If this was an Olympic sport, I would have a wall full of gold medals.
Generally, I think women are better at this game than men. That’s not to say there are not some men who would qualify. They just wouldn’t be able to win the gold like most women.
For most of my life, I’ve owned things, meaning I take full responsibility for any and all poor choices I’ve made. I did not blame my mother, absent father or anyone else for my shortcomings.
As a teenager I did not blame my friends when I got into trouble. In fact the only time I can remember blaming someone else was when my sisters and I went shopping and were gone far longer than we planned. At those times we agreed we were going to blame each other before we split up to go home. It went something like this.
Knowing Bill was going to be pissed I would drag myself into the house loaded down with packages and immediately start whining about how long they took in the stores, how exhausted I was and I was never going with them again. Similar conversations were going on in their houses, so I didn’t feel a lick of guilt as Bill made me tea and commiserated with me, poor baby that I was.
Other than on those occasions, if I did it, I owned it.
Somehow over the course of my life, and I don’t know when this started, I began to take the blame for just about everything else. If the kids acted up or caused problems in school, it was my fault. When they got in trouble, it was my fault. I didn’t give them enough attention. I gave them too much attention. I wasn’t strict enough. I was too strict. I guess it really didn’t matter, for some reason I felt I was somehow lacking as a mother. If only I’d given him that third Popsicle maybe he wouldn’t have gotten in a fight at school and ended up with a week’s detention.
If we were in financial difficulty, well, that was my fault too. I overspent on something. I should have bought ground beef instead of ground round. Maybe Jeremy didn’t really need those expensive sneakers? Maybe I should have checked the thrift shops before spending $437.00 on a prom dress even though it fit perfectly and she liked it. Did I really need those new curtains?
Well, I could go on and on.
Bill, good and loving husband that he was, always managed to talk me back from the ledge. He would assure me that kids were jerks at times and it had nothing to do with me. That man never complained about a dime I spent on the kids, the house or anything else. Even if he thought I’d been extravagant he never said so. Ah, another way to blame myself. I must have somehow made it impossible for him to criticize me. That’s one I haven’t thought about. I’ll have to give that some consideration.
If my mother was sick, well then I wasn’t being a very good daughter. I should have anticipated her needs and met them well before it got to ‘that’ stage. Had I stopped by the nursing home to see my grandmother, maybe she wouldn’t have passed away quite so soon. Maybe she was feeling lonely, thinking no one cared and she just gave up?
It didn’t matter that I was working full-time, going to school and raising five kids. I should have done more!
Does this resonate with you? God, I hope so and I hope not, if that makes sense.
It’s crazy when you think about how my mind works. If a book I’ve written sells poorly, I didn’t do a very good job. If it sells well, then I’m just lucky. I can’t give myself an ounce of credit. This is why I find promoting my work so difficult.
Now you might be asking yourself why I’m posting about this on my widow’s blog. It’s really very simple. My pc has been down, well not down but I bought a new one and spent four days trying to get the stuff from the old pc to the new one with this handy-dandy little piece of software called PC Mover.
It didn’t work, of course. I should have researched it before spending $89.95 on HSN after which I had to call the help line and pay another $39.99 to have the experts help me. This took four days of having both pc’s connected to the internet 24/7, burning up my data for the month and having them lit up like the fourth of July while I was trying to sleep each night. To say I got a little frustrated is like saying the water going over the Hoover Dam is a trickle. But, as you can see, I’m once again blaming myself instead of the faulty product. The new pc is being restored to factory settings as I type this. It’s going back. I never should have bought it in the first place, but I’ve worn the letters off my laptop and possibly eaten a few too many Cheetos while writing as the keys no longer work properly.
In any case, getting back to the blame game. While I was sitting at the dining room table, not able to write, not able to check my mail etc, I was doing a lot of thinking and missing my chief supporter. It all would have been so much easier if he were here. He would have been rational about it. He would have told me in no uncertain terms that I got rooked and it wasn’t my fault.
So anyway, while I was musing it came to me that a decision I made when I was seventeen probably contributed to his death. In fact, it might be my fault entirely.
You see my grandfather was dying. I have posted about this before and how Bill made me go into the hospital room when I would have run away from seeing him like that. That day my grandfather made me promise to quit smoking and I agreed. What a little liar I am!
For whatever reason, obviously my fault for being a complete shit and not following through on his death-bed request, I did not quit. So, says my mind, if you had quit like you promised, Bill might have quit eventually.
If you had quit you could have nagged the hell out of him. You could have made him smoke outside. Which, by-the-way, is a complete and total fallacy. No one made Bill do anything! But that doesn’t matter when you are playing the blame game. We were together forty-five years. Surely after twenty or so years of nagging he might have considered quitting even though he swore he never would. He did love me. He might have done it for me. But no, I had to keep smoking.
If I’d quit he still would have had the heart problem as that was genetic, but the rest, the COPD, the vascular disease could have been avoided if I’d only kept my word. It’s my fault he’s gone. We might have had another twenty years together if not for me breaking my promise to my grandfather in 1972.
Now, I’m not completely insane, most of the time anyway. Sometimes I can actually laugh and say ‘that’s ridiculous’, but what makes women this way? Why and when did we get so good at taking the rap for everything?
Kids can be assholes. It’s a free county and they have free will. Why do I always wonder what I could have done differently, as a mother, as a wife, as a writer to make it all so very perfect, to change the outcome?
As a rational human being and I use that term loosely as after the past week I may be treading on thin ice, I know not everything can be my fault. I am not the be all and end all. It’s possibly that had I quit smoking I might never have gotten him too. It’s also possible that after twenty years of nagging I might have been divorced long before he died. Who knows? He could have killed me in any number of unpleasant ways to dispose of a shrewish wife. Hell, he could have died in prison with no loving family mourning his passing every second of every day.
Or…he could have quit to please me and I wouldn’t be writing this post. Such are the musing of a widow who still can’t quite grasp what happened or why. A widow who wonders every day what she could have done differently, how she could have saved him and how to go on without him?
It sucks, plain and simple and I truly pity anyone who is making this journey. It’s long and arduous and fucks up your head like nothing else can. For those of you trying to understand, it’s nearly impossible.
Our minds wander.
We can’t remember what day it is half the time.
Just be there for us. You can’t help, not really. Just get the Windex and paper towels when we want to polish our medals.