Joan's Blog

"Watch Me Pull A Rabbit Out Of My Hat"
Editor’s Pick
DECEMBER 16, 2010 7:10AM

This Time of Year

Rate: 101 Flag

My husband disappears this time of year.

I can still see him. Sometimes he is watching "Jeopardy," or "Law and Order" (the older episodes with Jerry Orbach) or reading "Great Expectations."  I tease him, asking him if he is joining Oprah's book club since that is her latest selection.  He tells me no, he is not joining Oprah's anything anytime soon. He just feels like reading it. He sits on the couch and works the crossword puzzle in the Washington Post. Sometimes he looks up to ask if I've heard from the kid today... 

He misses his daughter terribly. Since she left for college he seems older. Sadder. Especially this time of year.

There is a thread of sadness that has run through him since he was five years old. I learned about it when I met him. It was one of the first things he told me about himself.

It begins on a dark afternoon in November. His mother sends him to the store for some forgotten item. He and his brother have crossed that street dozens of times before.

He yells for his brother to stop. Wait! 

The man driving the car gets out and stands in horror over the tiny four year old boy lying in the street. The five year old boy becomes the man with the thread of sadness running through him.

Every year around this time he worries about his own child more. Have you heard from her today?

He is a sturdy man. But this time of year he disappears.

I call him back on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. Sometimes I give up and take my dinner plate into the bedroom. Sometimes he does not want to be called back. He is content with his solitude. It is necessary. He spends time sorting his loose change as he sorts through his private thoughts. He keeps the change in empty "Bonne Maman" jam jars. Dimes in one, nickels in another. Quarters in another.

 He is a kind man. He worries about the birds and the squirrels this time of year. I see him take the last slices of bread out the door with him.

I lose him for a little while this time of year.

He brings home a large chocolate cake. Five dollars at Safeway!  he tells me. I blink. The cake is big enough for ten people. I give him a look, but try to match his enthusiasm. Yay! Cake for five dollars!

I need to let him have his joy where he finds it.

There are no missed payments. The bills are always paid on time. Tuition check is written out carefully and also on time. The light bulbs are replaced as soon as they burn out and a missed day of work is unthinkable.

He is a sturdy man.

But I lose him for a little while this time of year.  




Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
FIRST now back to read and certainly rate.
This is the love between husband and wife, and so rich that reading almost becomes invasive. This history of love and connection to where you absorb and make way. I'm so sorry for his loss. How fortunate, he with you. Your heart. Big. Your mind. Wise.
Oh my God, this is so beautiful, and it makes me love your husband without even knowing him, and it makes me want to buy HIM a cake and give him a huge hug. What a burden for a little guy to carry throughout his life. RRRRR
You are a blessed woman, Joan. I don't know if this is a tribute or what, but it is beautiful. Simply beautiful.
Oops! Great! Good Morning. Following folks again?
I'll wake up and forget where I am too.I follow folk.
People get caught up in awe. Wall Mart Traffic jam?
Folks go to DC. See city rats run faster than Taxis.
I forget at this season if I was ever married or not.
Maybe he come 'round after he see a Psychologist.
People in NYC visit their stockbroker and yell too.
I find myself lost too.
Folk become strangers`
I whisper in folks ears`
Go get Lost! Knock it off!
Tell me more! Write a book!
Start Ya own funky blog! Oy!
Stop complaining! Pop a beer!
Sip Turnip Fizz Sour Mash Whine!
I mushy have had a bad night sleep?
I forgot why I came here? Supper?
It be great to read more. Tell more!
In this era of well-intentioned armchair psychological intrusiveness, you are a wonder for your patience with his need for solitude. Just standing by and being there is a gift you give so generously. He's a good, good man. You are made for each other.
Oh, my. I am speechless; wordless. Joanie at her best -- elegant compassion.

Just simply, complexly: perfection. (r)
What a powerful piece....and you are wise and compassionate in appreciating that sometimes he has to be alone with his thoughts.
My heart is in pieces from this, especially that precious photo. This time of year has a way of yanking all the sorrow out of you and putting it on the table in front of you. There is no escaping it but sometimes, feeling the pain, even after many years, is necessary. I'm sorry for your husband's loss but happy for him that he has such a talented, gentle, and loving wife near him.
The picture made me so sad. How well you love each other.
One of the best reasons for having a spouse is that we have a place to lean when these times of needing to disappear come along. How wonderful that you have the grace to silently shore him up when the time comes.
This really is poetry, Jonathan got it entirely right. Losses at this time of year seem magnified, and I'm sure it's worse if it's such a hard loss, and if it happens in childhood. He could be self-medicating in much worse ways, and I imagine that part of the reason he doesn't is that he has you to be around, stay away and/or eat the cake with love and patience.
These quiet moments in a long relationship, are the magic that keeps us bound together.That you see and understand, is also magic. To be able to let go, knowing he will be back. Excellent, one of your best, (which is saying much).
PS, your photo with the hat is so adorable Joanie, a juxtaposition on the heartbreaking one below it....
I prefer the Lennie Briscoe episodes too.

My heart weeps as I read your words. You grace us, Joan, with your wisdom here. You grace us always with your heart. I understand about the losing and about the needing to be lost. How lucky for him that you understand and allow. How lucky for us all.
This was so sad but a lot of people are this way at Christmas time. I am glad he has you.
rated with hugs
This is a hard time of year for many. Bless your husband.
Joan-this is so beautifully written, so sad. I think when he's gone he's back with his baby brother. When I watch my grandchildren interact with their littler siblings, I'm amazed at how much they adore each other at such a young age, so bonded, the smiles they exchange are pure love. Sometimes when I hear people's stories I wonder how any of us get out of bed in the morning.
Joan, This is such a touching story. I am so sorry your husband has been touched by such tragedy. This is excellently told and with such compassion. I can tell what a lovely man you have in your husband. I can see him sorting his change, sharing the cake. The picture made me cry. I have missed you around here sister. xo
You are a wise, loving woman...this was beautiful.
not one wasted or superfluous word. it makes me think of a bell jar with something precious inside, and the glass bell rang softly when it was struck. this is brilliant, joanie.

his need for solitude reminds me of the piece you wrote about how you love to be by yourself in your garden. you two are perfect together, you know?
This may be my very favorite piece of yours, Joan. When someone asks me, as a friend did recently "Why would anyone EVER get married?" I can point to this piece and say "Here, here's why." You see into your husband's heart while respecting his boundaries. Very hard to do.
The others are right, Joan: pure poetry. Painful subject, powerful and beautiful words. My love to you and Mr. H, and make sure you talk to the kid today.
Your husband's love for family is admirable. It's when we disconnect from the demands outside our abodes we realize love is always there. It's aways there for us. When we listen with our hearts.
Never should have logged on at work to read this::wiping tears::
Oh my, so powerful. A piece of cake for everyone. You touched my heart today.
Outstanding, Joan! What a gift you are to this fine man. You really love and understand.
what jonathan said this is poetry. actually the more i read about your family, you all are poetry together. i love how you love him here. what a terrible ache every year to be five and shattered again. r
Few words here, other than to say that the love expressed here is untouchable and pure.
This is the most beautifully told story I've ever read here...
You are a good wife to recognize when he needs his solitude, to bring him his dinner plate, to quietly love him from a distance when this time of year rolls around...
Kudos, Joan xoxoxo
This may help. My wife looked this morning as if she was missing something. It happens this time of year here too.
I should go look for me. The holiday is about togetherness.
Ooops, on re-reading I see I got the dinner plate mixed up.... : )
You tell this in a way that makes the reader feel the pain along with the both of you. Extremely well told-poignant and spare.
Poignant, beautiful. My heart goes out to him.
Alone together~~~with feeling.
Another quite extraordinary piece, Joan. You display a consistency that is rare.
Touching and very poetic. I love the simplicity of your language, especially the repetitions. They allow me to realize that I'm only just seeing the surface of the story, nothing more... I know what it's like to lose a family member a little every year around the same time (in my family, it's my mom and it happens during january).
Rated with hugs.
Beautifully written and I just can't imagine what goes on in his mind when he thinks back to that day. I don't think you ever forget something like that.
Joan, this is so sad. I like your respect for silence and solitude.
This is written so beautifully about such a difficult thing. Yes, we need our solitude some more than others. You see his need for it and for that I respect you.
Oh that is so sad. How fortunate he is that you recognize what is happening. R! wonder he has a hard time with those memories. You are a kind soul not to push him and to let him do what he feels necessary to get through this time of year.
Joanie, I am so sorry for your husband's loss. This is poetry, elegant and spare. It is so hard to stand by and not fix everything. But you can't fix this, and you have the sense to know it.
So beautiful and sad. I don't have words for how I felt reading this, and how I feel now. R.
One of the best things I've read here. Your restraint from making this into over-dramatized piece makes it all the more powerful.

Real real good.
And BTW, the picture is absolutely priceless.
Sheer perfection, Joanie. I wish you and your family peace this Holiday season and pray that your daughter's Christmas return will lighten everyone's hearts. Your devotion to one another is beautiful to behold.
This is one of your finest postings!
It was like watching a couple doing a beautiful dance that only they know.
I admire the wisdom and love you have in your relationship.
Beautiful writing...hugs to you & your sturdy man, Joanie H.
Your poetry, you, him, your love, understanding, all the comments. Yes, this is powerful. And then that picture! The taller, quiet, strong big brother. The little boy, looking sweet, chipper, mischievous, safe. This the the most complete and beautiful love letter I've ever read.
This was so beautiful and I ached for your brother's loss of a sibling with him. It was such a tragedy and his need to walk around that hole in his life with you understanding that need made it poignant! You write so beautifully. I love the picture of the brothers, it gave an even deeper look into the cost to him.
You conveyed so much emotion and history in so few, precious words, Joanie. The photo at the end is almost overwhelming.
"Yay! Cake for five dollars!" ((Joan)) not just a good wife, but a good person
I cannot imagine the guilt burden he has put on himself over the years, thinking about him having to go home (at any age, much less 5 years old, a time when you need so desperately to please people) and tell his mom, makes me want to lose it. I wish him all the peace he can find in his solitude.
Just beautiful yet so sad to read. How wonderful you two are together.
Yay for cake! 'Tis the season... for quiet celebrations, in whatever small way that lifts us, even if just a little. It's lovely that there is a time of memory and mourning as well. A time for every purpose... and you seem to share a deep and abiding love together, Joanie. It's beautiful.
A multi-faceted gem, intimate, personal, loving and respectful. You honor your husband and his loss so beautifully and with such deep understanding. His brother can never be replaced, but still, he has gained something very precious in his life... his daughter, and you.
i see why yr married.
Spare and beautiful. As always.
Oh, Joan, this is very poignant. The festivity in the air must magnify the silence. Rated with a smpathtetic hug.
Joan I so admire your ability to let there be a time for this. My best to you both, and "the kid" too (have you heard from her today?)
Lovely, sad, and supportive.
Thank you everyone for reading and for leaving such thoughtful comments. I really appreciate it.
Beautiful, Joan. What tenderness you have for this sweet man with the streak of sadness. Such a joy to read of a love like this.
Wow, very moving Joanie. Excellent writing.
I just filled up at my desk, gorgeous!
Joan, your writing is gorgeous.
Very well done. Thank you for sharing such a personal story. Rated.
This post makes me wish I was your neighbor, so I could hang out with you & your husband.
not much to say here. Beautifully told and sad. There are bits of sadness are in most (all?) of us. Good when those who love us understand and give the distance needed while standing close by.
The holidays do seem to magnify missing as much as they magnify every other emotion. You're smart to give him space and to surround him with the kind of love he needs -- a warm coat, so light he might not know it's on his shoulders.
Completely choked up. Meant to get over here yesterday...glad I remembered. Thank you Joan for remembering so beautifully.
Oh my goodness. I'm tearing up. This was candid, heartbreaking, and lovely. Thank you SO much for sharing. Just beautiful. Rated with love for you and yours.
so sad for him. so good he has you.
That was beautiful. And funny—"Yay, $5 cake!"
A horrible weight for him to carry, a horrible memory. How good that he has you to bring him back.
Very poignant and well told, simply, quietly, poetically.

Seems strange how many people have lost loved ones this time of year. Seems disproportionate, though I'm sure its not. Just seems like we all have December/January losses that add that certain something - that faraway feel.
Joan, your spare writing beautiful, poignant. I feel so small reading such sheer perfection. Absolutely, completely rated!

The bond of love, understanding and support between you and your husband brings tears to my eyes. It's what we all wish for.

All the very best for the holidays.
What a gift to read this piece. It's so beautiful and heart wrenching. So understandably tragic that your husband would always wear his sadness in some way. And the gift of space you give your husband is utterly priceless and gracious. And he is a man who sounds like he deserves every gift that comes his way. Incredible writing Joan.
Beautiful and touching story.
how did i miss this one? I know, there are so many posts, especially when I am not looking. Please let me know in future.

every word rings here, in truth and blood and soul.
This has a quality of silence for the reader/viewer and a sense of standing in the parlor...looking out windows...listening, hearing and feeling it all. Agreeing with Jon about the poetic quality of this piece. It is fine work indeed. Yay cake for a fin.
R superb
poetry indeed, my dear dear Joannie

(i have a 5 yr old, this was very difficult to read)
Beautiful. So much love, it makes the sadness bearable. May you always find joy in little things like $5 cake!
So beautiful, so touching. This is life. How we endure, what we chose to lament, how it is done and done again, until we find a new day and somehow it passes. So beautiful. Extra gentle wishes of holiday joy are sent to you this day. R
Beautifully poignant! The love and understanding shines through.
So sad. The picture made me teary.
Gorgeous. Thank you.
I won't even try to think of something clever to say...lovely writing as always. My heart breaks for you husband and his loss at such a tender age.
Missed this the first time...this would have been when my husband was first back from the hospital. But gosh, bang, Joan. Such a simple, heart wrenching story.

I guess I understand now why he doesn't talk about it. He doesn't need to. You already understand.
I had to come back again and revisit this piece.
What a great picture of the two of them.
I hope he shares his story with your daughter. It would create something very deep and powerful between them.
I missed this the first time around, & am glad you linked to it, even though it is heartbreaking & makes me sad. This is a beautiful piece -- no matter how many years pass, there is some pain that stays with us forever. My heart aches for both of those little boys.
Dear Helvetica, ladyfarmerjed, and suzie, it is so nice that you came to read this. Someone suggested I link it to my current piece, so I did. Thank you~
I've never read this joanie. I figured I'd give myself a gift I'm catching up on some of your work.

this is a gift.
Funny Monkey, that is the kindest thing anyone's said to me in a very long time. Thanks for catching up.