My dead husband haunts me

I'll be back.
I’ll be back.


For a serious chunk of my adult life, I have worked in newsrooms.

In early February, I was hired as an associate producer for a national media company. It also happens to be where my husband Mike worked before he died. I had visited him there many times. My son called it, and still calls it, ‘Daddy’s office.’

Since starting there, I have never questioned my decision. I love it for all the same reasons I loved my former newsroom at The Calgary Herald. I am at home.

My only trepidation? How would I cope with working in the same place as my beloved? How would it be working with Mike’s colleagues?

For the first few weeks, it felt odd. While walking the hallways solo, I’d get an odd feeling, a presence walking with me. OK, to be clear, I’m not talking Poltergeist here.

Instead, competing feelings of discomfort and comfort battled. I have fought back tears and then caught myself smiling, thinking of Mike walking these same hallways.

Turns out, Mike is still walking these hallways. Mike has a doppelgänger.

The first time I saw this man, his back was turned to me. He was standing 20 feet away, fiddling with a TV camera. He has the same body shape as Mike, tall and lean. He has the same curly black mess of hair that Mike once had. He wears black-framed glasses, like Mike once did. And he has the same, beautifully wrinkled face and fantastically bold nose that Mike had.

The first time I spotted The Twin, my heart leapt with joy. For a beat, my brain, heart and body forgot Mike was dead. And then, just as quickly, my heart hurt.

In the ensuing weeks since that first sighting, I now see this man everywhere. We have even exchanged a few words. He caught me raiding notebooks from the TV staff’s stash. I defended my filching and we had a chuckle.

Another time, we nearly ran into each other in the hallway as we cornered the same turn from opposite directions.

He’s everywhere. That’s not exactly surprising. The newsroom isn’t gigantic. I see everyone, everyday, I’m sure. But The Twin, jumps out at me from across the room, every time.

I know his name. (Someone mentioned his name one day in passing.)

Other than our notebook ‘drama,’ I have never spoken to him.

And that’s fine. He’s not Mike. And maybe he’s really a jerk. That would suck.

Somedays when I spot him, I think about running up to him and throwing my arms around him for a long, sweet hug. It’s a thought I would never act on.

Stalking and harassment aren’t my jam. Silently, staring at him from across a room is my jam.

The Twin does his thing, and I do mine. We live in the same world. And for whatever quirk of the universe, we work in the same space.

And, he’ll never ever know that his presence haunts me.



Snot catcher? Or me snorting a bat? (photo robin summerfield)
Snot catcher? Or me snorting a bat? (photo robin summerfield)

In time, we can talk about the nausea, or the fatigue, or the many unexpected side effects that pop up in the days following a three-day chemo session. And of course, there is the constipation — post-chemo, my internal organs most resemble the unoiled Tin Man in Wizard of Oz.

Today, though, it’s about hair loss. The kind you don’t expect. Cancer and chemo have shown me exactly why we have nose hair, something I had never ever contemplated. Obviously, it is about function over form, since I’ve never seen a commercial where a nose-hair model shakes her face and releases a long, luxurious thatch of black nostril hair that bounces in slow-motion.

What I’ve learned is this: nose hair is a tremendous snot-catcher. It’s a beaver dam up the bridge of your nose. And when it’s gone, you lose not only the thing that holds back the stuff, but also the very thing that is supposed to alert your brain re: the rebel flow.

As a result, I get concerned looks, mid-conversation, from people trying to alert me, in the politest way possible, that I resemble a three-year-old. When I use my putter on the golf green, I have seen silver parachutes drop down from my face to splooge the ball. On a windy day, my golf partner quietly moves a few steps away. And on any windy day, it’s a constant, wet ebb. So these days I sniff a lot, and carry handmade handkerchiefs

Given a chance to reclaim one chemo-ravaged section of hair, I would choose eyebrows first. With them, you just look bald. (Without them, you look like an alien or a slightly grey man from the future.) Then, I would pick nose hairs. Living with cancer challenges me to retain as much dignity as possible. Avoiding liquid-lip goes a long way. So appreciate your nose hair… give it a trim tonight!