Wednesday night the 3rd the immediate family only (Carlson/Sahlin) met in a private room of a restaurant and sat around a large rectangular table where we could see each other easily. We ate a wonderful meal and then spent the evening talking about Jan and remembering so many things about her life. This was a beautiful evening for us to deal with our grief surrounded by a family that has always been very close. We will remember forever this time spent together for the rest of our lives and that evening brought a close knit family even closer together.
I closed the evening by suggesting I was going to talk about some things that they might not have expected. I said: "I am going to talk about the things that 'bugged' me and sometimes 'frustrated' me about Jan." I explained how that morning I had sat down at my computer to make a list and quickly had 3 things on the list and then my mind went blank. I printed that out and sat down in my favorite chair and wrote down the number "4" and thought of one more thing. I then wrote down the number "5" but was never able to think of another thing. I would come to understand in the early stages of my grief why that was a short list.
I talked about the 4 things on my list:
1. How Jan was never able to get herself out the door on what I thought was a timely manner. My pattern was to get dressed early when we were going out and then once ready spend time reading a book or something until we needed to leave. Invariably I would say to Jan "how much more time to you need" as we neared the agreed on time to leave and when she told me "3 minutes" or another "5 minutes" I would grow frustrated knowing that she was a terrible estimator of how much time she needed and it was going to take longer that she said. We always got to where we were going, not necessarily at the time I had hoped.
2. Jan was a conversationalist who enjoyed talking with me and her friends. Every night she would be on the telephone talking with kids, grandkids, her sister and friends. When talking with me she would often share things we had talked about before and I came to understand that if there was "emotional content" to what she was sharing; she had a need to talk about it with some frequency until it was resolved. I made the mistake a few weeks ago of saying "Yes...you told me that a couple of days ago" and that did not come across as a loving statement. If I really loved I would understand that she had a need to talk about this and I would be a better listener. I am afraid that at times I was a frustrated listener.
3. Jan was most comfortable when she was in control of her calendar and she was the social secretary and planner of our lives. I often wanted to be more relaxed about things and "go with the flow" but she was most at ease when what we were doing was planned in advance, rather than letting events and invitations come to us. She liked to start or end the day by sitting down and going over the calendar with me...sometimes reviewing things that we had agreed to a day or two before. I guess she wanted to be sure that I did not forget what was happening, but I felt I didn't need to remember everything, because she had that part of our lives under control.
4. Jan loved to entertain and sometimes I would be frustrated about the style of our entertaining. Jan felt that whoever came over had to be entertained in the same way we would do it for the King and Queen of Sweden. Everything needed to be in place...planned with great care...and the house needed to look perfect. We have a joke in our family about asking Jan "what time do we need to be standing at attention" when doing entertaining...ready to entertain in a style that she required. I must confess to times of frustration when trying to do things right and getting things to look perfect.
I then went on to tell the family I was a bit surprised that only 4 things came to my mind as I am quite sure there must be other things that caused frustration at times. But I had learned something in the early stages of grief...those things that would cause frustration at times were sinking way below the level of the surface; they were becoming hard to reach. What was bubbling and alive on the surface were all the things we had talked about that night that made Jan such a special person.
I then went back over my list of 4:
1. You need to understand that I would give anything to ask Jan "how much time do you need" and I would not get frustrated if she was a bit late by my reckoning.
2. You need to know that I would give anything to hear the sound of her voice again and would not get frustrated if she talked about the same thing several times.
3. You need to know that I would give anything to sit Jan and let her talk about the calendar, because she did a superb job of planning our lives and I would love to have her doing that today.
4. You need to know that I would give anything to ask her "what time do you want me standing at attention" and helping her get ready for company, because she was a superb host and we had a great time entertaining family and friends. I will really miss all of that.
I closed by telling my family to be very careful to take good care of your relationships with the ones you love. Don't take anything for granted and don't get overly frustrated with little things that don't really matter in the long run. Jan and I had a great marriage that did in fact have an occasional bump in the road because we are a classic example of opposites being attracted to each other. But I would give anything to have that "opposite" in my life still; because she was the "other half of me" and I miss her terribly.