I feel it coming for me, like a massive swirling vortex waiting to suck me in. I know I can’t avoid it, but I try, oh how I try. The days blur together, often I don’t recall what day it truly is.
I wrack my brain, trying to come up with answers. What should I do? Where should I go? Who should I call? But there are no answers, no relief, no peace.
My mind offers suggestions, get your hair done, you’ll feel better. Go to the casino, which will kill the day and possibly much of the night. Watch a movie. Write. Blog. Facebook. Read. Pay your damn bills. It’s not that I don’t have the money in the bank to do so, but for some reason everything seems to requires tremendous effort on my part.
Take a fucking shower - why I’m not going anywhere? Change your sheets – why, they are almost virginal, those lovely white sheets. Nothing goes on in that bed but for soggy tissues and possibly drooling when I finally manage to pass out. I have many colors, the burnt orange Bill preferred, sage green, yellow, a gray and yellow print, tan, and new teal blue ones I haven’t opened. The white match my A-sexual nightgowns, cotton, floor-length, covering everything. The same kind of nightgowns I wore as a little girl when I would hurry to the kitchen to stand over the register on cold frosty mornings, letting the heat blow up my nightie and send it billowing around me. How could I have ever imagined that I would still be wearing them? How could I have imagined the turns my life would take as my sisters tried to shove me off so they could have their time on the heater?
I couldn’t have, of course. Life was perfect, or so I thought at the time. Strangely the youngest of five children didn’t have abandonment issues when her father walked out. How could I? I never knew him. I was much too young to realize when my parents divorced, six months.
By the time I had need of a man in my life, I had my grandfather. It was he who taught me how to tie my shoe, ride my bike, mow the lawn, water the grass. He was the one who pushed me on the swing in the backyard and watched me learn to roller skate.
I didn’t meet my father until I was eleven. I may have been slightly impressed. He was an attractive man with a brash, bold sense of humor, but he didn’t stay around long before he disappeared again. This was the same time my grandparents moved into Senior Housing, my first experience with what I considered abandonment.
Looking back I can see that they were tired. They’d raised their daughters, buried a son and raised their grandchildren. They deserved to have some time without children and at eleven I was the youngest. The rest were teenage girls, no easy task. Before my parents divorced my grandparents went to Florida every winter. I don’t think they ever went again after they came back that first year I was born and took us all in.
I however, felt bitterly abandoned, like my parents had moved away. I walked several miles to their apartment thousands of times. Life at home was never the same.
My grandfather died when I was seventeen, a child really, although I considered myself all grown up. I felt abandoned, grief stricken, but Bill was with me by then. He’d lost his father the year before. We had much in common and many, many differences.
Many things happened between the time my grandparents moved out and Bill came into my life. Most of them were not good things. I don’t talk about them and try not to think about them. If I could paint them out of my life, I would.
I was twenty-five when my grandmother died, forty-three when I lost my mother, fifty-eight when my father died, who I did have a relationship with by then, and sixty-one when I lost Bill.
Am I obsessed with death? Am I nursing abandonment issues even though I know it was not their choice to leave me? There are times I look at Bill’s urn and think “How could you?” Times I look up at the sky and say the same thing to God.
In a little less than three weeks Bill will be gone a year. I can’t even fathom it. How can it be and why am I still here? Am I a survivor or the walking dead?
I’m trying to be better to my children, trying to offer them more comfort and get outside my own pain once in a while. I think I am moderately successful and completely useless, depending on the vortex.
Today is a useless day. I am dreading each day that brings me closer and closer to THAT day. It’s pretty stupid when you think about it. What difference does the date make? It changes nothing. He will still be gone. I will still be alone and heartbroken. It will come and go as each day has for more than three hundred and forty-five days. I cannot stop the clock, cannot turn back time and I cannot wake-up. This is not a bad dream. I cannot turn to Bill for comfort. He cannot hold me in the night and whisper that everything will be all right as he rubs my back.
I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing.
Tomorrow I will get up and pay bills. I have to before something is late and they hit me with a late fee. I will write, escaping into lives that are not my own. I don’t even care if it’s crap as long as the hands on the clock move to get me thorough another day.
I will call and make an appointment to get my hair cut. My girls tell me I look like Shelly Long playing Carol Brady. This is not good unless ‘the flip’ comes back overnight. I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen.
If it turns out tomorrow is not too bad I will call my sisters. I need to talk to them before I can’t, before the vortex sucks me under.
Surprisingly enough, this makes me feel better. I don't know if it's true, but I chose to believe it is.
Widow Brain is as good a term as any for why I'm so disconnected, often disoriented and forget what I'm supposed to be doing, what I'm supposed to care about.
You see my mind is not present all the time. I can't say exactly where it is, but most of the time it's in the past.
A simple thing, making a turn while I'm driving, will trigger a memory and suddenly I'm there, back in the day, another day, another time, another trip.
There is a turn I make almost every time I drive home from the city. Invariably each time I make it I am drawn into a memory.
We moved up here on the hill, snow country, The Tug Hill Plateau, in August of 1991. It was the most isolated area we'd ever lived in, but we loved it. Things were good. Life was good. Then Bill got sick.
That November he was diagnosed with Aortic Stenosis. Without surgery he would have two years to live, and they wouldn't be good ones.
I was terrified, he was too, although he hid his fears from me. We did everything we were supposed to and made arrangements for his surgery. It was scheduled for February 3rd 1992 in Syracuse, one of the best heart hospitals in the area. The surgery was serious. It wasn't a by-pass. He did not have coronary artery disease. It was a genetic defect and his Aortic Valve would have to be replaced by a mechanical one. He would tick, like a watch.
A week before the surgery we were involved in a head-on crash. Bill was driving, but it was not his fault. The kid who swerved into our lane left him little choice on icy roads. Take the hit or hit a stand of huge old Maple trees that likely would have killed us all. Bill took the hit. Two of our children were in the back seat.
The kids and I were taken to the hospital by ambulance with injuries. Bill would not go. He insisted he was all right. I think he didn't want to enter a hospital any sooner than he had too. I hit the windshield.( In case you didn't know, your body always, always goes in the direction of impact. If you're hit head on, your body will go forward, if you're hit from the side, that is the way your body will be tossed. A crash at 30 miles an hours has the same impact as jumping from a third story building and so on. The faster the speed at the time of the crash, the higher the jump.)
Our kids sustained knee and back injuries, as well as trauma.
The young man who hit us had no insurance. Our vehicle was a total loss, in fact I don't know how we all walked away. Could things get any worse?
Thankfully our insurance agent was fabulous. She badgered until she got us a rental car. It was a small wagon of some kind, I don't remember what, but I never drove it.
On the day he was to be admitted Bill drove to the hospital and parked the car in the garage. It sat there for 7 days. I never touched it, never left the hospital.
The surgery went well. They expected the valve to last for twenty years. He did tick. I could hear him from across the room and for a while it drove me a bit crazy. Later I learned it was a lovely sound. It meant he was still alive.
I drove home the day he was released. Bill was strapped into the passenger seat with his heart pillow clutched to his chest. In those days they sawed your entire chest opened, pried it apart, put it back together with metal clamps, then stitched the skin. While is surgeon was excellent, a seamstress he was not. His scars were horrific. Neither of us cared. He'd survived.
The weather was brutal. One lane of the Thruway was completely closed. A good deal of the time I was plowing snow in a car I'd never driven that wasn't 4WD. I was terrified. All I could think of was after all this, the crash, the surgery, I was going to kill us on the way home.
The hour drive took three, at least. I came to the part of the road I mentioned earlier. This was my turn. This meant we only had six more miles to go and even thought the back roads would be worse I could creep along. Well, I missed it! Slid right by it barely able to keep the car on the road. I could not stop.
I don't know how far the car traveled on the icy road before it did stop. Visibility was nil and I had to back up blind praying we didn't get hit by a plow.
Obviously, I did get back to the turn and we got home, but I guess my point is that each and every time I make that turn, even now, more than twenty-six years later, my mind goes back to that day.
This is Widow Brain for me. Random things, a view, a song, a comment will trigger something inside me and I'm lost in a memory. I become distant, distracted. The conversation goes on around me, but I don't hear it. I try to play catch-up when I snap out of it. Most times I can't, so I nod and smile as though I know what's going on, but I don't.
People probably think I'm rude, inattentive, but I don't mean to be. I'm just thinking of Bill and my life for the past forty-five years. There are so many things I want to tell him, discuss with him, but I can't.
I want to be held and kissed. I want him to make me laugh again. I want him to hold me and promise everything will be all right, even if he's lying, which he did to make me feel better.
I'd like to forget the bad memories and remember only the good, but I'm afraid if I push them out of my mind, stuff them deeper I will forget more than I want to. I will forget the times we laughed and danced, the times we made love, the special days like this one on his fiftieth birthday with our oldest grandchild.
So I guess you take the bad to keep the good. I don't want to lose this one either.
Maybe someday I will my mind will completely go and I won't remember anything. I would find that very sad, for I never want to forget how it felt to be loved by this remarkable man. I don't want to forget the sound of his voice or his deep rugged laugh. I don't want to forget his scent or how soothing those huge, work hardened hands felt when he rubbed my back or held my hand. I don't want to forget his beautiful, blue Irish eyes twinkling with humor when he teased me. Basically, I don't want to forget one moment of our lives together!
So, with that being said, how do you go on? I guess Widow Brain is not such a bad thing. It provides a bit of insulation from the world around you, the world you don't want to face alone.
This page is now my blog/journal about Widowhood. I'm not qualified to give advice. I'm new at this. I don't want to be qualified. I don't want to be a widow, but no one asked me. These are my thoughts, fears and feelings. Please don't equate them as anything but that.