For many years, Jody and I frequented a grocery store in St. Thomas. I loved goofing around with the staff. My favourite trick was grabbing a big tub of margarine as Jody was heading towards the cash. Here’s our script:
“Oh, Bruce. Put it back.”
“But Jodiette, it’s one of Canada’s four major food groups and we’re running short.”
Sometimes I even put the tub on the cashier’s belt before succumbing to my dear wife’s wise counsel.
Occasionally, I’d be shopping alone, but why omit margarine pleasure? Staff members, especially a woman named “Jessica”, would almost yell across the store, “Put it back!”
One time, I was heading to the pile of yellow goodness and was greeted by a big white sign, authored by Jessica, which said something like “Bruce, leave our margarine alone.” Great fun.
Eventually, Jessica moved on to another job, and when Jody got sick we left the grocery store too.
Six years later is today. I walked into a gift shop in a London mall. And there behind the counter was Jessica. We knew each other’s names and our hug was a natural one. We had a good talk for a few minutes and then I said this:
“I have some sad news to tell you. Jody died a year ago.”
“No, Jody died last November.”
“Jessica – stop. Jody really died.”
More of the same.
I was lost in space. I thought there’d be tears but there weren’t. There was anger. After coming back from the meditation retreat, it felt like there was no antagonism left in me. I was wrong. I guess Jessica couldn’t move past the kidding relationship we’d had years ago.
“Jody has died. Stop it!”
I walked out.
“Oh, Bruce. This is so not you. You can’t leave it like this. Go back.”
I went back. Big smile from Jessica. “Let’s hug.” I backed away. (“So not you.”) I left.
I came back. We hugged. I believe Jessica still thought I was kidding. But who on our fair planet would ever kid about your life partner dying? I said goodbye and left again.
“You can’t leave it like this, Bruce. It’s too damaging for both of you. Go back and forgive her.”
So I came back again. “I forgive you, Jessica.” And now a real hug. “I wrote a book about Jody and I’d like to give you a copy. When are you working before Christmas?”
Tomorrow I’ll walk into that gift shop once more, Jodiette: My Lovely Wife in hand. More forgiveness. Friendship renewed. Completion.
I don’t have the luxury of living any other way.
Now I’m crying.