It’s March 31st again. Some years are better than others, but no March 31st is ever without pain. He died on March 31st in 1991. It also happened to be Easter Sunday, so we usually have two of these painful days every spring.
Sometimes on March 31st, I quietly observe with minimal incident. Some years, the pain is as intense as it was on that first March 31st. This year? It’s a quiet, dull ache. This year, because of other recent events and other losses, I feel his loss in a different kind of way than I have before. Very quiet and very resigned. Resignation. That’s it.
I’ve never been able to replace him. Not because I didn’t want to. I know that I have a right to happiness. I’m not in love with a ghost. Love him? Yes, always. But I’ve not let life stand still since he died.
What I can’t seem to replicate is the person that I was with him. I’ve loved weak men. Men who couldn’t hold their crap together without me being the strong one. I’ve never since known a man (besides my father) who was a solid rock for me. I’ve never since him had a man who gave me peace of mind. I could relax with Eck Bennett. I didn’t have to worry about everybody and everything. I didn’t have to carry the weight of the whole world on my shoulders. I could be fully me, or at least as much as I could be me within his rules (which were endless but generally in my best interest).
He was the strong one. In every relationship since him, I’ve had to be the strong one. At the very least, it would be really cool to share the duty of being strong.
I wasn’t a partier, nor a dancer. I hated going to clubs with him. My role was clear and unrewarding: I was the long-suffering designated driver, even before I was old enough to legally be in bars. I was underage for more than half of our marriage. I was the person who wiped vomit from his face on the side of the road. I was the person who screamed and begged police on the occasion that we were thrown out of a Molly Hatchet concert because he and his friends were smoking pot. I’m convinced it was my hysteria, more than anything else, that convinced the cops to say “f**k this, you guys just go home and don’t let us catch you here again.”
At one of the excruciating forays into the Alabama night life, we found ourselves in a large club, which was rare for us. Concrete floor beer joints was more our speed. Eck loved to dance. As mentioned a couple of paragraphs above, I wasn’t a dancer and still am not. I have no idea how to function on a dance floor. He was always dragging me out there for a “slow dance to our song” but that was it. When he was away from our table, I began a conversation with a very beautiful woman who was sitting at the table next to us. I asked her “When my husband returns, will you ask him to dance? He loves to dance and I don’t.” She said that she’d be happy to. When he returned, she asked him. He narrowed his eyes and said “Can you not see I’m here with my wife?” He was furious. I was appalled.
He wasn’t about to let anyone disrespect me or treat me like what I actually was — the mousy little quiet girl sitting at his table with him.
Eck Bennett was never perfect. With two decades of living without him behind me, I’ve come to understand that he insulated me from everything but himself, as is often the case in controlling relationships like ours was. But he was mine. He never loved another woman. Maybe he would have in time. But maybe not. At any rate, he didn’t. I was the love of his life. I was his first love and his last.
I’d like to find someone else to share my life with. I truly would. I’m not looking to replace Eck Bennett. But because of him, I’ve seen how a man — even an imperfect one — loves the woman he loves.
I won’t settle for less. This is about peace of mind. If a man can’t give me peace of mind — that most basic of a woman’s needs — I don’t want him. If I never find a man who can give me that, I’ll be alone. I love being alone. I’ve been alone for most of my life. Someone to share the beauty of life with would perhaps make me complete in a way that I never have been, even with Eck. Or perhaps not. Time will tell. For now, for today, for this March 31st, I’ll look to the sky. Resignation. Endings. Beginnings.