Talking Football at the Kitchen Island

Kitchen of DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley

The raised voices drew me closer to my kitchen counter. “No way, man, the Bears are terrible,” I heard one man say. “If you think you’re going to tell me that they are better than the Vikings, I have to remind you about that quarterback of yours!”

I smiled. I was hosting an event for parents from my kids’ elementary school, and a group of men were gathered around my kitchen island. They were talking about football, I figured, and so I wasn’t really comprehending the specifics. Instead, I just listened to how they teased each other, and the good-natured laughing that interrupted their increasingly excited claims about various teams. I even saw two men high-five after one of them told a particularly engaging story.

For a moment, I felt something tug inside me, but I ignored it. I was the hostess, after all. No need to get emotional.

The next day, I went on my morning run, and thought about the party the night before. It had gone well. Everyone seemed to have fun and I felt successful at the end of the night for hosting such a bit event. And then I thought about those men, standing around the kitchen island, talking and laughing about a sport I don’t follow.

I had to stop running almost immediately. I leaned against a lamppost and choked a bit, before I crouched down and covered my face. Why the hell was I crying?

As I often do when I’m running, I had let my mind wander. I wasn’t remembering the faces of the men at my counter, but more the feeling of their laughter and raised voices.

I was remembering what it felt like to have men in my house.

Yes, I have two boys, and yes, my dad lives with me. But living with them is not like living with Shawn.

When Shawn was alive, men were all over my house. They came to see him, to watch sporting events, to drink beer at the kitchen counter. They talked in the same raised voices and ribbed each other in the same joking manner as the men did that evening at my house. I don’t want to overgeneralize too much here, but it seems that there’s often a special way that men relate to each other. It’s so different from how I relate to my female friends.

And, God, I miss it.

Yes, I mostly miss Shawn. I’d have him back in a heartbeat even if it meant I could never see another man again. But I also miss being married to Shawn because it was just a different life than I have now. There were more parties, more people, more everything. And there were certainly more men.

God, how I miss having men at my kitchen counter. To be fair, they are still there sometimes, just not with the same frequency that they once were. These days, it’s much more of a rarity that I hear the sounds of men’s voices in my kitchen.

I guess that’s what I was thinking about when I was running and had to stop to compose myself. I did finish my run that day, though I had to look down at the ground for a few blocks, worried that my tears would scare other runners. (Who the hell cries when they run? Me, apparently.) But when I came home, I sat at the kitchen counter for a long time. I thought about what was going through my head.

I miss Shawn and I miss the life we once had, I realized. I miss the life where our house was filled with people every weekend and the one where I always had a Saturday night date.

But it’s not just that. I still have a decent social life. It’s that I miss the intangible things about Shawn – the things I didn’t know I was going to miss. If you had asked me right after Shawn died to list a hundred things I would miss about him two years later, I wouldn’t have said, “men talking about football in my kitchen.” I probably would thought that it would be nice to not listen to such drivel.

And yet, I do miss it. I miss my old life – the life when men were always at my kitchen counter, laughing and teasing each other about things that never really mattered.

“The Super Bowl Shuffle!” I’d heard someone excitedly say that night. And then a few of the men chanted the words together.

I cried the next day, thinking about it. But, mostly, I loved hearing their voices.

It made my house feel so warm. So alive.

12 Replies to “Talking Football at the Kitchen Island”

  1. I go for a walk or run almost every day after work. It allows me a little time to be by myself, to reflect upon my day and to let my mind and my thoughts wander. Just like you, I cry. The tears flow during almost every run or walk. These are the times when I let myself feel the tremendous loss and the emptiness that now has a place in my heart and in my home. I think, it is a release for my mind and my body who work so hard every day to keep it all together. I have a social life, too, and I have some very dear friends who go out of their way to help my family, but I really miss my husband and the family life that we had. I miss the parties and potlucks in our home. The date nights and Sunday brunches. The neighborhood block party that he organized every year. He was truly the outgoing one in the relationship and I was able to relax and soak up all the fun. I hear everything that you are saying, because I feel it, too. There really aren’t enough words to describe the loss, not just of the person, but the many secondary losses that made up our family. I really hope that you find that kind of happiness again someday, Marjorie. You deserve it; we all do.

    1. Thanks so much for this heartfelt comment. Secondary loss is such a real thing EVEN when you have a loving family and community. This moment was just one of the moments that struck me, but of course, it happens all the time. Thanks for sharing your story, too.

  2. Allison Lindner Latimer says: Reply

    running is when I do my best crying. something about being unplugged with no distractions and being in nature. I could have written this blog post..it felt that familiar. always helps to know you are not alone

    1. Oh, thanks for saying this. And yes, I used to run and cry a lot, though it happens less these days and I’m always a bit surprised when it does.

  3. You just can’t anticipate what will bring on a wave of grief and tears – particularly when it is something that also warms the home (and heart).

    1. Yes, prediction is tough. Sometimes I know. But other times – BAM!!

  4. Me too Marjorie! My husband and father used to harass each other over football. When they died, it ended and I miss that so much.

    I watch car shows now to help fill the void, but it can’t be replaced. So, what to do? For me, it’s mourning the loss and then counting my blessings and trusting God for the rest.

    Thank you Marjorie for sharing this part of your grief – it helps to know others feel that loss too. Hugs!

    1. Thanks for reading! And yes, it’s so interesting to miss something that I never, ever thought I would miss.

  5. Thank you for your honesty Marjorie. I was not quite as young as you when my husband died. I was 55 but so much of what you write speaks loud and clear to me.

    1. Thanks for your sweet comment. And yes, I think a lot of what I experience is similar for widows of all ages – there’s just so much you lose when you lose your spouse.

  6. I understand completely about missing men in the house. In addition to my husband dying my son also left for college so there are no men at all any more. Every social gathering at my house now is entirely female because there is no male host. Almost all my friends are married and I find it’s very tricky to socialize with their husbands. Even if I have known them for years there is some sort of awkwardness that was never there before. You can’t joke around with them the way I used to in case someone gets the wrong impression. Or is this my imagination working overtime? I would love to have a group of men come over to watch sports like the way things used to be. I’d even make the snacks!

    1. I know – it’s so hard to know how to navigate these situations. I want to say, “just come over!” but I know it’s strange. I’ve started throwing parties for couples, and that’s helped a lot. But it’s always so tricky…and so tough.

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