It's July. On the 18th Bill would have been seventy-one years old and in September he will be gone five years. Another year has nearly passed. I say that like it's no big deal, but it is. Nearly every single day is a big deal. It's another day I've survived. I continue to breath, eat, sleep sporadically and strive to function as an author.
I try to be there for my family and friends. It's not always easy. Some days I am trapped in the past, uncertain of the future.
Mike is still loyal and loving. For that I am grateful for I'm not the easiest person to live with.
My kids fear my death. Having already lost the most influential person in their lives they dread my passing. They fear a sudden and unexpected blow, another one, but I know what will be, will be. Their love, worrying or prayers will not save me when my time comes, just as I could not save Bill.
There is no bargaining at that point. No promises to God will change the outcome and I reassure them all the time. I am not afraid to die. Naturally, I would prefer to avoid any suffering or great pain, but other than that, I'm ready.
Everyone dies. There is no escaping that fact and I hope they understand how much I loved them and how hard I tried to be a good mother and grandmother, even though I know I've failed miserably in the last few years. There was a time I was good at it. A time when our home was filled with love and laughter, and those are the times I want them to remember.
Some days I wake up with a song in my head. Today is was I Will Remember You, by Sarah McLaughlin. Usually, if I play the song, it will go away. Not so today.
Today I remembered the exact moment, the first time I looked into his oh so blue eyes when I got into the car and the overhead light came on.
I remembered him carrying me into the house on a cold November night with the rain falling on us after we got married.
I remembered the way he sat by the bassinet when Cathy was born, like a guard dog and the way we danced at her wedding, years later.
I remembered how he used to call Jillian, "his little rosebud" because of the shape of her mouth and how she cried when he shaved off his beard and she didn't recognize him. He grew it back and only shaved it off one other time in more than 40 years.
I remembered the boys, barely tall enough to see what he was doing under the hood of a car, but eager to hand him tools and preferably get greasy like their father.
I remembered going out to dinner with friends and dancing to a slow song. Something happened that night, something odd for a couple who had been together for so many years. Overcome by passion we ended up leaving the dance floor, throwing money on the table and racing to the car. We couldn't get home fast enough.
I remembered using a hair dryer to thaw out his face and beard when he raced home to change into warm, dry clothes while fighting a barn fire on a bitter winter night.
I remembered him carrying my dying mother to her bed when my sister and I could no longer move her.
I remembered the times me made me laugh when our world seemed to be crashing down around us.
And I remember the last words I whispered in his war as he was leaving me.
The song says, "don't let your life pass you by...weep not for the memories."
I don't weep, ever, and haven't for more than two years. I'm trying not to let my life pass me by.
Reading these words you would think they are exclusive titles. After all, a woman is married, or she’s a widow. I’m here to tell you that is not actually true.
A woman who becomes a widow after being happily married does not suddenly fall out of love with her husband. He’s been taken from her, stolen away without her consent. She is grief stricken, devastated. The pain seems insurmountable and for a long time she is unable to function. Suddenly she’s the only member of what was once a team. Alone, scared, sick at heart she struggles on, but she is never the same again. Never!
She tries to accept her situation. What choice does she have? Slowly putting one foot in front of the other she moves on. She holds her memories close, taking what comfort she can from them. She gets up every morning. She eats, probably a lot less than she did when cooking for ‘him’, but she does it anyway. Not because she wants to, because she has too. Because her body is waiting to betray her.
The sadness whispers to her, ‘come to me’, it says, ‘come to me’. It’s a struggle not to go. Each day she measures her success by centimeters. She makes it through another day, then another, but there is no sense of accomplishment, no reward. There is only a long, lonely night stretching before her. Another night in a bed that is too big, too empty, too cold.
I felt broken and betrayed. Frozen, unable, and unwilling to let myself reveal the true extend of my injuries, and you are injured. The only difference is no doctor can heal you, no surgeon can put you back together.
Sadly, this stage lasts for a long time, years for some women, a lifetime for others. I am no longer a warm woman. By that I mean, I don’t have the capacity to care about things like I once did. I love my family and will do anything I can for them, but I’ve noticed that emotions don’t capture me like they did. I can still feel empathy for others, but it’s much less intense.
I don’t cry. I literally mean I do not shed tears. No matter how badly my heart is hurting there are no tears. It’s very strange and to tell you the truth I don’t like it. Clearly parts of me are still frozen, and I have to consider they may never thaw. So again, the sadness becomes part of who you are now.
Bill will be gone four years in September. Perhaps that is why I feel the need to unburden my heart now. I’ve remarried. A good man I’ve know for nearly fifty years. We will celebrate our first anniversary next month.
I would like to say everything is wonderful. I would like to say that having this man’s love and affection has healed me, but it hasn’t. He is also damaged in many ways. You would think that between the two of us we could make a whole, but so far we haven’t gotten there.
I’m not in any way sorry I married him. He’s kind and thoughtful most of the time and appreciative of what I bring to our marriage. He never says things like “Good God, are you always going to talk about Bill?”
I’m grateful for that because I think the answer would be, “Yes, I probably am.”
It makes me sad that I cannot give this man everything he deserves. I think I am both less and more than he bargained for. I often feel guilty for marrying him, not because of Bill, I know he would not want me to be alone, but because of Mike.
To me it seems like Bill got the meal, Mike gets the leftovers. Thankfully, I think he views me as more like the dessert, something he waited many years to have.
We’ve talked about this. In a way, we’ve both settled.
While recognizing and validating my pain, he’s grateful he no longer has any competition. Bill is gone. Mike is grateful for every kind word, every gentle touch. He loves me and is willing to accept that while I love him, very much, I also love another.
I’ve settled in the sense that although he’s not Bill, I need Mike. I need his love, support, and affection. I need his strong arms around me and I need to feel I am not alone in this weird and often frightening world.
The Married Widow is in a strange sort of limbo, a woman who resides between two worlds. In some ways they are similar, in others extremely different and she tries to walk the wire between both, sometimes teetering and often falling.
However, because she’s a widow she gets back up. Because she has known such crippling pain and intense grief she has no desire to inflict it on others. She faces each day as it comes, sometimes grieving, sometimes thankful, often sad because she knows in her heart no one, and I mean no one, is getting the best of her anymore. They are getting what she can give, bits and pieces of what’s left of her. Like crumbs from the table, they get a small taste of what she once was.
Strength, Courage and Faith is my prayer and what props me up.
I am a Married Widow. Are there others out there like me?
I think there should be a name for this, the transition from one to the other. I mean it's not like all the other feelings disappear the moment you say "I do." It stands to reason that while you embark on a new road, the old one is still in your rear-view mirror. At times it beckons you, 'I'm still here, I'm still in your heart, remember me.'
And of course you will. How could you not when your life is filled with reminders of happy times as well as mind-boggling grief and the crippling pain of your loss.
Still, there are new days ahead. New beginnings and the promise of joy and laughter. There is a warm body in your bed again, someone to hold and comfort you, someone who kisses your hair, holds your hand, opens the car door for you or supplies a supporting hand on your elbow. All of these things are incredibly important. Suddenly, you are important again, your thoughts and opinions matter. You begin to care about small things, what's for dinner, does your make-up look right, would he like an apple pie? Silly things, that in the grand scheme of life may seem trivial, but they aren't. They are your new normal, a change from when getting out of bed felt like an insurmountable task. They are a change from when sitting and staring out of the window for hours was of monumental importance, as if he was coming back, as if I would see his truck drive up the road.
Yes, things are different now. Each morning we have our coffee on the loveseat. We talk about our plans for the day, what's going on with our children and play with our black lab, Max. We cuddle and kiss, each of us thankful to have the other in our lives.
I worry. Giving your heart to another is risky. At our ages we count the days, not the weeks, months and years. I know how quickly it can all end and I'm fearful. We need each other now and I don't want either of us to have to face the world alone. The very thought of that is chilling but I don't want to be that person, the one who is so afraid of the future they can't enjoy the present, so I try to be there, in the moment. I try to shut out the 'what if's'. They are pointless in any case, which I well know.
As crazy as it sounds, I threw myself into the wedding like a house on fire, lol. For some reason it was critical that I got every tiny detail right. I agonized over color schemes, tablecloths and centerpieces. Favors were ordered multiple times until I finally settled on one. I can't even tell you how many things I bought, only to return them because I found something I liked better.
The invitations were another challenge until I found one I loved, but even the stamps had to be perfect!
I won't say I was a Bridezilla. Others may not agree with me, but hey, this is my blog. I bought more than one dress, convinced each was the right one, only to change my mind and take them back. Even the one I finally settled on came close, but they have a no refund policy, which in hindsight might have been a good thing, although I've never worn a strapless gown in my life, so I was a bit intimidated.
The rings were never an issue. I loved mine and thought the one I bought Mike was perfect. The food for the reception was also fairly easy, but I ended up contacting the providers a week before and ordering more, worried we would not have enough. As usual, I made a mistake, and we gave away as much as we could push on people at the end.
I hired a server to handle all the details and that worked out well, until the tablecloth caught fire, but that comes later, sigh.
I dragged him all over looking for the perfect cake, which we finally found at an extremely reasonable price and it was beautiful and delicious! Score one for Stevie, yay. (However, I will admit to taking back the first topper.)
So, the week before the wedding everything sort of fell into place. The flowers were being picked up separately, one set for the cake, the others for the day of. Things were on schedule and we managed to get into the pavilion the day before to decorate and arrange the tables, for a small fee. Our family pitched in to help and the place looked lovely, if a bit crowded, but we still had the patio to fall back on if guests showed up who hadn't returned their RSVP. At the last minute we decided to forgo the wedding on the beach as many of our guests would have had a hard time getting/walking on the sand and decided to have the ceremony on the patio. The next morning we got there early and improvised the decorations for that area as well. (It wasn't really a problem as I'd ended up with yards and yards of tulle and flowers having overestimated my capabilities as a wedding planner.)
Approaching zero hour it was all systems go. Two kinds of punch, one whisky and fruit (yum), one champagne. Coolers loaded to the brim with beer, soda and waters. Wedding music playlist ready to go and a huge mother of a speaker all set to blast assorted dance music. Servers, check. Wedding attire, check. Bride, check. Groom, check. Flower girl, check. Attendants, check.
Certain everything was exactly as I'd planned I retired to the ladies room at 12:30 to get dressed in my hopefully stunning dress that would knock my new husbands socks off, complete with a tiara. Sadly, I overestimated my capabilities once again. The ladies room was loaded, with my sister and I both trying to get into our wedding finery. My daughters, her daughter, my sister from Georgia, her daughter and my great niece were all trying to help us. It was hot. Other women were arriving and needing to use the facilities. My hair would not stay up. Mackenzie (great-niece) was trying to get my nails on. My feet were already killing me, which is no surprise considering the shoes I bought (4th) pair were a half-size too small and my sister had taken them home and worn them around her house with socks on for a week to stretch them out. She's really loyal like that! And they were lace, just like my dress, so I simply had to have them!
It's now 1:00, I'm running late and I've already gotten word that my new husband to be was outside puking! Good God, he doesn't want to marry me, was my first thought. And here I'd been the one worrying about getting cold feet for days. I manage to pull it together and make my appearance the same time the caterer is trying to bring food in the door behind me. My daughter flips out and tells him he has to wait.
Finally, they tell me Mike is waiting for me and I send my sister and Matron of Honor out. Then the flower girl, who by the way still thinks the wedding is on the beach and walks right by the guests, minister and her grandfather, Mike, lol and heads toward the beach.
The song I've chosen to come in to, Because You Love Me, by Jodee Mesina, is telling me it's time to go and I start down the walkway toward the mini altar on the patio with my oldest son and daughter by my side. Mike is standing there, sweating bullets and I can tell by the slightly glazed look in his eyes that he doesn't even notice the dress. When I reach his side I wipe his face with my tissue and wonder if he's going to make it through the ceremony. It actually crosses my mind to stop the whole thing and say "Hey everyone, this isn't going so well, so let's just forget it and party. Eat, drink and be merry, not married."
Becky, the kindest and loveliest minister in the world, starts the ceremony, but the music doesn't stop. Instead it goes into another song. Everyone laughs, some tension is lessened and they finally get it under control. Now, the ceremony itself was lovely. We decided to go with the basics, no personal vows, short, sweet and to the point. Mike had struggled with this, wanting to write our own, but I finally said let's just keep in simple. Ironic huh, considering how complicated I made everything else?
As soon as the kiss is over I tell him to take off his suit jacket. He's still sweating and I wonder if it's his blood sugar or the heat. He's diabetic. We decide to do our first dance right away so that everyone can eat and Becky can leave. We chose, After All, by Cher and Peter Cetera. That particular song is meaningful to us on so many levels. The music begins, we start to dance. The music stops. Begins again, dance, stop. Begins again. I'm starting to wonder if Bill's spirit is not messing with me, as we had a special part of our ceremony were we mentioned all those who have gone from us and that we hope their spirits are present on this special day. Present and silent is what I was hoping for.
The music begins again and I'm relieved, let's get this over. Mike decided to spin me. I'd mentioned few time that we should go and take a dance lesson. Hey, lots of couple do and I didn't want to look like a couple of seventh grade swayers, as if that could happen at our ages! He spins, vertigo attacks and he whispers, "Good thing there's a doctor in the house."
"Do you need a doctor?"
I help him back to the head table where he sits and begins to gag. My daughter whips the champagne bottle out of the bucket and hands the bucket to him. I run for Dr. Joe, Mike's doctor who comes to him immediately. We strip off his dress shirt and put cold towels around his neck and head. To distract attention I tell the Best Man, Mike's brother and his wife to go start the food line. Ed, by the way was very thankful Cathy had the quick sense to hand Mike the bucket or he would have been in the line of fire.
It was pretty much downhill from there. We never sat at the head table together. We didn't dance again (until all the guests were nearly gone and Perfect played) and Mike quickly changed into a wolf tee shirt and went outside for some air. I didn't eat, but I did consume several glasses of punch with helped a little. I felt like a guest at someone else's wedding. We were both sort of wandering around talking to people, but seldom together. Finally, I sat with an old friend and put a scoop of Ziti on a plate. We were at the table closest to the buffet line when the sterno spilled and set the tablecloth on fire, so much for buying real tablecloths. They burn like paper. I yelled for a fireman and my son-in-law came and put it out.
By now I'd realized the absurdity of walking around in a corset, killer heels and a $600.00 dress while my husband was wearing a tee shirt. I went and changed into a black lace dress. We met up to cut the cake and then split up again. Then it was finally time for jeans and a tee shirt as we began cleaning up.
Oddly enough everyone said what a good time they had, it was the best wedding they'd been to in a long time. Go Figure?
Some Wedding Pictures
Today we are three weeks in and things are good, very good. Despite the chaos of the wedding, I'm still happy I married him. It took me a couple of days to process everything that happened and for him to convince me that the idea of marrying him had not made him sick. It was the heat, the stress, his diabetes and occasional vertigo. He's attentive, loving, generous and perfect for me. I am a lucky woman and he is...
He got this sign at a party last weekend and this is the first thing he used it for. He loves gadgets...and me. Lol.
It's been a long time since I posted on this page, more a year. So much has happened I don't really know where to begin or how many details I want to make public, but I sort of feel I owe it to the readers who have followed my journey through widowhood. I also have been feeling the need to write my thoughts down for a while and never seemed to find the time or the right words.
The grief is not over, not by a long-shot. Some days are still hard, especially the holidays. I want to enjoy them, truly I do, but somehow my heart isn't in it. Maybe it's because I spent so many special days with Bill and everything is different now, or maybe it's because the kids are grown. Not that I don't have plenty of grandchildren, I do, but most of them are older and not so excited to go to Grandma's. Grandma isn't the same and Grandpa is missing.
That being said, life goes on, often in unexpected ways. You see late last summer I reconnected with a man from my past. We always had strong feelings for one another and were in and out of each others lives a few times in our early years, but the timing was never quite right. Our affection for each other was genuine. We were friends, real friends who liked the same music, laughed at the same jokes and had a bond that never seemed to be completely severed, even though we went our separate ways more than once.
When we met last summer the years seemed to melt away. It was as though I had talked to him days ago instead of years.
At first I was hesitant. I felt foolish, a sixty-three year old woman acting like a teenager. I didn't know how much was real and how much was wishful thinking, and I was so godawful lonely. Could I trust my emotions?
He was lonely too, and had been for a very long time. Although he was married he was living in isolation in his own home, any affection and intimacy having ended years ago. I wondered about that too. Wasn't that what all married men said? "My wife doesn't understand me."
Once again I was in an extremely stressful situation, confused and frightened. He was just as confused. After careful consideration he decided to break it off with me. Guilt was eating him alive and it was killing me as well. Although it was almost two years after Bill's death was it to soon for a relationship? Could I actually be a part of breaking up his marriage? Was I that kind of woman? Did that make me a selfish, calculating bitch who only cared about her own happiness? Oddly enough we both ended up in the hospital within days of calling it off.
I was heartbroken and embarrassed, determined to stay as far away from him as I could. I asked him to delete my number and he did. Five days later he called my daughter. He couldn't do it. He was sick over it, more sick at the thought of not having me in his life than he was in facing what was coming. I was relieved.
We decided to have an affair. Disgusting I know, but our options felt limited and I tried to justify it by telling myself I wasn't cheating, he was. I was free to do whatever I wanted and people had affairs all the time, right? Not me, but other people I mean? I'd been a good wife and mother and never unfaithful to Bill. I'd come back from death's door more than once since Bill died. Didn't I deserve a little happiness? Ugh! What a mess.
I'd never been 'the other woman' and I have to tell you, I wasn't very good at it. I'm too high maintenance for that shit. I have to be THE WOMAN and I told him so, but I would do it as long as I could. Turns out that wasn't very long. My nerves were shot. We were meeting as often as we could, even at Walmart of all places, but the more time we spent together, the more we hated to part. I was living with my phone in my hand like a pathetic teenager. He was trying to learn to text, lol. Seriously, some of his messages made me wonder if he was having a stroke! I can't even imagine what anyone viewing the security cameras at Walmart saw without shuddering.
In any case it was only a few weeks later when he came clean to his wife. To be fair he was honest and offered to stay with her as long as he could see me whenever we wanted. Their intimacy had ended years ago and while I was sort of...kind of...willing to agree to that, she wasn't. Thank God! He packed and left that day and has been with me ever since.
In February his divorce became final and he asked me to marry him. He thinks waiting forty years is long enough. I said yes.
We set a date for late summer, but here's the thing that's most important. He gets me. He knows I still grieve for Bill. He understands how much I loved him and accepts that there are certain days where he can't do much for me except be there, be present.
I don't have to hide my sadness from him. He knows how important he is to me and how much I love him. He's kind, tender and thoughtful. He makes me laugh and lightens my burdens.
Is it the same kind of love I felt for Bill? No. Definitely not, but it's still love and our relationship is worthy of my devotion and I'll try never to compare these two men I love so much.
So, in a few more weeks I will no longer be a widow, I'll be a bride. The thought of referring to myself as that makes me laugh and cringe a bit. Brides are not sixty-four years old, they are young and starry-eyed and full of hope for the future. They don't have a giant hole in their heart that will never be filled and they don't think about death, wills, financial bullshit or wonder how many years they will actually have with their new husbands.
They usually don't have most of their friends and family asking them why they are getting married at their age and suggesting they simply live together. Truthfully, we've considered living together and have been doing just that for almost a year, but we're old school. When you're in love, you get married. Besides, he says he waited years for me and I don't feel right making him wait any longer, not to mention we don't have another forty years.
So, in conclusion, I have to say that even though I thought my life was over, that I would never love again, never feel passion again, I was mistaken. I think you have to be open to it, and for me knowing the other person for a long time helped that happen, but life still has some surprises up it's sleeve and some of them might be wonderful. Wish me luck!
Some days the sadness is overwhelming and I feel like I’ve gone back in time. I can go along for days, maybe even a couple of weeks and think I’m okay, I’m getting better. I do the mother/grandmother things, write a bit, and even manage some housework. I run some errands. Maybe I actually cook a meal. Last week I baked and decorated a birthday cake, something I haven’t done in a few years but sooner or later the stark reality sets in.
For years I was ‘the lucky one’.
“You’re so lucky to have Bill.”
“You guys have such a great marriage.”
“I don’t know another couple who are as happy as you two.”
“His love for you is so obvious. I’m jealous.”
“You were made for each other.”
Bill and I sort of won the marriage lottery. But what happens when your ‘luck’ runs out?
We never had much money. Didn’t drive fancy cars or live in gorgeous houses. I’ve never owned a designer bag, never traveled far from home. Tropical vacations were something you dreamed about on cold winter nights. Going out to dinner meant Olive Garden or somewhere at the beach for a fish fry. The nearest Dairy Queen is now fifty miles away, but it was once our favorite place to stop.
For a long time, when the kids were young and there was a closer Dairy Queen, we used to meet every Friday for lunch. I would park my car and get into his truck and we would go through the drive-through. Then Bill would park out back and we’d eat and talk, maybe neck a little before he drove me back to my car.
The employees all thought we were having an affair. You could tell by the looks, sometimes sly, sometimes a little offended that they thought I was someone's wife and he was someone's husband. Our conversations ranged from the very serious, involving money or problems with the kids, to silly, fun, sexy teasing. With five kids there wasn’t much private time at home, and this was our time. An hour stolen from kids and work and a multitude of time sucking chores to simple enjoy each other. Rainy days were the best. Parked in the back corner of the lot with the wipers off we were enclosed in our own secluded world. That hour flew by and even though I knew I would see him at home in a few hours after we got out of work, I was always a little sad to kiss him good-bye and get back in my own car.
I guess it stands to reason that sadness would encompass me now, knowing I won’t see him at home, in fact I won’t see him again. I pray every night that one day we will be reunited in Heaven. I pray for faith, for in all honesty I’m often overcome by doubt. Why would a loving God separate two people whose very existence depends on each other? Why would he take Bill when at this very second some man is abusing his wife, the one he promised to treasure for all eternity? Somewhere, some woman is begging for mercy, as I beg for mercy now. Somewhere a woman is suffering in silence, much as I suffer every day. How can this make sense?
My minds says, take him, God. Take the man who is cruel, heartless, and selfish. He’s the one who needs your help. He’s the one who might benefit from your holy law. Don’t take the one who knows how to love. Don’t take the one who is ‘all heart’, who understands what honor means, the one who makes a difference here on earth, the one I struggle to live without. For you have taken one body, but two hearts.
The wedding ceremony reads ‘till death do us part’ and that’s what I agreed to when I said “I do”, but it doesn’t end at death, does it. Death parts us physically, but it does not part hearts that beat for each other.
In reality, this post probably doesn’t help anyone. It’s for me, one of the ‘left-behinds’, one of the thousands of women who wander this world wondering what happened and why. We wonder when the pain will end, if the pain will end. We wonder if we’ll ever feel whole again. We wonder how we’ll survive another year, another day, another minute. Yet we go on, through no real choice of our own.
Blessed are the ‘left-behinds’. Even though my faith wavers, I pray for all the women like me. I pray God gives us strength, courage and faith.
I admit I'm not a pro/expert at this grieving thing. Although I grieved bitterly at the loss of my beloved grandparents, aunts and uncles, my mother and father and a few dear friends, nothing could have prepared me for how I would feel after Bill's death.
I'd imagined it many times over the course of our lives together. He cut into his leg with a chainsaw and nearly bled to death, had his aortic valve replaced with a mechanical one, a battery blew up in his face, he had a snowmobile accident and twice he was taken from the doctor's office in an ambulance with A-Fib and admitted to the hospital.
He had car accidents, PAD and developed Gangrene from poor circulation in his legs. A few months before he died he lost one leg above the knee, so of course the fear of losing him forever was always in my mind, but he always pulled through. He had eight stents and sailed through those procedures like a champ. I don't think I've ever know a tougher man. So when he died one beautiful September morning with no warning I was in shock. That probably sounds a little crazy, but I had come to think of him as indestructible.
Pretty silly, given the circumstances, or perhaps my mind could not conceive of life without him. Truthfully, it still can't.
Even after more than nineteen months I look for him. I want to hear his voice, touch his hand, get a hug. I want to tell him things, ask his opinion, but there are no answers except for my memories. Many times I hear him in my head, but I know that's only because I knew him so well, so intimately that most of the time I know what he'd say. Or maybe I just think I do. Sometimes he did surprise me.
Since his death I've been pretty ill off and on. I won't bore you with the details as I've mentioned them in previous posts. The only new ambulance rides have been for a 'heart hiccup' and another for complete exhaustion. Not much they can do about either of those things, but I am trying. Still drinking my Boost, which those lovely people have upped the protein to 20 grams. Thank you Nestle. I'm still eating yogurt and now taking Magnesium pills, which aren't too bad if you can get them down. So I'm starting to feel a bit better, a little stronger, although I did take a fall in the parking lot of Olive Garden earlier this week. ( I put it down to parking too close to the curb and some wet stones and landscaping. I wasn't seriously injured but my tailbone is killing me.) That's why I was so surprised at my last doctor's appointment.
My guy is leaving. A highly upsetting fact in itself as he's really pulled me through the last few months. He's a great guy and I trust him, but I'm having some serious doubts. He believes I have major clinical depression and would like me to go on medication and see a therapist. Sadly, I won't see him again. Today is his last day and I'm not sure who I'm going to switch too. I'll miss him for sure. He took great care of Bill and me for more than ten years.
Most of my family and friends agree with him. I find this a little surprising. Have I passed the time limit for grief? Is a year and a half long enough? Does grief then become self-pity or mental illness requiring medication? How is this helpful in the long run? Will medication stop the residual pain of losing the love of my life or simply mask it?
I know for a fact I will never again be the woman I was. Anti-depressants might make a difference. I might laugh more, or louder. I might be able to pretend my life is different but it would be because a drug makes it so. I might be able to slap on the happy mask easier than I can now, but my previously effervescent personality will still be as flat as week old soda. I have a hard time working up any enthusiasm now. Will drugs make me even colder, more numb to the realities of my life?
I'd be interested in comments on this post from others who are going through this painful process or have survived it. When does grief morph into mental illness? Am I worse, or are others simply more uncomfortable with my sadness?
I think we all know how devastating the loss of a spouse can be. Emotionally you’re devastated, heartbroken and so very alone. Financially it may be a huge blow as well. When Bill died I lost half of my income but kept the house and all the expenses associated with that as well as the care of our grandchildren.
With the help of my daughters and family I muddled through the first year, although there are a good many things I don’t remember. It’s a blur of tears, depression and pain. I kept telling myself if I could get through the first year maybe things would be better. Maybe I would survive. What I didn’t really expect was a string of constant illnesses.
In the beginning I was sick, physically, mentally and emotionally. It was no surprise to end up so weak I could not get out of bed. In fact I didn’t much care one way or the other if I ever did. When you can’t eat, can’t sleep and you find no joy in life what else can you expect? Give it time, everyone said. So I did. Time was all I had, endless days and nights of misery so profound the only way I could talk about it was on this blog.
When the year mark passed I was disappointed. It meant nothing as far as how I felt, just another day on the calendar. There was no sense of accomplishment, no relief, simply another bleak year ahead of me.
I spent a good deal of time wondering how my life had become so mundane, so empty. I have people I love, people who love me, but nothing could take his place.
I know it sounds terrible, but no one could possibly understand my loss. No other woman on earth could have loved her husband more than I loved mine, so what did they know? How could they understand? We were unique, Bill and I. There was not another couple in the world so devoted to each other.
It’s very self-centered and totally unrealistic. Of course there are others who feel what I feel. There are others who know a pain so deep, so debilitating but like me they believe they are alone in their suffering and they are to a certain extent.
Part of that has to do with the intimacy only other couples like us share. It’s memories that you could talk about and many you never would. It’s the very private connection of living with a man who understands everything about you, the beautiful and the ugly, but loves you anyway. It’s having someone in your life you never have to hide from. You’re completely exposed in every possible way, yet it’s good, wonderful in fact, and it’s gone.
Over time I tried to pick myself up and dust myself off. It’s the way I was raised. No use crying over spilt milk. No point in feeling sorry for yourself. Buck up! Don’t be a baby. He’s gone and there’s not one damn thing you can do about it, so carry on and all that rot.
I prayed, a lot. I prayed for strength, courage and faith. I prayed for a day, an hour, a minute of peace, of respite from the misery that greets me each day the moment I open my eyes and remember he’s gone. I even prayed to die. God almost answered that one.
Basically I’m in reasonably good health; at least I was before Bill got sick. Things started going wacky for me shortly before he died. I started fainting.
The medical word is Syncope and there are many causes for it. Mine seems to be mainly caused by dehydration and at times malnutrition. It’s also caused by stress or sudden shock, that sort of thing. Some people faint at the sight of blood, etc.
Prior to Bill’s illness I’d never been in an ambulance in my life. Since then I’ve taken six rides. I am not impressed. They are expensive and embarrassing to me, not during of course, during I have no idea what’s going on because my blood pressure is 60/30 or 80/40, but after I’m a bit mortified. The fire departments have a name for people like that, frequent fliers. I do not want that name.
It galls me to a certain extent. My heart is good. Although I’m a smoker, my lungs are good and I pass every breathing test. I do have some autoimmune diseases that prevent my body from operating on full steam when I get an infection, but hey, we all have something. I could use new reading glasses as mine fall off my face but who knew when you lose weight that can happen?
In January I collapsed at home, passed out and hit my head and took a ride after my daughter was able to revive me. To be honest I was a little pissed but I can’t in good conscience expect her to stand there and let me die. It turned out I had the flu and was in the hospital for several days. The Social Worker said my obit would have said I died from complications of the flu.
After that I sort of vowed to take better care of myself. I tried, most of the time, but again I failed. I promised myself I would try to find some joy in life.
On February 19th I collapsed at the casino, another backwards ride to the hospital where they filled my up with all kinds of goody fluids and nutrients and sent me home. The very next night I took another ride after waking in the middle of the night horribly sick and passing out.
This was, by far, the worst. I had a gastro infection of some kind that turned into Sepsis. The illness is horrible, the medications are horrible and every single one makes you dizzy, something you already are. I didn’t take more than four or five steps in all the days I was in there.
My daughters never left my side. I wasn’t alone for minute and I’m so very grateful for that. I knew Sepsis was serious. No one could be that sick and want to live, but for some reason I did. I even took all my medications when I got home like a good girl even though I hated every single Leviquin pill and referred to Flagyl as ‘the F bomb’.
On Wednesday I dragged myself to the doctors for the ‘after hospital’ exam and was stunned when he told me he’d only given me a 50/50 chance of surviving.
Now I have to ask myself, why did I survive? How did I survive? What am I supposed to be doing? What do I still have to accomplish? I’m not a very good mother anymore, but do my children, grandchildren, sisters still need me?
In January when I went out I felt Bill near me. In fact I thought he’d come for me and I was filled with peace and joy, but he didn’t take me with him. In February I didn’t feel him at all, not for a moment. I’m thinking he might be a little pissed at me. Seriously, he could be a real haunt when I was writing and not eating.
So, I’m trying to be better. I drink a Boost every day, which has like 15grams of protein. I’m eating yogurt and oranges and applesauce. I’m drinking lots of water.
Everything else tastes weird, too salty, too sweet etc.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, you will not die just because you want to. You will live. It’s all about how you want to live. You can do what I did and hope to stop. You can give up, not care and suffer, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to die. It only means you will feel like crap on top of your grief.
I know eating is a hassle. I know all about staying up until you’re so exhausted you can barely make it to bed. I understand not sleeping once you get there, but you have to decide what kind of quality of life you want while you’re still here, while you’re waiting for your turn.
Personally, I’m opposed to feeling like shit. I realize now that what I want doesn’t really matter. I’m here. I could be here for ten minutes or twenty years. The choice is not mine, but I don’t want to do it like this. I don’t want to be too weak to go anywhere. I don’t want to be alone out here in the back of beyond watching it snow for five months of the year. I don’t want my children to worry their lives away over me, or be afraid to leave me alone. They have a life. They have families and lovers and I’m stealing their best years away from them. It’s selfish, depriving them of what I once had.
I’m going to sell this house and find another, somewhere with less snow, more people and closer to the hospital, just in case. Some place where it’s not a twelve mile trip for bread and milk.
I love you Bill and miss you every single second of every single day, but I have to rejoin the real world. Death will not come for me and I cannot live in limbo any longer. When you are ready, I’ll be waiting.
Oh, I gave my wedding rings to Jill and Billy. You probably already know they are getting married in July and I’m very happy about it. The rings don’t fit me anymore and I’m wearing the five diamond band you gave me. It’s to big too, but I bought a black diamond band to wear in front of it. It sort of symbolizes my life now. I hope you’re not upset, but she’d get them eventually anyway and I want someone to wear them who loves her husband like I love you.
Some days I wonder what my purpose is. I wonder why I'm still here. What's the plan? What am I supposed to be doing? In truth, I have no clue. I keep putting one foot in front of the other. I'm on a journey with no destination in sight and frankly it's not a very pleasant one. Where am I going? When will I get there? There is a feeling of being lost. People offer to do things for me and I let them, but there is a price to pay for that and it's called independence.
My daughter says:
"I'll drive." Okay.
"Want me to do your laundry?" Okay.
"Want me to change your sheets, vacuum your room, make you something to eat?" Okay.
She does these things because she can't help me. I get it. She's on a journey of her own as she tries to come to grips with the loss of her dad. I can't help her either. We both loved the same man, but my pain is different from hers. I feel bad for everyone else who is grieving, for not only have they lost Bill, but we have all lost a piece of each other somehow, if that makes sense.
I am not the same mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, or friend I once was. There is a woman in my house. She wears my clothes and sleeps in my bed, but she is not me. I don't know her, not really. Sometimes when I look in the mirror I don't recognize her. She has sad eyes. Her hair seems lifeless, her skin pale and she's much older than me. If I get dressed to go out and do the girly hair and make-up thing the girls will tell me I look nice, or that I'm pretty. It's a bit funny. Do they think I am blind as well? I know exactly how I look and prefer to stay away from mirrors if I have my glasses on.
That being said, even as depression rears it's ugly head once again, all is not terrible. There are days where while I'm not particularly proud of who I've become since Bill died, I am still proud of who I once was.
My youngest daughter got engaged last weekend to a man who was once a young friend of Bill's. They have quite an age difference between them, but he's a good man with many of the same values Bill had.
Every single morning she texts me:
"Good morning, mama."
We talk back and forth for a while as I sit at the table and watch the dawn. She's up getting her daughter off to school. The other morning it went like this:
"Good morning, mama."
"How are you feeling?"
"I'm good. I want to show off my ring, lol."
"I don't blame you. Funny how things turn out."
"It is, I seriously couldn't be happier."
"I'm so happy for you both."
"Saturday night he said in bed as we were going to sleep, I hope I make you happy and I said everyday, and I hope I make you happy and he said every second."
"Aw, so sweet, like me and dad."
"I know, honestly I wouldn't have what I have if I hadn't watched you and dad loving each other."
So yeah, I'm proud of that. My kids know what love looks like. What they do with that knowledge is up to them.
Tomorrow is my birthday, the second one I've had without Bill. The day itself is not a big deal to me. My mother is gone, my father is gone and now Bill. Am I supposed to celebrate?
I can't, to me it's just another day, another year, and probably another wrinkle. Yeah, that's what I want.
Anyway, my oldest granddaughter gave me a lovely gift. Caitlin has lived with Bill and I most of her life and she's quite unique. I've never seen anything like this before, but there's no one quite like Caitie either.
It's the way the stars aligned on my 16th birthday, the night I met Bill. I find it very interesting and may start paying more attention to such things. I have a telescope but I think it might need a lens. I'm going to look into it. Out here where I live there is no light pollution, so the sky is magnificent on clear night.
Well, that's the end of my somewhat disjointed, whiny post. Life is kind of like that now. Just sort of rambling on in no particular direction. I can't imagine what I would do it I didn't write.
The Blame Game
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.
As I slowly come to accept Bill’s death, the loss of his presence in my life, I find I am still tormented by two words, words I spoke.
There are so very many things that have happened in the last year I can’t remember, important things, events that should have left a lasting impression, yet I can’t recall any of the details.
The flip side is that I recall in nearly perfect detail everything that happened the day Bill died. It’s like watching a movie over and over in my mind, praying the ending will be different. I’m still mesmerized by the beauty of the day, the color of the sky, the sounds of the birds outside at the feeders, the sense of peace we felt as we sat at the table having our coffee.
For the first time in a very long time we were looking ahead, planning for a future we hadn’t been sure we had.
I won’t bore you with a moment by moment version of what happened that day. I’m pretty sure I’ve already done that, probably several times as I’ve poured my heart out on this blog. I’ve relived that day so many times I could probably recite every conversation, like a book you’ve read so many times you know it by heart.
It has gotten better. When I wake in the morning and see the empty side of the bed I think of him, of course I do, how can I not? Late in the night before I fall asleep I’m conscious of the solitude of my room, our room. I miss him, everything about him, but I know it’s not going away and I’ve come to find ways to get through it.
I have a pillow I hug and this might sound odd but a little stuffed animal I call Toby. It’s a Border Collie, black and white and I won him at bingo. My daughter asked for him and normally I would have given him over in a second, but for some strange reason I said no. Soon Toby was sleeping on Bill’s pillows. He has really soft dark fur/hair and in my sleep I reach over and stroke him. I find it comforting. I always touched Bill in the night. We always touched each other. Our bed is memory foam, so a lot of the time neither of us could sense the movement of the other. A simple pat, the touch of a hand assured him I was beside him. I slept with my hand on his pillow. I could stroke his hair and feel the movement if he got up.
Anyway, once again I’ve strayed from the point of this post. I wanted to talk about Health Care Proxies.
Most of us have them. Hospital’s make that a priority. Who is going to make your health care decisions if you’re unable to? We sign away, appointing our husband, wife, child, sister, friend, whoever we trust and it does imply trust. What we don’t think about is the responsibility we’re putting on our loved ones.
Chances are if they find themselves in the position to make your decisions something catastrophic has happened. If they love you, and most likely you would choose someone who does, they will be under an enormous amount of stress. They may be in shock as I was, or running on auto-pilot, again as I was.
Things happened very quickly for us. In fact when I received the death certificate and noted the time I death I couldn’t believe it. I was convinced it was wrong, by several hours. Such a horrific and monumental event could not have occurred in that short amount of time.
That was when I began to question my judgement. That was when those two little words began to torment me.
Rationally I know I did the right thing. I knew he was gone when I watched the light fade from his eyes, yet several things stick in my mind.
“We have some heart activity. It’s not enough to sustain life.”
Would it have been if I’d said ‘keep working on him’? Was there yet another miracle around the corner but I didn’t have the faith to wait for it? Why didn’t I bring someone into that room with me?
I know it was my responsibility. I was the only one who could make the decision, but I’ve second guessed myself a million times. Did I give up to early?
That day he was in Trauma Room 1, the same room my dad was in when he had the massive stroke that took his life. I was alone with Bill as I was with my dad, but for Bill I didn’t have to be. There was a room across the hall filled with my children, his family, and my family. I could have called someone else in and asked, “What should I do?”
But I didn’t. Instead I asked the doctor, “What is the outcome of this?” I watched them working on him, heard the no pulse, no pulse, no pulse over and over. I touched him. He felt cold. He did not squeeze my hand. I looked into his eyes. They were empty. Not like my dad’s. He looked at me as I stroked his head and sang to him, lying through my teeth about how everything was going to be all right when the doctor had already told me he wasn’t going to survive.
Had Bill shown any sign of life, had there been any flicker of hope in my heart I might have answered differently. When that doctor sadly shook his head in answer to my question I felt I had no choice. Could I in good conscience stand there and continue to watch them torture his body and do nothing? Would I want that if it were me? If they managed to keep him alive, would he have any quality of life, this man who’d already been through so much pain losing much more than just his leg, but his independence as well?
“Then stop,” I whispered.
Those two little words, two tiny little words will haunt me for the rest of my life.
There are times I know with absolute certainty I did the right thing, but there are times the ‘what if’ game torments me. There are even times I wonder if I said those words for me, because I couldn’t stand one more moment of seeing him like that. Did I say them because his heart had stopped beating or because mine was shattering? Was it me being strong or me being weak at the most crucial moment of my life?
I’ll never know. I realize that now. I do know that had Bill eventually woken up on a ventilator unable to talk and being kept alive with machines he would have looked at me with accusing eyes. That would have been a blow neither of us would have recovered from, but I will always wonder if I could have done something differently.
Maybe if I’d asked for his heart doctor to be called in and he said there was no hope I would feel differently, but ER doctors don’t know you. They don’t know how incredibly important your presence is to those around you. They see an older man, already missing one leg with the other one in peril. They see a man with an artificial aortic valve, COPD and vascular disease.
They don’t see the husband, father, brother, uncle and friend who’s death is going to create a tremendous void that nothing will ever fill. They don’t see the dozens of lives that will never be the same. They are medical personnel, looking at the situation from a purely medical perspective. They deal with death every day.
We do not. For us it is a crushing blow, an extremely painful event from which we may or may not recover, if it’s possible to recover from such a loss.
I may change my health care proxy. Right now it is my oldest daughter. I know in my heart she loves me and will make the best decision, but I think at the very least I should add someone else. That way she will not have to carry the burden alone. If the worst happens and she has to make a life or death decision at least she will have someone to discuss it with, someone she must discuss it with. It will not fall on her shoulders alone and maybe she would not spend the rest of her life second guessing herself. One can only hope.
So, this will be my last post of 2017. I feel a little better for having written my thoughts down. If there are other widows out there feeling what I’m feeling, wondering if the choices you made were the right ones, know that you are not alone. You are not crazy and while you may not have the outlet I have by being able to post on this blog, others share your uncertainty, your regrets and your pain.
When I pray I do not ask God to help me ‘get through this’ for I don’t believe we are ever ‘though’, as in done. I thank him for having had a man like Bill in my life for so many years and I ask for strength, courage and faith to ‘carry on’, for that’s all I can do, all any of us can do.
Wishing you all a happy, healthy and prosperous year in 2018. If you’re celebrating I hope you have a good time. Be safe.
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.