Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the double-ass ugly. Comments welcome! Jean

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Loneliness and Dogs That Talk Smack

 

Have you ever wondered how your spouse would have handled it if you'd been the first one to die, what his first year of widowhood would have been like? In Don’s case it’s a no brainer. The quality of his life would have changed drastically because there is no way he could have lived alone, being right side paralyzed and with severe language disorders. His next in line POA after me would have had no choice but to put him a nursing home. If there is anything good to say about him dying I can say I’m glad my husband was the first to go.

A few years ago I told him in jest that he’d miss me for about a minute and a half if I died. Don was not shy and I could visualize him becoming an unofficial greeter---no matter where he’d end up living---hanging around the front door hoping someone would stop and talk. But Don didn’t take my toss-away remark lightly. Over the next few hours he kept grabbing my arm and emphatically saying, “NO!” With his aphasia that was the most language he had at his disposal to tell me that he would miss me more than a minute and half---that and his expressive, sad eyes. I felt bad for making him think about me leaving him behind. The loneliness of living without language is hard enough for me to imagine doing but to live that way among strangers is something I can’t grasp. Cripe, I was so worried about that happening to Don that I kept a notebook full of information about his history, likes, dislikes and habits just in case I did die first. Same with the dog.

Speaking of Levi, have you ever tried to put a sweater on a dog who simply doesn’t understand the thrill of looking good while keeping Warm? Levi hates winter coats and sweaters and I guess it’s my own fault. The first one I bought for him I mistakenly got the wrong style. I soon discovered it wasn’t made to accommodate little boy parts and when he peed the material absorbed all the liquid and held it close to his body. In my defense, I didn’t even know they made gender specific dog coats and I’ve been buying dog coats and sweaters my entire adult life. So when I bought the next one I took him to the pet store to try some on to…ah, check out the fit of his undercarriage. That’s when I got my first clue that Levi is not a fashionista. Coats are for sissy, Mom! Don’t make we wear that thing. Yesterday I had him outside with me while I was shoveling snow and every so often I’d show him his coat and talk sweetly to him about putting it on but he’d run to the opposite end of the deck. I’d rather be cold than look like a dork! Argyle, Mom! Really? Argyle? Get me something PSY might wear and we’ll talk. So this is my lonely life. I talk to the dog and I hear him talking back in my head.

Recently I read a blog entry by another widow who said she "isn’t cut out for widowhood." She didn’t like living alone, and was very lonely. That part of her husband dying, she said, was a bigger challenge than dealing with the grief she felt when he passed away. Oh, goody. Why did I have to read that? Then she went on to say she wanted to get re-married as soon as possible. May the gods of snide remarks forgive me for saying this but did she frigging overdose on fairly tales in her youth? What does she think, that you can just call 1 (800) GET-AGUY and a new husband will arrive on her doorstep? She is only four months out from her husband’s death. Four months! As a feminist, I find that astonishing.

But in the interest of full disclosure, at four months out from Don’s death Levi started asking for a puppy "to take Dad's place" and I’d tell him if he still wants one after a year has past we’d talk about it. In doggie time, though, four months out is probably a respectable period of mourning. Either way, the other woman’s blog got me to thinking about the difference between grief and loneliness. I decided that a lot of us widows don’t separate the two emotions in our minds as surgically precise as she did. Maybe if we did, it would be easier to move forward. I’m not suggesting that the 1(800) GET-AGUY number should come in the packets many widows get in the mail from support groups. Hell, no. But for me, I need to explore the idea that grief is about losing Don and loneliness is about finding me. Who am I without Don? Am I still a whole human being without a man in my life? Did the feminist in me sell out and start believing in the fairytale White Knight that saves the damsel in distress? And since I can give an emphatic ‘NO!’ to that question then the next question becomes: where do I look to find to the strength that will help me thrive again on my own?

“Levi, I’m not going to find what I’m looking for at the animal shelter.”
You said we’d talk about it after a year.
“The year’s not up until the 18th.”
Do you know how long that is in doggie time?
Jeez, Mom! ©

8 comments:

  1. I've been thinking about loneliness lately, too, probably because I feel so lonely these days. (Was it the holidays?) I'm not looking to GET-A-GUY right now, and I doubt that's the solution, anyway. I can't imagine that anyone could really fill this hole, not yet. A companion would just be a distraction. My current approach is to keep busy with a healthy balance of work, kid stuff, and some healthy activity. That may keep the loneliness at bay for awhile, but that's not gonna be the solution, either. I bet you're right that the loneliness is an invitation to find oneself. It's not just about staying active, but in discovering new interests, or recovering old interests, one finds one's strength and one's (new) self. That's daunting, as it's another step toward independence and letting go.

    As for the dog matters, now I know that there are boy and girl dog sweaters. Who knew? I get that's life's a journey, but--wow--the places it takes you.

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  2. For me, the holidays was a big factor in making me feel lonely and I felt a lessening of those feelings as soon as they passed. I think your balanced approach is a great plan and one I'm just beginning to map out for the next few months. I've been skirting around the whole find-my-self thing, knowing it the right path to take but I not moving along it yet. Soon. Thanks for the sharing your thoughts!

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  3. Jean :

    I feel after any loss like job loss, divorce, death, kids leaving from home, we all feel out of anchor & wonder who am I question, I know I struggled with that question lot more after my job loss never knew I was so attached to my job title so much, so now I m even afraid to get attached to my other role playing in life. you are so much more than Jean the writer & all those other titles you played in your life. I don't know whether I make any sense, but just wanted to let you know your writings have helped me in so many ways in past, and I feel so fortunate that you were there for me through your writings.

    Asha


    Asha

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  4. Thank you Asha. I can always count on you to make me feel better. And you're right about all loses having things in common so we can have some understanding of what others are going through. I know you and other stroke survivors know first hand what loss is like.

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  5. Indeed, the shift in identity is unavoidable, and so hard to adjust to. And, Jean, your writing is helping so many of us in so many ways. A dose of wisdom that is always good-natured. It's such a tonic in these tough times. Thank you!

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  6. I get a lot out of your blogs, too, Ficherreader. And it's rewarding knowing that my "whining and crying" is not going to waste, that someone out in the world can identify.....

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  7. Wow, maybe 1-800-getaguy would be a great idea. Not a new husband, not a sexual partner, not a replacement, but someone to fill that gaping empty hole or just a day. Someone to talk to who doesn't stumble over their response and then throw in some inane line about wanting good memories, or Ididn't want to make you cry. Someone who would call because they really want to just have dinner with me, not because they feel they should, but sadly their spouse is waiting. Someone who doesn't artifically engineer conversations so as to ensure they don't mention anything about my spouse. Someone who doesn't get uncomfortable when I mention my spouse.

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  8. That sure would be the perfect companion, wouldn't it. If you find one and he as a twin, send the twin my way. LOL Your last few lines really touch me. I hate that uncomfortable look some people have when I mention my late husband! Thanks for the comment.

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