Shoulda and Grateful Lists

Photo from our 9th anniversary, when we got takeout from our special anniversary spot.
Today would have been me and Della's 10th anniversary. It seems like an appropriate time to post about this idea I've been thinking about for the past 9 months.

I wish I would have rubbed Della's feet more.

It's easy to look back and wish for so much to have been different—with the knowledge I have now, to have done, said, or acted differently. But this feels like a slippery slope. Yes, I have a whole lot of shouldas, those things that I lament. On the whole, though, they are mostly little things. Yet while each of these little shouldas pain me, I also feel so blessed that the list is so small. The inverse of that shoulda list—the things I'm so grateful that we did do, say, or act—is long and full.

Since losing Della, I've thought about these two categories, the things I wished we'd done and the things I'm so glad we did. I've thought about them and how sharing my thoughts on them might help other couples be better prepared if tragedy also befalls them. Or maybe just some perspective. I know me and Della's relationship wasn't like everyone's. And that which worked for us won't necessarily work for everyone. But I hope, in sharing, at least a morsel might be helpful, even if only to reflect that your shoulda list is sufficiently short.

Shoulda list
  • We shoulda taken the time to do all the boring business stuff: beneficiary on bank accounts, name on car titles, wills and powers of attorney. It wouldn't have taken long and it would have saved a lot of frustration, confusion, and time.
  • We shoulda made a plan, or at least talked about things. Della was my partner in all things and when tragedy struck, I was at a loss without the council and support of my partner. I feel incredibly fortunate that Della did leave me a tiny checklist on what to do; it allowed me to have some semblance of that partnership that I so relied on. But we shoulda had a better plan, talked about the uncomfortable things (what do you want to happen to your body?, memorial?,), the mundanely practical things (do we have each other's family's numbers in our phones? where do you store your passwords? what's your SSN?), and the supportive things (what should I do to persist?)
  • I shoulda done the little things more. One of the hardest things about not having Della, something I wouldn't have necessarily thought about before, is to not have an outlet for my love. Della bought me a pair of socks that said "Pretty decent boyfriend", I think that was fitting; I made her breakfast, supported her projects, played along to her often goofy games, and so much more. But every day, every minute was an opportunity to show that love in so many ways. And every day I wish that I had done that more. She so loved it when I rubbed her feet and I wish I would have done it more.
Grateful list
  • I'm grateful of all the photos we have together. Performance photos, travel photos, goofy photos, kissing photos—we have so many great pictures together. Going through pictures for the memorial recently has reminded me of all those great times and I'm so grateful for that.
  • I'm grateful to have known each other's lives so well. We knew each other's passwords, doctor's names, bank affairs, family's birthdays. It may be tiny, but knowing all that stuff has been a huge help in navigating this life after Della, from business affairs to personal connections.
  • I'm grateful that we travelled. Travel is something that is so easy to put off, saying "we were always meaning to go to ____". It's so easy to put off so much, really, thinking there will be time later. While there are a few of those things for us, for the most part, we did pretty well. As for travel, I'd say we did pretty well indeed, and for that, I'm grateful.
  • I'm grateful that Della knew how I felt about her. We were never a love-you-in-lieu-of-goodbye people. It was a couple years before we said the L-word to each other without feeling weird about it, and even then, it continued to be rare. But there were times I couldn't contain myself, when I told her I was on the verge of tears because I loved her so much and was so happy in the life we had built together. And when this happened, she would hold me comfortingly and smile, because she already knew, and for that, I'm grateful.
  • I'm grateful we took time together. The first of every month was our Monthiversary, a day we attempted to keep our schedules clear so we could have a leisurely breakfast together, go for a walk, or at least not hectically be working on various projects. Quality time together is something that I could see falling into the shoulda list in some cases and it feels like it would have been one of the hardest shouldas to live with. I'm so grateful this shoulda was a did.
  • While this very distinctly doesn't fall into the category of applicable, it very much does fall into the category of things I'm grateful for. I'm so so so grateful that me and Della's last days and hours together were good happy ones. In the last 24 hours, we did a zoom juggling gig (and had so much fun doing it), had silly fun horsing around time in the hotel pool (where she laughed so hard she might have peed the pool), explored a new town walking hand in hand, and were genuinely together. I sometimes think about how hard it would be if this wasn't the case, if we hadn't been together or were grumpy at each other or if we were mired in the hardness of work. I'm so grateful I can say otherwise.
Both of these lists grow and shrink in my mind. Hindsight is a funny thing, esp. with the passage of time. But I share this list with the thought that maybe the concept might inspire you to shift something from a shoulda to a grateful in case of the worst. Or maybe I'm sharing for myself down the road, as with so many things on this blog, so I know what I was thinking and feeling. Or maybe I just wanted the excuse to spend the time writing this, on this special day, thinking about our lives together.
Sunday August 1 2021File under: Della

Toggle Comments (4)comment?
on Wed 04th Aug, 2021 08:51 am EDT Horge said:
on Wed 04th Aug, 2021 11:28 am EDT Chris said:
I'm grateful that my kids got to meet Della, learn rope tricks from her, teach her a card trick, and make her laugh out loud!
on Thu 05th Aug, 2021 11:45 pm EDT Andrew said:
Sending you both all the love.
on Sat 07th Aug, 2021 04:33 pm EDT RW said:
I'm taking this to heart.

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