Flutter and Mystery


Marriage Day

Marriage Day (Photo credit: Fikra)

Krya Sedgwick, actor and wife of fellow actor Kevin Bacon, mentioned in a recent interview that she still gets the romantic butterfly effect when she sees her husband.

“When he walks into a room…my heart gets a little fluttery and I think, ‘Oh! He’s so cute. He’s so hot.’ “

Married now for 23 years, her revelation that her husband still does it for her and that,

“He’s still a mystery to me,”

because she learns new things about him even after so much time together actually made the news outside of the ladies magazine circles.

With marriage and monogamy in the “not cool” or “so grandma retro” menu columns these days, it’s not hard to see why Sedgwick’s enduring fascination with her husband astounds the public as much as the discovery of a long-lost pre-historic fish off the coast of New Zealand. It’s a Ripley’s Believe or Not item in a culture where the majority of adults define themselves as single and those who do couple default to common co-habitation with the occasional side order of child or two. Marriage is viewed as archaic, useless and the death knell of sexual/romantic love.

Which makes one wonder why gay people clamor to marry, doesn’t it?

Except I don’t wonder.  Marriage comes with all sorts of nifty legal attachments which protect couples in case of emergency and it bestows a sort of maturity and realism that many adults today prefer to pretend isn’t necessary because it interferes with the American notion of freedom to pursue our largely solo happiness and stay eternally youthful – if only in our own minds.

But that’s a topic for another day. Today’s topic is flutter and mystery.

While I am not at all surprised by people who are surprised to find that sex settles into the comfortably known after the honeymoon period of a relationship logically and predictable moves on to the build stage, I am not at all sure what is meant when some talk about cooling passions or loss of romance. I suppose that some people don’t understand that love has stages and that “wooing” is a different phase than “falling in love” and then “love” itself. It’s not as if we are well-schooled in relationship. In fact, beyond the plumbing aspects (if that), young people must most often rely on their parents (iffy), peers (iffier still) and the media (downright disastrous) for their relationship education.

So while the legion stares in wonder at the Sedgewick-Bacons, I just nod sagely. I get this.

Even after five years – which is still pretty young even if you morph by the dog year standard – I find my husband a near endless source of fascination. How could I not? He is me and yet not me at all. Just when I think I know everything, it turns out I knew nothing at all really.

Rob fascinates me. Our relationship still tickles and amazes me. Our life, though perhaps on the surface routine enough, is like a present within a gift within yet another festooned party box.

I feel flutter. I am drawn to the enduring mystery that is like a game of Clue that changes, and yet doesn’t, with every dice roll.

What I don’t understand is how so many people don’t understand.

Dating While Widowed: The Search Term Edition


A couple of 14-carat gold wedding rings. Pictu...

Image via Wikipedia

The search term that brought you here does not go unnoticed. Reaction varies. Amusement. Puzzlement. Dumbstruck with horror. Feeling as though a through scouring of the mind’s eye is in order.

Some searches make me sad.

Queries like “how will I know when widower loves me” leave me stuck with the image of tear-stained keyboards for instance.

Others make me want to grab shoulders and shake sense into the searcher. “How can I help my widower grieve?” Who in blogland is perpetuating nonsense ideas like this one?

There is a general underlying theme of “please just tell me how to make the person I love get over his/her dead spouse, so we can be happy.” Which is the saddest of all reasons made more sad by the fact that some people have only Google to turn to for advice.

My current personal favorite is “when will a widow be ready to fuck?” Have to admire the direct nature and honesty behind that even while questioning the integrity and ulterior motives that are probably driving such a quest for this kind of information.

So today, in no particular order, I am going to address some of the more ubiquitous search terms in the hopes that someone might find the answers to questions they are tossing at Google like it was a Magic 8 Ball.

Why widowers are not excited about second marriage weddings?

Men, in general, are not typical Bride’s Magazine target  audience for a reason. Wedding foo-fooery is a girl thing. If your intended is not terribly interested in the finer details of gowns, rehearsal dinners and wedding pageantry, it’s more than likely it’s because he is male, and they just didn’t get that gene.

However, some widowed folk can be annoying in their attitude that a second wedding is not to be the big production that the first may have been. If this is the case, blame society first. Although it’s slowly changing, second and third weddings are often downgraded affairs because one or both of the principles have done this before and family and friends have done this before and there is this Miss Manners expectation that any wedding after a first wedding should be tasteful and underdone because no one should be flaunting the fact that they have to do this more than once.

I’ll admit that I did not want a Bridezilla  bash the second time, and I let Rob do most of the planning. But as we married on his home turf, it was just easier that way. The only job I was given was to arrange for flowers, and I waited until four days before the ceremony to do this, which had more to do with the fact that I had no clue about local florists, and no one assisting me, than anything else.

It is a bit surreal to remarry after you have been widowed. People don’t expect to be widowed, and how ridiculous is that? Marriages in our times, however, more often disappear in a legal flurry than in death, so I would say that many remarrying widowed do so with keen awareness of the circumstances that led them to the altar again. It’s neither a good nor bad thing. Just an awareness, The new partner can choose to make a big hairy deal out of it, or just let it go as one of those things that makes the new union different from other unions.

How to bring up a discussion about the  deceased wife with a widower

Don’t. That’s my advice. She’s going to come up all on her own without prompting and in more instances than you can know over the course of dating and marriage. It takes a very secure in themselves person to not let that bug the shit out of her/him. This is where having your own emotional baggage checked and in cold storage is a wise thing. People who carry insecurity issues into new relationships tend to have a rough time anyway but with a widowed person, especially one who had a pretty good marriage, they can find themselves floundering and without much empathy from their new partners to help them.

But if you really have to go there, the best route is the direct one. Just ask. However, own your part in the feelings that it might bring up for you. Don’t blame the guy (or gal) if you ask, he/she answers and now you feel bad. You asked for it.

How should a relationship progress widower?

Like any relationship with any other man should progress. Forget about being understanding or patient unless that is what you do with men who haven’t been widowed too. Don’t feel sorry for him or make excuses for anything that would send you packing if he was any other guy. Widowhood does not have a special category when it comes to dating. Any widowed person who is floundering emotionally, runs hot/cold or is in any way giving off unbalanced vibes isn’t ready to date, and no matter how great he/she looks on paper, move on. Just because some dead woman managed to get him to put a ring on it and breed, doesn’t mean you will or that he was all that much of a catch back then.

Take off your tinted glasses and realistically assess the man and the relationship in terms of what is good for you now and ten years from now.

Healthy relationships progress at a mutually satisfactory rate that is tears and drama free. Anything else is an episode for a widowed person reality show that TLC just hasn’t gotten around to exploiting yet.

Dating a widower with grown children who don’t like it

The key here is how is he responding and how do the kids take it? If he is understanding, yet firm about his autonomy and their needing to get with the program – and they do – count your blessings. If he is the equivalent of Chamberlain with the Nazis – it’s all about appeasement – and they take this as a sign that the war is on, run away.

Adult children rarely kick up an obvious fuss if they have been raised properly. By this I mean that as children and teens, they knew their place, and it wasn’t that of a peer to their parents. Adult kids who have been running the show since toddlerhood aren’t going to give up their position of power ever. They will feel free to poke their nose into their dad’s business and make demands always. Even if he should grown a spine and take a stand expect acrimony and lingering issues for a long time to come.

The same holds true for in-laws. Evil in-laws were always such. They were that way before and they will continue. Some widowed simply can’t or won’t take a stand and own their lives. It’s up to you as to whether this is an existence you can live with, but remember, if you chose it – own the consequences yourself.

What is average time for widows remarry?

There aren’t a lot of stats. Young widowed tend to remarry faster than those in their middle years and seniors remarry the least of all. Males remarry faster than females. Having children or not factors as well with widowers been less hesitant than widows because of the fact that men are far more likely to be abusive step-parents than women are – which is funny because evil step-moms are the stereotype and not the other way around.

Generally men, if they are going to remarry, do so within about two to four years and women within  three to five, and those over 60, regardless of gender, rarely remarry. It’s not a hard and fast thing, and there are those of both genders who remarry quite quickly, just as there are those who take years to even date. It’s a personality thing, and often in our society, widowed parents are applauded for putting off dating until they’ve raised their children, which unsurprisingly can lead to adult children who feel entitled to put their two cents in where it doesn’t belong thus creating a vicious circle.

Widower expects girlfriend to grieve with him

Run away. Quickly. Grief is not a couples activity. You can’t grieve for someone you didn’t know. And this is just plain silly. Anyone who is expecting this is looking for grief counseling with benefits.

Widow meets widower

An unsurprising number of widowed people prefer to date each other. It cuts down on the endless explaining about what is and isn’t where being widowed is concerned. Unwidowed people buy in to the idea of grief as a process and a lifelong issue at even more alarming rates than widowed people do themselves. They are also, if this is possible, quicker to push therapy and pharmaceuticals* as means to “happily ever after again” than the cluelessly well-meaning family physicians of widowed are.

For Rob and I, it has meant not having to wonder how the other feels about this or that grief related thing. For me it means that I am not threatened by his late wife’s memory, and I don’t fall into the competition trap because I know that the dead are in no position to offer up much by way of being an opponent. Shelley was a real woman with real feelings who occupied a real place in Rob’s life for a long, long time. But that was before me, and now I occupy that space. It’s really not that difficult of a concept and it’s not something to angst about, but if the person you are dating is making it a big, dramatic deal about all issues death, you have thinking to do.

Like any relationship, there has to be attraction and common ground, and it can’t be simply grief. Relationships that are based purely on being widowed just won’t work because grieving does end and then what is the couple left with?

And dating another widowed doesn’t offer immunity from in-laws from hell or surly teens and adult children issues. There are plenty of widowed couples who can attest to that fact. It also won’t help you much if you are moving on and he/she doesn’t really feel like doing so. There can still be battles about late spouse pictures and memorabilia and general clinging to the past.

It was nice that Rob was widowed instead of divorced. His attitude about relationships and marriage was not as jaded. He did not feel the need to “test” me, which in my experience with divorced men was tiring and irritating by turns, but Rob and I have always had far more in common than dead spouses, which is why we’ve worked.

“Widower” sex

It’s sex. Nothing weird about it as far as my experience goes. If intimacy issues arise, or rather nothing much arises, then this is cause for discussion and possible a medical examination to rule out physical problems and illness. But I would say that widowers in general are no different from any other man where sex is concerned.

Dating a recent widower who is ambivalent

Ambivalence in a man (or woman really) where dating is concerned is a sign that he isn’t all that sure about you. It’s not a widower thing exclusively. Don’t assume that every hiccup in a relationship has deep dead wife meaning attached to it. Sometimes men just date. Even widowers. And sometimes, you aren’t going to be “the one”. Be honest and be realistic with yourself. If he isn’t moving mountains at the speed of Mohamed, you would do well to keep your options open. Widowers are men first and men can date and be intimate without being in love.

How soon is too soon to introduce a new girlfriend to your adult children after the death of their mother

I wouldn’t bring her to the funeral.

But when? When you are sure that she is more than just someone you are just dating. If your girlfriend is important, and you can see a long-term relationship developing, the sooner you alert your children the better. Hiding her will damage your relationship with her and with your children.

Talk to the kids first. Let them know you are dating and it’s serious. Warn them upfront that you are an adult, their dad and not their peer, and that though you understand they might be upset, it’s not their place to tell you what to do. Expect them to be courteous but don’t be hurt if they absent themselves from your life for a while as they adjust. Remind them that this is the same respect you accord them with the people they have chosen to date and/or marry.

Communication is key. Listening without judgment is important. Respecting that their grief is theirs and you can’t speed it up is vital. However, it’s also important to be true to your needs and put your new girlfriend in the number one spot. You wouldn’t have allowed your kids to come between you and your late wife, so don’t let them do so now.

Be patient but be resolute.

Did i remarry too soon after widowhood?

I don’t know. Did you?

Is this what you think or what others are telling you? I have written about his before and you can read it here.

Summing it up

Did I miss anything? Probably and you can feel free to ask questions in the comment section, check out links below or shoot me an email. My contact information is on the Me, If Your are Interested in Knowing page.

Widowhood is not mysterious or a chronic malady. It’s a life event and like all experiences, we go through them, hopefully learn something and move on. Take off the kid gloves and stop being so squeamish.

 

*Despite the fact that reputable psychologists don’t recommend grief therapy or anti-depressants for the bereaved in the initially months, non-widowed in particular are quick to recommend it because our culture is mired in the idea that no one’s sadness should interfere with what we want. Americans in general have become a nation of prescription drug addicts out of naivete and ignorance where psychotropic drugs and therapy are concerned and when anyone can get obtain grief counselor status with a quick weekend workshop or a month of Thursday nights taking courses at the local hospice – buyer be aware.

Girls Who Read


I am not a poetry fan. Of all the visually digestible words there are, poetry ranks least in my favor and so, it is the rare poem that moves me from cool glance to lukewarm* interest. But this poem is an exception to my disinterest:

And okay, I will admit that a man with an accent from just about anywhere in the UK has me at “hello” in terms of my attention at any rate, but this poem speaks to my young self. The girl who whiled away whole weekends with her nose in a book. Any book. Who made projects out of hunting down everything written on every person, time period or historical event that caught her fancy and held it for more than the time required to breathe in and out.

And it speaks to the “girl” I am now, who can still be swept away by a fictional vista that only the author really can see for sure.

It’s not often that a work of fiction moves me to invest anymore. I am over reading the classics for literature’s sake. Literary narrative reminds me too much of university and I refuse to bow down to the notion that Jonathan Franzen isn’t long-winded, rather pretentious and not particularly original.

I like print wherever it’s printed. I’ll take my words carved neat with sharp points or wildly pontificating or with heart dotted i’s and j’s. As long as they sing arias that intrigue, inspire or infuriate me to thoughts I wouldn’t have otherwise had – I am good.

Women in my youth, but today as well, are not loved for our words – the ones we read or the ones we write. Still it’s mostly about our shapes. The size. The firmness. And the age. So a man who comes to appreciate the package because of what’s inside and not the other way around is a rare find, worthy of note and further study.

To all you girls who read then, take heart. There are indeed those who find the trait attractive, and rightly so.

*I prefer my world lukewarm for the most part to perhaps a shade about room temperature. Even tea is better “just right” unless I am nursing an asthma ravaged set of lungs or a sore throat, but even that has temperature limits.

Dating While Widowed: Are Widows Different From Widowers Where New Love is Concerned?


Anders Zorn-The Widow

Image via Wikipedia

An interesting search term turned up yesterday: how to get a widow to love you. It was interesting only because I have been asked before whether my advice for dating widowers would apply to widows as well.

My answer was “yes” and “no”, which I would guess is only mildly helpful unless one is really good at filling in the gaps between the lines.

Biggest difference between dating a widow versus a widower, off the top of my head, is that women tend to comb through the still smoldering ashes of any relationship once it is over – regardless of why it ended – and they will do this until the ashes cool, go stone cold and even begin to scatter to the wind as often as they feel the need to (or have an audience for it) until they “get over it”.  And by “get over it”, I mean put the experience into a context that they can live with to an extent that allows them to move on.  Men don’t seem to do that as much or as obsessively.

Pick a relationship board on the internet. Any one will do. Just glance over the posts on their feeds and note how endlessly the women recount every detail of the last relationship or marriage. They parse the same events over and over. Even their replies to each other’s questions and experiences will harken back to their own hurts, upsets and frustrations. It’s like watching someone get stuck on a level of Angry Birds. They bang their souls against rock, glass and ugly pigs without resolving anything, and yet, they will tell you that this type of regurgitation is just as productive for their “healing process” as a cat’s hacking up a furball aids their digestion. To women, resolution is policing their new relationships for the vividly recalled flaws of their last Prince Charming and flogging the new one with their insecurities and angst when he proves to have similar or even entirely different flaws of his own.

Actual resolution is acknowledging that, in the end, it really doesn’t matter how or why a relationship or marriage ended. It did. Move along.

Most people who move on in life with any degree of success do so because they accept that what happened can’t be changed by endlessly brooding or sorrow. They make their peace and then make for the next horizon. You can’t change the past by being sad or angry with it. You certainly can’t endlessly talk it into submission. It doesn’t matter if you were wronged or right. The past is.

Men are good at this acceptance thing, which is not to say that you won’t find men who brood or are endlessly bitter about past failures or lost love, but you find far fewer of them than you do of women. I have yet to meet a woman who can’t recall for you, in minute detail, how her first love evolved, blossomed and eventually went up in flames. Minute detail.

You read about first loves reuniting a lot these days thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, but I am willing to bet that the women will spin tales about how they never got over the guy and how their subsequent loves and even about marriages that never held a candle to the first love. Ask a man about his first failed romance. Go ahead. Ask. He might remember the sex, or the lack thereof, but he won’t be holding a lit flame. Nor will he necessarily be compelled to reignite it if he is okay with where he currently lives his life. Men ground themselves in now, which is why a woman’s obsession with past, or future, perplexes and/or irritates them. Most men went on to have love, children and good lives with nary a backward glance at that first love. Sure, they may be pleased to have a second shot later in life with a girl whom they can only recall as a girl, but if they’d never heard from her again – they’d have found someone else to be happy with. Because that’s men. Practical in a cold-blooded way that (most) women aren’t.

A widow in the aftermath is the same as a widower. Grief is grief, and some people are more resilient than others, but it takes center stage for a while. For men, however, a good marriage (or even just an okay one) is eventually acknowledged as such, and they begin to assess the reality of existence sans mate and decide that a) single is okay and can be lived with or b) “I would rather be with a woman again”.

For widows? First the death has to be sorted through and then the relationship itself and throw in kids (widows are far more skittish when kids are involved than men seem to be and, statistically, they have reason to be cautious since males are more likely to be abusers than females) and friends and in-laws, and also let’s never forget that women invariably have “tribes” with whom they consort and poll on every subject imaginable, and you are looking at a much longer “recovery” period.

Don’t forget as well that women are raised in relationship culture and lore that often is bullshit. They are schooled to believe at a young age that they must “find themselves” and “be independent”  even though it runs contrary to the overriding societal command that they must also find love. Love that is “true”, “soulmate-ish” and that “there can be only one”. Depending on a woman’s age and previous experiences when she is widowed, all that Oprah inspired nonsense can still be in play and not in a good way.

If widowers are still men first and foremost then the same is true of widows. They didn’t stop being women when they married nor when they were widowed. And women like tribes. They gain admittance into a new tribe with widowhood where they “learn” to be widows. Men largely escape the indoctrination because they don’t seek out groups and are, perhaps genetically, ill-disposed to self-help in any of its forms or genres. All this makes it harder for women to date, to let go of their labels, to not compare, etc.

The last is the worst thing about women and largely what makes many of  them lousy daters whether they are single, divorced or widowed. The comparing stirs up insecurities and compels them to rely on equally insecure friends to figure things out that they should be discussing with the men they are dating.

Bottom line? If you are dating a widow, she is a woman. Start there. Next, resist the urge to play white knight or to allow yourself to be drawn into the role of grief counselor. Insist on communication and that relationship issues should be brought up with you before she rants to her sister, friends or semi-anonymous friends on the Internet. Don’t let her play the widow card. Expect the same good behaviour from her you would have any other woman in a relationship. Being widowed doesn’t give her special dispensation. And if being a widow first is more important to her than building a new relationship with you – walk. Finally, expect to be loved for yourself and to be first in her life. If she did that for her late husband, she should do the same for you if she really loves you.

Dating is dating. It all comes down to two people willing to be real and lay their cards on the table in the present tense with an eye toward the future and it really is no more difficult than riding a bike.

UPDATE: I forgot to add one thing. Don’t love her potential. Non-widowed have this fantasy idea of what it’s like to be widowed and what the marriages and/or relationship IQ’s of widowed folk are. Just because she was married, and according to her – happily, doesn’t mean that she can replicate that with you or even that she was in a happy successful marriage. The beauty about widowhood is that only one side of the story exists now. The other side is … well … on the other side. Play the ball where it lies. If she is flaky now, she probably was with him. If she was neglectful or selfish, a drama queen or princess, this is who she’s always been. Maybe the dead guy was okay with it, found it endearing and cute or maybe he stuck it out for the kids. She is and you are and that’s all you have to work with. Widows waiting for the right guy to thaw their hearts and souls (or widowers with hearts of gold waiting for the right woman to give them a reason to live again) are Hollywood creations.

Dating While Widowed: Support for the Remarried Widowed


Marriage

Updated July 28, 2014: If you have followed the link provided by a widower on the YWBB in response to the most recent dust-up in the Social Situations forum, you need to know that I am NOT referring to E in the following post. In fact, at the time I wrote this post, E hadn’t been posting at the YWBB as E or under any other aka for some time (that I am aware of).

This post chronicles one of the periodic flame-fests that breaks out in the YWBB forums. Such incidents date all the way back to its earliest days and though they can be unsettling to newbies (and irritating to old hands) like all things, they pass.

The widows behaving badly I was discussing here have, as far as I know, moved on to other venues because there are a lot more of them now than there were back when I was first widowed in 2006 or when E was widowed several years before that.

The old timer culprit I reference was someone who took a lot of joy in harassing my husband and I after other board members learned of our relationship and engagement. She was good at playing the contrition game and so managed to kick a lot of shit before her bouncing in 2012, but as far as I can tell, she no longer posts at the YWBB.

I believe that in the thread where this link to my blog is found, a few other old-timers – who were veterans when I was though not friends of mine – have explained E’s history and how she was stalked and bullied in her early days at the YWBB. However, I don’t think they noted that the culprits were never punished or banned, and that not one of them has ever really apologized (again to my knowledge) to E for what they did to her.

I knew E as Elysia when I roamed the forums at YWBB. I found her to be eccentric and pointed, but she was one of the few who ever had my back when I was being hounded and I still appreciate that.

So, long story short – E is not the widow you are looking for. Move along.

 

Someone’s google search term landed them here a couple of days ago as he (or more likely “she”) scoured the virtual world for a “support forum for remarried widows”.  For her sake, I wish I could post a few links to help out, but the sad truth is that nothing much exists.  There are widow boards here, there and near everywhereWidow blogs ad nauseum.  But if you were widowed and have moved on to a new relationship or even marriage, it’s s.o.l. for you.

Most of the boards I have seen really are loathe to set up special forums for the those who’ve moved on. Partly it’s because they want to discourage the popular notion that one can’t really say they’ve moved on until they’ve hooked up again, but the bigger reason is that many of those widowed, who either haven’t found a new mate or have no interest in doing so, are vicious to the point of bat shit crazy about remarried widows.  Despite lip service to the contrary, even widowed believe that falling in love again and remarrying is some sort of magical healing that erases the painful memories and renders a remarried widow immune to the occasional sad thought or longing.  In some ways, widowed can be just as clueless as those who have never been.

Some remarried widowed folk hide or downplay their new marital status so they can remain part of the online widowed communities.  More often they simply walk away and deal quietly and alone with issues as they come up.  And mostly it’s women.  We make up the majority of those widowed anyway but, regardless, I think it is harder for women to not have the outlet because we are socialized from an early age to seek out and share with those who are like us.  Single.  Married.  Widowed.  Mothers.  Etcetera.  Etcetera.  We do this for company but also to try to determine if we are “normal” or what we are feeling or experiencing falls within the boundaries of most other people’s experiences.

I argued myself blue with this and that board admin on the very real needs that widowed who have remarried have but to no avail.  It’s a small subset and in the interest of not stirring up the majorities who populate these online communities, the admins chose the path of least effort and headache*.

Still, I see a lot of searches for this type of support and wish I had more to offer in terms of information or advice.

Oh, surely, it can’t be that bad?

Recently, my search log lit up with hits for Ye Olde Widda Board, and after a couple of days of this I was curious enough to click over and check out the latest flaming shit storm.  I have to chuckle a bit when these wars erupt because older widowed members will drag out the same tired excuses and nearly all will lie through their keyboards with some variation on “Oh, these things come and go. No hurt/no foul.”  Which is total bullshit.  The YWBB is one of the foulest of the widow boards.  The nasty threads actually pale in comparison to the hateful private messages some members heap upon remarrieds, early daters and anyone who disagrees with the prevailing notions about grief being a catch-all get out of jail free card.  How anyone can defend the shit-slinging that goes on there still amazes me, but the chief reason it occurs is that the board itself has no moderator and the board admins lack the moral fiber to delete hateful threads or members.

Until this latest flare-up, I can’t recall anyone ever being chastised, much less banned, but two members were blocked after last week’s dust-up. Only one of them really deserved it.  A long time member who is a rabid dog about moving on and should have been punted years ago.  I have no doubt she will end up on another site.  She needs them in order to hang onto the turmoil and ache of early grief.  She’s a vampire really, using newly widowed’s to stoke her own hurt and rage.  I pity the community she lands in next.

But the YWBB’s expense lesson is just one of the examples of why widowed who remarry can’t really avail themselves of existing forums.  They just don’t quite fit in.

As you move on, it’s not grief in any way the books mention.  It’s nuanced and muted and separate from life as it’s being lived.

People who marry widowed like to believe that it’s still grief but just not as often and that it will eventually cease to be completely.  A nice fantasy, but ridiculous.  Widowed who’ve remarried even like to feed that delusion with nonsense that as you move on, you put your late spouse in a non-romantic love context that stems from mutual off-spring or just the general sadness we all feel from time to time about lost loved ones.

The reality is harder to explain.  My late husband holds a part of me that is lost forever – to me or to anyone else.  I seldom think of him only in terms of his sperm donation.  When he pops up, it’s always in a context that is his alone, and while I can’t say that what I feel is missing or longing, I can say that he will always be a part of me in a way that transcends the child we had together.  He doesn’t vanish.  He hasn’t given up his place as my husband**, and he will always be significant in a way that is his alone.

If you are a widowed who has remarried and finds yourself reading this, know that you are not alone.  Others have walked with dual life path and we’ve struggled with those who don’t get it or want to marginalize the effort that goes into blending families and dealing with the unexpected issues that come up.  Know that you’ll be okay.  It’s normal to move on.  It’s normal to want to love again.  It’s not abnormal to love again as fully and as deeply.  It’s not a betrayal to love two people.  It’s okay to insist that extended family, old friends and even children man up and accept your right to move on.  You don’t owe anyone but yourself.

*It’s ironic because many of these sites are run by remarried widowed, who certainly realize how fraught the widowsphere is with anti-remarried’s prejudice.

** Divorced people are very touchy about the terms “husband” and “wife” because they tend to lean toward the very artificial and legal contract side of what marriage is (they remind me a bit of the “marriage is one man/woman” crowd in their self-interested pov).  As if marriage is nothing more than a piece of paper. Marriage is far more than the words and the paper.  It transcends.  But the remarried widowed find themselves tilting at angry windmills when the whole “death ends a marriage just like divorce” arguments begin and that’s just one of many issues that we share as a group that those who haven’t remarried don’t get either.

Anti-Holiday Letters


A Christmas tree inside a home.

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There are two tones the holiday letter can take – bragging to the point of possibly delusion or so much information you aren’t sure you want to ever see the author, or their family, in person ever again in this lifetime.  I would say that most fall comfortably in the middle with just enough rah-rah to promote gladness as opposed to jealousy and just the right amount of gossipy goodness to make it worth the time it takes to read it.

I am lazy as you know and go for the total slide show sappy approach, but when I do write about family, I tend to err on the side of “feed the voyeur troll” though not in a merry way.  TMI does not belong in a holiday greetings missive.

It is fair game for the blog though I will grant that some family don’t share my view on this.

The Brother

CB resurfaced not long after his scary low with a surprisingly yoga outlook for someone who doesn’t know a down from an up dog. He decided to cut ties with the Bay area and head back to the Sierra Nevada’s and Tahoe. Mountains stabilize him. He is like Rob really in that they both need to commune with the actual wilderness. Rob just gets grumpy within the confines of civilization, but CB’s doors come unhinged if he is away too long.

As of this post, CB has a snow removal job that is simply awaiting snow and call backs on a few contract gigs. Mother has even agreed to foot the purchase of a used vehicle which will in turn facilitate more employment. His kids and xSIL are spending the holidays with him in his new place atop Heavenly and I imagine that a bit of skiing and hiking is just what the doctor ordered right about now.

The Mother-in-law

The whole divorce and upheaval is becoming a bit of a testy issue for Rob and I. Her not being my mother means I am less subjective when he would prefer that I be more indignant for her. Like he is. But he is her son and I think mother/daughter relationships are not so blinkered. Maybe this is due to the fact that sons don’t typically separate from their mothers as violently as daughters do during the teen years, or maybe it is because at some point, mothers and daughters become “women” to each other and you know how judgey we can be. Whatever the reason, I don’t see the situation in black and white terms, and this is coupled with the fact that I can also clearly see the impact this marriage has had on our life over the last year, and how the fallout could inadvertently render us collateral damage in terms of clean up.

“She just needs time to come around to the realities of her new situation,” Rob told me during one of our many conversations on the topic of divorcing across international borders.

“If she were my mother,” I replied, “I’d have already spelled the realities out for her.”

“You can’t tell her anything,” he reminds me.

And I know that. You can’t tell my mother anything either, but that doesn’t mean I don’t tell her when she is being unreasonable, or when her choices come loaded with the high probability that they will impact me negatively in the near or far future.

Sigh, I do love my mother-in-law, but I can’t pretend that I am unaware of why things are as they are.

“If something happens to you,” I asked him. “Do I inherit her? Or is she like an heirloom to be passed on to the girls?”

“Funny,” he replied, but it’s not.

I share the responsibility of my mother with DNOS and not equally. Because she is on the ground and I am a thousand-ish miles away, DNOS is a front line defender should something happen.

Rob is his mother’s only line of defense by default.  DNOS has me.  Rob can count on a zombie apocalypse occurring before one of his siblings lifts a finger to come to the aid of their mother.  And that sucks.  For Rob.  And for me.

How things will turn out is still an unknown. As Yoda once said the future is difficult to see because it is always in motion. So many things in play. Future xFIL included.* I will not be amused though if this ends up costing us significant time or any more money that it already has.**

Baby’s Corner

I was chatting with DNOS the other night when she mentions her recent encounter with our youngest sibling.

“She called Mom to come get her when she had a flat, but of course Mom can’t see to drive in the dark anymore. So she had to call N1 and his dad. They got the tire changed and brought her to Mom’s.”

“How was she?” I asked. My interest in Baby is even less than DNOS’s interest in CB.***

“She’s looking old,” DNOS clucked.

“Well,” I said, “I thought she looked tough when I saw her over the summer. She can’t have aged more in such a short period of time.”

DNOS sighed, “Oh gawd, yes.  She looks older than either of us.”

Which is sad because she is just 43 and I looked pretty damn good at that age.

“How’s LawnMowerMan?”

“He lost his job when the farmer sold his cows and his back is too bad for him to work,” DNOS chuckled. “Baby says he’s been approved for disability.”

“That’s bullshit,” I replied. “It takes at least two years to get on disability for something like that.”

I know because I spent 10 months getting my late husband approved for disability and he was dying. LawnMowerMan will likely die younger than he should but he’s nowhere close at the moment.

But DNOS went on to say that Baby is working full-time at the nursing home and is supporting them both, which is ironic because Baby’s back problems are easily worse than that no account drunk she lives with and defends with the all the passion of Michele Bachmann at a rally for the sanctity of marriage.

It’s funny how nothing much changes with Baby. I was just recalling for Rob a Christmas about 20 or so years ago when she forced Mom to invite her boyfriend Len to the Christmas Eve festivities. They were “living together” and by that I mean they were couch surfing his wide circle of acquaintances, carting everything they owned in paper grocery sacks from hovel to hovel. Sadly, Len was probably the nicest guy she ever knew. Far as I know, he was the only one who never hit her. Early thirties, a bit punch drunk and missing his upper front teeth, she left him when he refused to have a baby with her.  She wanted to go back on welfare.  N1 kinda owes his existence to her laziness.

N1

The California experiment was a failure. N1 is back in his grandmother’s attic. And that’s really all I know, but CB spoke to him last week and remarked, “I don’t think much has changed.”

Speaking of Change

Last Christmas the front half of our home was just barely rehabbed from its total gutting. Today there is a brand new kitchen and living area. Silver and xFIL were newbies, and now Silver is a permanent fixture and xFIL has been kicked to the Arizona curbside.

In Silver, and with the addition of Mick’s fella , Dare, I have inherited interesting dining challenges via one’s gluten intolerance and the other’s deathly nut allergy.

We’ve also encountered the interesting phenomena of Christmas musical chairs as we struggle to nail down day and time for our holiday gathering. Rob finds it perplexing because he is old enough school to have been simply absorbed into his wife’s family and holiday time-table, both times. That’s not really the way it works for all men but most bow to the wife and her family traditions.

Silver’s family usurped our Christmas Eve tradition and Dare’s mother has claimed all day Christmas.

“Boxing Day?” Rob asked.

But there was no way that Dee could hold out on opening presents until Boxing Day. She barely made it ’til Christmas Day last year.

As of today, I know only that I am cooking meals both days and whoever shows up will be eating them. The business of the gifts is yet to be decided.

Epilogue

And so we come to the end of the anti-letter, which is not to say that the year was so heinous that it deserves one, but to remind that there is dark and white meat on every bird. My life is no different from anyone else’s. There are highs, lows and inbetween’s.

Happy Holidays to all and if you missed the year-end pictorial, it’s right here.

*He’s written letters to everyone who knows MIL, pleading with them to help him patch things up.  I still don’t dislike the guy.  He reminded me of all those things about my dad, which were sharp-edged and old-school.  That kind of man is not to my personal taste, but I am not 70 years old either. Older people marry for reasons that go beyond the romantic love and sex that drives younger people. This is not to say that they don’t experience it, but companionship, someone to take care of you and a pooling of resources enter into it in probably bigger ways than it does with younger couples.

** They came as a couple last Christmas and we put them up in a hotel for a week, which xFIL never offered to reimburse us for – even a little and there was the whole “moving” thing in August.

***DNOS would never admit to it, but she loves to get news about CB. She adores family gossip.

Five Years and a Bit


English: A simple illustration of a cake with ...

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My birthday present from Rob arrived just today. It came from Arkansas, which is fitting, by way of Florida, which is just odd. He’s been obsessively keeping tabs on it via the tracking number for  over a week, quizzing me daily on the contents of the mail.

“The package you’ve been waiting for showed up today,” I told him when I called his office after lunch.

“It’s your package,” he said.

“Should I open it now or wait for you?”

“Can you wait?” he asked, which was silly because of course I can, but I know he can’t.

“Okay,” I reply.

“Oh go ahead and open it,” he said, “and check to make sure that it hasn’t been tampered with. Remember what happened to Unbearable.”

Our virtual friend, Unbearable, lost a rare book in a tragic postal heist.

“I paid to have it gift wrapped too,” he added.

It was.  Both in the package and gift-wrapped.  And I pried the gift box open.  It was quite tiny and I couldn’t begin to imagine what I needed – or wanted – that would be housed in such a shiny red box.

Inside was an even tinier satchel of red and when I tipped it upside down, a silver chain and pendant dropped into my hand.

When he asked me weeks ago what I wanted for my birthday, I initially couldn’t think of a thing. I have everything I need and nearly anything it occurs to me to want. It’s a rare and privileged person who can say this, so I don’t do so lightly, but as far as the material goes – I am blessed, if there is such a thing. But when pressed, I did come up with a small list which included: an om sign for my yoga room door and a Buddha for the corner.

“They are incredibly hard to find,” he told me days later, “but I think the alternatives will suit you.”

Dee gave me a set of figurines made in Haiti that they discovered at The Ten Thousand Villages website. Each figure is performing an asana.

And from some vendor in Arkansas, a very special place in our personal lore, he found the pendant and chain.

If either of us believed in coincidence, we’d note the timing of his gift. The anniversary of him sending me a private message back on Ye Olde Widda Board was this last weekend. Neither of us believe in coincidence. Just timing, which has always been quite convenient where we are concerned.

Five years. While mostly it feels as though I have known Rob forever, and he me, the truth is that it’s just five years, which isn’t even forever in dog years. It only brings one to the brink of middle-age.

“It’s beautiful, ” I told him. “Thank you, Baby.”

“Well,” he replied, “It’s been five years and I thought you were due another piece of jewelry.”

The first piece of jewelry Rob gave me was a  gold double heart pendant with a small diamond in the crook of the uppermost heart. The occasion was our very first face to face meeting in Idaho Falls, the anniversary of which is a mere two months away. We’d been “dating” virtually, at his suggestions, for just a month when we met up. With only the rarest of exceptions, I have worn that necklace every day since.

His second gift of bling was my engagement ring barely a month later, which was joined by the wedding band three months after that. To say we moved quickly is overstating because I know couples who’ve moved at twice our speed, but I won’t be surprised if you clucked your tongue back then or if you marvel now. Both responses are within the realm of appropriate.

I am not a jewelry person though I have tried to acquire the habit on and off out of a sense that it is something women do, but aside from wedding rings, the occasional necklace and the odd navel piercing – it’s never took. Rob thinks I should just wear one of the other necklace or else,

“You will look like an old white lady rapper wanna-be,” he said.

I am loathe to give up my hearts but the om is quite becoming and I have already worn out one clasp on the heart necklace, so perhaps it deserves a break.

And I am a bit surprised to be surprised by a gift. Often, when pressed, I end up shopping for myself and letting Rob and Dee choose from my selections, wrap it and present it to me gift fashion. It’s not as unromantic or thoughtless as it sounds. I always get what I need this way and I learned it from my Dad, who used to assign each of us gifts to buy him at Christmas time.  Inevitably he would call me the week before Christmas and say something like,

“I need a new pair of jeans. Waist 34 and inseam 30. Don’t spend too much. Go to Target or J.C. Penney’s. Make sure the pockets are plain. I don’t want any of that damn fancy stitching.” I could hear his eyes roll across the miles as he uttered the last sentence.  He had a low opinion of men who had fancy stitching on their jeans … or wore them prison bitch style.

He was, perhaps, a bit more Virgo than most Virgo’s I know, but he also never had to return things the day after the holiday either.

Surprise isn’t necessary to enhance a gift’s awesome factor when it is from my husband or children, but it is sweet and wonderful and it is another reminder of how, truly, I have everything.