in that drawer, I knew I’d never get around to building the bookcase I spent my morning picking out and dragging home.

I opened the drawer. And there it was. Worn, red handle. Philips bit at the end. Tucked beneath some batteries and my Ove Glove. I’d opened that drawer 100 times since August, but it was as if I was seeing that screwdriver for the first time.

I held it in my hand for a while, comforted by the weight of it.

Instead of my partner to help with the bookcase, I had a rambunctious kitten stealing screws and dowels. Instead of my partner to admire my work, I took a few minutes to pat myself on the back, and then I cleaned up the office and took a shower.

Life is different now. The end of so many things in such a short amount of time. The beginning of many others.

But at least I’ve finally allowed myself to let go. Because of a screwdriver.

  • Dawn
  • March 2, 2014

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