When the Music Stops

July 5, 2019

As I cleaned up my kitchen this morning, the aftermath of food prep from yesterday’s barbecue, it brought me to this blog. Once the visitation and funeral are over, the last relative has left town, and you have miraculously found space for yet another baked ziti in the freezer, (a quick and merciful aside: when providing food for a grieving family or anyone in need, please, for the love of all that is good and holy, lay off the ziti, lasagna, manicotti, or anything similar! I think I speak for everyone when I say while we appreciate it and recognize that it’s an easy and cost-effective option, it begins to cause a serious gag reflex. I kid you not. Too much of a good thing, folks. After eating the same thing representing varying degrees of culinary aptitude, one begins to loathe anything with a noodle and tomato sauce. Consider a simple meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Perhaps some chicken? A breakfast casserole is nice. Even a gift card would help soothe those pizza cravings. Anything, dear God, anything, but baked ziti! OK?)

But I digress. As I began to put my kitchen back in order and return to normal, I thought back to the day after my husband’s funeral, when my daughter and her family were preparing for the long drive home. The car was loaded, the cooler was packed, and the kids were ready for the trek down I-95. Normally, my son-in-law is the first to kiss and hug me goodbye but this time he hung back until only he and I were left in the house. He told me that he was loathe to ever offer anyone advice because he hated it when people offered him unsolicited words of wisdom. But he, having experienced an unthinkable loss that affected our family a few years earlier (another blog, another time) wanted me to be prepared for something that was sure to occur and it would occur sooner rather than later. What he said was simple, and of course, I paraphrase: “You have a lot of people who care about you and many have demonstrated that in the last week or so. You will be the most popular girl in the room – for about a month. Then life goes on.” I knew exactly what he meant. And I thought I was prepared for it. I wasn’t naïve enough or self-centered enough to think that those who were so good to me didn’t have to return to their own lives and their own responsibilities. It’s life after all. I have done it myself. I have been helpful and solicitous to someone I care about who has lost a relative or is having surgery or just needs a helping hand for a while. That’s what we as compassionate humans do. But there is a limit, right? Of course, there is. What I wasn’t prepared for was crickets. Crickets as in I never heard from some people again after my other half died – do I only come as part of a couple? Do I serve no purpose without my partner? I have tried to understand, but I don’t think I ever will. And, I am sure I am not alone in this, the complete lack of acknowledgement of my husband’s death – send a card, you ass. I will never let that opportunity pass now that I have been on the receiving end, or I should say, LACK of receiving end. Reaching out to someone, even if you don’t know them well is possibly the nicest thing you can do, especially if they are having a particularly dark day. You just never know. And despite those who were or haven’t been there for me and others in my shoes, there are so many who have been and are. And as is typically the case, they are just silent heroes who just go about their days putting out their own fires, dealing with their own issues and problems, but always, always taking the time to think of others. It makes you want to be a better person when they do something special for you.

It’s true what they say that it’s harder a month after it’s over. It truly is. Most of the paperwork has been completed, you’re no longer the most popular girl in the room and you’re sort of looking around with a quizzical view and a questioning of life’s choices and your own expectations when you were young and wide-eyed. When my husband passed away, I was barely at retirement age. We had plans to downsize, travel, relocate, spend more time with the grandchildren, relax, have some fun. Yeah, well, all that was shot to shit. Not as easy when you’re single, alone and not the most popular girl in the room anymore. But enough for now. That’s future blog fodder. Say that three times quickly.

In Sickness and in Health

Let’s get real for a minute. Whether you’ve been married once or more than once, when you are planning for “the big day” it’s likely that while you certainly give at least a passing thought (let’s hope so or your ass shouldn’t be getting married) to the vows you are about to take, my guess is that you might, at least for the immediate future be more focused on the menu, the venue, and can I still look like an ingenue? Am I right? Come on, I know I was. I certainly took marriage seriously, but I was 24 and giddy at the thought of the white dress and veil and all the trappings. The vows, while I spoke them with emotion were quickly forgotten as the party began.

My husband was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 17. This was back in the day before disposable needles and insulin pumps. He was a pioneer. He took care of himself and stuck to the regimen needed to survive this hideous disease. But no matter what one does, the disease ultimately wins and throughout his life and our marriage, he had his challenges and occasional setbacks and hospitalizations. We dealt with it and life went on. We never let it stop us. We had our family. We went to Disney World, put our girls through private school, watched them get married and became grandparents. We lived a contented life. It was all the usual “stuff.” But always lingering in the background was IT. IT was the realization that eventually he was going to deteriorate and the “betes,” as my hilarious and irreverent daughter who also is a Type 1 warrior calls it, would rear its ugly head and declare victory one last time. But it would be sneaky about it–and it would make me not such a nice person sometimes.

Up until the last five years of his life, my guy was doing pretty well. Of course, he was slowing down; we all are, but for the most part, we enjoyed our life together. He did depend on me and admittedly I could get cranky sometimes, but we survived. Where I really shone in the rip-roaring bitch on wheels department, and I am here to tell you that I am not proud of it, is in the last year of his life. I make no excuses. I was tired, overwhelmed, and essentially alone, and unfortunately, he took the brunt of my bad moods when they occurred. To his credit, and my eternal regret, he was so understanding and recognized that I was just having a bad day. Fortunately, my bad days were in the minority. Most of the time, I put on a brave face and adopted a “git ’er done” attitude. Without going into detail, but I am sure those of you who have ever served as a caregiver will understand, the task can be backbreaking—and heartbreaking. Seeing your spouse so vulnerable is soul wrenching and it sometimes just sucks the last bit of resolve out of your psyche. There were days I had nothing left to give. One of my fondest and yet saddest memories is when after performing a particular task, he would look at me and say one of two things. He would say either “Thank you” or “I’m sorry.” My answer to him would always be the same: “Didn’t we take some sort of vow? In sickness and in health or something like that? You’re just cashing it in early.”

69

So, today is my 69th birthday. Holy freaking shit – last year in my sixties. I am currently drinking a Bloody Mary (yes, I see the irony 😊) and writing this blog post, though it’s written already if you are reading it. Do I come across as a tad bitchy/snarky today?  This week is kind of a mish mash of “stuff.” I am starting the search for a new Rotary club. I am a proud Rotarian who left a club I cherished when I moved south to be closer to my children and grandchildren. I had a health scare in December (another blog) and made the difficult decision to relocate. It hasn’t been easy but I am determined to embrace my new normal. Rotary is the best way to get to my new normal. I just need to find the right fit of people and projects. My first meeting was this morning and I am encouraged. I plan to visit six other clubs in the area before I make an informed decision. I need to be busy. I am not someone who can sit in front of the television for more than a few minutes without dozing off. I don’t know if it’s the quality of the offerings or because now I am 69. I also want to find a part-time job. Or maybe this blog can generate some income. Adult diapers anyone? I have also submitted applications to some “age-specific” meet-up groups and am currently in the vetting process. Some groups accept you sight unseen. Others have a more stringent process. I will let you know if I am “up to snuff.” Other activities this week, other than another Rotary club meeting, include getting my nails done (a girl needs to keep herself groomed in case Mr. Right comes along you know….oh puh-leeze—again another blog and that’s when the naughty, opinionated me comes out), picking up prescriptions at Walgreen’s (I won’t be specific, but I am 69 now, so figure it out) an EEG tomorrow (again, I am 69 now, folks) and, a birthday gift to myself later this week – a 90-minute massage. Ahhhh! Sooo, all things considered, life is good. I miss my husband and his sweet smile and endearing quirks. This blog is called Widow’s Pique, so soon I will address what being a widow means to me and perhaps offer insight to others dealing with the same. In the meantime, holy freaking shit, I am 69 today! Pass the Metamucil. And the vodka. Happy last birthday in my damn 60s to me!

Promises Kept

June 10, 2019

I have been promising (read threatening) to begin blogging for years. It took me years and a couple kicks in the ass to get here. So, here I am. Don’t expect this to be life changing. I’m not a miracle worker. I’m a 68-year-old widow with time on her hands – and a cache of life experiences and occasional observations that may or may not give me some perspective and you a familiar nod of the head or even a smile. I have named it Widow’s Pique, a shameless play on words. I do promise it will be more than a maudlin collection of writings on navigating the journey (I HATE that word!) of losing your life partner. I plan to explore and comment on a multitude of observations and life’s experiences and ridiculousness. NO POLITICS! I hope I can bring some people a sense of familiarity and maybe even comfort. I will likely offend some people, because those who know me know that I tell it like it is in my use of humor, but it is usually self-deprecating and never malicious, so if your panties easily get into a wad, you should probably move on. I hate being without my husband. I am hoping this is therapeutic—for you and me. Until the next time.