Yesterday I turned on the desktop computer, which I’d turned off at the beginning of the summer, to prevent it from overheating since my apartment isn’t air-conditioned. The desktop is the computer my husband used; it’s the computer that has seven years of his e-mail, which I’ve been going through just to hear his voice in his words.
When I turned on the computer, without thinking I logged into my account. After a few minutes it sank in that the desktop did not look right. It didn’t have the photo of Jack that I had installed after he died. It didn’t have the files of e-mail that I had created to save the messages I wanted to keep. What had happened?
I have a Mac, which has a built-in backup drive called Time Machine. I opened up Time Machine, but no matter how far back I went, I couldn’t find the files or the desktop I expected. What had happened? How had I lost everything?
A sinking feeling fell over me, and I began to feel I would fall apart. It was as though Jack had died all over again, only now it felt like he was really gone, I had no more access to his mind, his sense of humor, his thoughts. I wanted to wail, to fall on the floor—both terror and great emptiness.
At the same time, I tried to be realistic, to be the kind of person who didn’t keep memories of her dead husband in physical objects or words on a page or screen. Who now slept in the middle of the bed, removed his placemat from the table. I had to be a person who went on with her life—I’m still here, I have to handle all the losses, whatever they are.
Among the scraps of paper I found the other day in my latest fit of decluttering was this quote from Gilda Radner: “I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without know what’s going to happen next.” It was so appropriate to where I was at that moment.
As I was about to write this experience into my journal, it hit me. What I was missing wasn’t on my login, it was on Jack’s. Sure enough, I logged out, logged in as him, and there it all was. The photo on the desktop, the e-mail files. Everything I thought I’d lost was found.
I still felt a bit shaken, not sure what I can rely on. Jack is still dead, but only once, not twice. And last night, I dreamt of him, which I rarely do. I dreamt he returned, and we were in bed together, one of our favorite places.
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