August 24-25, 2016
It was late August and Bryon had been sick since March and I clearly had ignored my appearance. I hadn’t worn makeup during that time. My nails were bitten off due to the stress and I don’t want to think about how many gray hairs I had. There were several instances over the course of Bryon’s five month stay in the ICU where he came very close to dying and I was too afraid to leave his side and went days without showering and I would wear the same clothes for days. Before this health crisis, I never would have dreamed of going more than 24 hours without showering or wearing dirty clothes but I learned that showering and clean clothes were actually optional.
Amidst planning Bryon’s funeral/farewell party, I realized that I needed to do something about my appearance. I was talking to my good friend (and daughter’s godmother) and we both agreed that I shouldn’t look like a tired widow and that Bryon would actually be hurt if I didn’t get all prettied up for him and his farewell party.
My hair needed the most help but I was dreading going to the salon I had been going to. Normally I don’t mind small talk but the last thing I wanted was to have to talk to the hairstylists. I hadn’t been to salon in awhile and I know I would be asked about what was going on in my life. I did not want to talk about how my husband died. I shared these concerns with my friend and she told me not to worry. She said she would call her salon and get me an appointment with the instructions to just do my hair. The owner of the salon did my hair and she did talk to me but did not bring up Bryon’s death. We chatted about how we knew mutual friends and we talked about our kids.
I decided to get acrylics put on my nails even though I hate them because Bryon liked my nails long. He didn’t care if my nails are real or fake, he just liked them long. But I honestly can’t tell you which nail salon I went to. I have no recollection of getting my nails done but I know I had them done. Perhaps “widow fog” (it’s a real thing, similar to “pregnancy brain”) was beginning to set in. Keep in mind, I can remember the conversation I had with the nail tech that did my nails for my cousins wedding in Florida in 2004. I can tell you about the conversation I had with the nail tech who did my mani-pedi in New Orleans in 2014. But I can’t tell you which salon I went to the week Bryon died. I just know that I got my nails done and that they didn’t do a good job because they started popping off a day or two later.
I needed something to wear for the wake and the funeral. I had a few tired black dresses in my closet that I have worn to countless weddings and they would have worked but I felt that these events deserved their own specific event dresses. It was weird to buy a dress for Bryon’s funeral without Bryon there. Bryon was a “guy’s guy” but he was a stylish dresser and many times he would find clothes for me try on. I preferred shopping with him over anyone else. He knew my style better than I did and he was honest about how items fit. I always valued his input. But I was going to have to do this one alone.
I began my search at a store that is local to us in Upstate NY called Boscov’s. For some reason I usually have good luck in that store. I don’t know if Bryon was guiding me but I made my way straight to a rack that had black dresses with white polka dots. Bryon always liked me in polka dots though they were my thing long before he came into my life. I decided that I could wear this dress for the wake but I needed something more somber for the funeral. Something that was solid black. I did not see anything else at Boscov’s so I made my purchase and then head over to my other “tried-and-true” shopping options- Macy’s.
At Macy’s I selected a few dresses to try on but as I passed the clearance rack on the way to the fitting room, a black dress caught my eye. It was my size to I grabbed that one as well. I went into the fitting room and tried on my choices but they didn’t work. I tried on the clearance dress and it fit perfectly. This was the dress.
As I looked in the mirror, I had another “punched in the stomach” moment. I realized that this would be last dress I would buy to wear for Bryon. This was it. He was dead. There would be no more dresses. No more celebrations. No more anniversaries. No more weddings. No more fancy dinners. No more formal nights on cruises. This would be the last time I would get pretty for Bryon. I cried in the fitting room.
Before I purchased my dress, I went to the toddler section because my daughter needed dresses. My mother had bought a white dress with black polka dots that she had seen in passing knowing how much I liked polka dots. But we needed at least two dresses, preferably three because I wanted an extra dress in case one got dirty. It was a little hard to find a mourning dress in the little girls section but I found two black and white dresses that would work.
The last thing I needed to look pretty for Bryon’s funeral was makeup. I hadn’t worn makeup in over five months and I couldn’t remember the last time I bought makeup before that. So I went to the Mac counter within Macy’s. I must have had a blank stare on my face because the makeup artist came over and asked me if he could help me with anything. I just blurted out “my husband’s funeral is on Saturday and I don’t want to look like a tired old widow.” He was sympathetic, sat me down and got to work picking out some simple makeup. He said that we should skip the mascara and I agreed. I bought the makeup and I was ready to go. Bring on the wake and the funeral.