I’ve been cranky around the edges for the past several weeks, less patient than usual, easily irritated and sometimes outright bitchy. I’ve embarrassed myself with my moods, and wondered more than once where the good-natured me went and who is this out-of-sorts woman currently inhabiting my skin.

Yesterday afternoon was a particular low point. I got up feeling good and blazed through my Saturday household to-do list. I cleaned the guest studio after a recent visitor, vacuumed the house, painted the formerly boring gray mailbox poppy red to match the exterior window and door trim (that’s my quite eye-catching mailbox in the photo above), and pruned the tomato plants attempting to grow into a jungle in the stock tank on my side deck. 

By two-thirty though, I was edgy and restless. I could feel a mood coming on.

(Just in case Donald Trump happens to be reading this, I’d like to point out that a woman is entitled to have a ‘tude without any blood issuing from her body whatsoever.) 

I thought about going for a hike in the hills across the river, but I didn’t feel like going alone. And I also didn’t want to impose my potentially whining, grumpy self on any of my hiking buddies either. 

After some dithering–which only made me more annoyed with myself–I headed downtown to visit my two favorite galleries, thinking that looking at art and chatting with the friends who own each place would cheer me up. 

I was right. I also indulged in some retail therapy, something normally off-limits in the service of sticking to my budget. But I couldn’t resist the ice cream scoop with the beautiful hand-carved wood handle at Gallery 150.

The wood felt so smooth and comfortable in my hand, and the scoop reminded me of something Richard would make–a “functional sculpture,” as he called the household objects he created, lending a connection with the earth to things we use everyday. 

And then down the street at Cultureclash, I indulged myself again and bought a pair of mini-carpenter’s level earrings I’ve eyed for quite some time. The symbolism (harking to tool girl) made me smile, and when I read the artist’s card that accompanied the earrings, I knew I needed them: 

These levels are a wonderful reminder to keep your life in balance.

Oh yeah. 

From Cultureclash I strolled across the street to YOLO Clothing, and found exactly the swing cardigan I’ve been looking for. It was in my budget, so I bought that too.  

As I walked home, I gave myself a lecture. “You can’t just indulge in buying things whenever your mood needs a lift,” I told myself firmly.

And then I thought idly about the date and a light went on in my brain. I knew immediately why I was restless and out-of-sorts: It was Richard’s and my 32nd wedding anniversary.

I had spent the day doing just the sorts of things we would have done: putzing around the house and yard, perhaps taking a hike in the hills, strolling Richard’s favorite galleries downtown, buying something special for each other (the ice cream scoop for him, the earrings for me), and then treating each other to dinner out. (Which I did not do, in part because of the budget, in part because celebrating alone is still too painful.)

As I walked on, I also realized why the extended period of crankiness around the edges. Richard’s 65th birthday fell almost exactly three weeks ago yesterday, on July 16th. 

We had plans for the year: Richard would retire and be free to sculpt without worrying about money; we’d celebrate his significant birthday and our anniversary by taking one of the dream trips on the list on our refrigerator, to Ireland and Scotland, exploring the Celtic cultures we both were born to. 

Only that didn’t happen. Richard, my partner in love, laughter and life, died of brain cancer four years ago this coming November, at age 61.

I weathered the shock, the grief, and the wrenching apart of my life. I charted a new path, one that acknowledges and celebrates the decades we spent together and the way we shaped each other into the people we were and are, and also one that allows me to be happy in this unasked-for solo life. I am happy–mostly.

Only these particular two anniversaries brought another chunk of grief to the surface.

I didn’t recognize that until yesterday evening as I walked home, my purchases in hand, Richard clearly still in my heart.

As he will always be.

There’s the laughter part: Richard posing with the giant artichoke in Castroville, California.