For a few weeks I have been thinking about a shift in my thoughts and feelings about the death of my husband last December. The great sense of loss is abiding with little if any let up. My brain continues to trigger physical responses before cognition catches up; I reach for the phone to call him to see how he doing a second before the thought that he is gone catches up. I also continue to feel persistent gratitude for our three decades together. At times I am also curious and somewhat pissed off that medical providers failed to give either of us any warning about his impending death. I suspect this range of feelings will go on for a while.
The shift in my thoughts and feelings seems to have something to do with my perspective about these experiences. This perspective may be useful to explore as I consider community development in my encore career. I am confident that the perspective of which I speak is embedded in very early childhood experiences, a perspective that many, if not most, of us shared and lost to discouragement.
I have been combing through old photos, childhood art works, report cards, trophies, costumes, journals, community contributions, and love letters that Paul saved. It is an archeology of sorts, a cultural anthropology of an artist, a gay man, my husband. It has stirred in my recollections of my own life, especially early times when everything seemed fresh and hopeful. I have been reminded of when I marveled at a cat-eye marble, a steely boulder. I recalled squatting low next to the gnarled exposed roots of a tree pointing to a colorful leaf, expecting my sister or father to join me in my enthusiasm for its beauty. A mental picture remains of wobbling next to my dad in a shower at some public pool. I was so young that my dad, a small man, seemed to tower over me like a giant. I remember a boyfriend who desperately needed glasses as a child, but his parents only discovered this when he regularly scraped his nose on the pavement when he was tracking an insect that interested him, the pain minor in comparison to his wonder at this life before him.
My customary use of the word wonderful – as in “I’ve had a wonderful time” – seems particularly insipid now in the context of my childhood wonder and my 30 years with Paul. My common use of the word more likely refers to some mild form of pleasantness. No, wonderful is my time with Paul. We were on a reckless, empty handed jump from a cliff in which we fully expected to fly, and did!
I think that community development would be greatly altered and accelerated by celebrations of wonder, by reclaiming it as a human response to life that has somehow been thwarted in childhood and viewed as childish in adulthood. Wonder should not be reserved for children, artists, or mystics.