Yep, Erika is Squeaks. That was my name for her for years. Why? Well, I think at one point she made some kind of high pitched sound with her mouth closed when she wanted attention or something and it sounded like a squeak to me. So I called her Squeaks once and she liked it.
I walk our dog Jaro (soft J, like Yaro) twice a day. First thing in the morning and again after dinner. It’s about a 1 mile, 20 minute walk by myself, so I have a lot of time to just think and in the last week, the entire time is just spent thinking and remembering Erika. My mind goes from the best times we had together to remembering how she looked in the hospital and on her last day. Let me just say that was heartbreaking and I hope I never have to say anything about that ever again.
I’m also trying to think of how I will eulogize her. I’ve never done one before, never wanted to, didn’t think I could hold it together to do one, but for Erika, I want to. I want everyone to know just how incredible she was. Sure, most people talk about how much they loved her, how great she was, how she lit up a room, how positive, or funny or down to earth. And all of that is 100% true, but it also doesn’t even scrape the surface of how great she really was. I always thought I knew how much of my life that she was but now that she’s gone, I realize she was so much, much more of my life.
One thing that’s really interesting about our relationship is that it actually took me years to finally feel like her equal. And that had nothing to do with how she treated me. She always treated me as at least her equal, but for a long while, I just didn’t see myself as measuring up to her. I did eventually see us as a “co-equal” couple, which made it even better between us. Made our conversations so much better when I had the confidence to challenge her on things and dig in. I’ll talk more about some of those in the future as she and I had some plans that we wanted to tell everyone at some point.
I think one thing Erika did to help me get over that feeling of not being her equal was just her reaction one time when I told her that. She seemed legitimately surprised. For some reason, that was a piece that helped me to get over it. That didn’t fix it overnight, but the fact that her reaction wasn’t “well yeah…” definitely helped.
One other thought that hit me recently while walking Jaro, and there have been a lot of these. It was one of those gut-punch thoughts about her. She had an incredible life, she did so many things that were impressive, but I think at times many of those things were stressful to her. Just in the last couple years during a quiet time, or during a pause in conversation, she’d look at me and just say “I like our life right now.” And it really was only in the last couple years she said that. We had a house together, we had our cats, our dog, we both worked from home so we saw each other constantly. And yes, I also really liked our life together right then. And that’s the gut punch of where it took us 40+ years of our lives to get to where we were both simply happy about everything in our lives, only for it to end so suddenly, so tragically, so abruptly. All gone in an instant.