Widows like Us

James Tissot - A Widow

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The link at the bottom of the page is to a column in the local newspaper. My personal opinion of the paper and its editorial writers is fairly low. The newspaper itself is generally light on actual news, and whatever course reporters take in journalism school to learn about bias and the importance of neutrality and fair and balanced reporting is evidently not a required one judging from the slant in most of the news articles I have read. Columnists are generally exempt from being non-judgmental. In fact they are paid o be opinionated. Infuriating columns are read by those on both sides of the issues. Employing an irritating columnist or two (or all in the Des Moines Register’s case) is good for the business of selling newspapers. Newspapers are not in the business of reporting news these days, or maybe ever, as an educated and informed populace is not the point. News is entertainment and going strictly by the number of talk news shows and the heads that populate them, some people are being entertained at the expense of those who need to be informed.

Although it is hard to pick a least favorite member of the Register’s editorial team, Rekha Basu probably ranks close. She favors heavy-handed liberal social agenda stuff. Her style is fairly dry, and she is preachy. Her late husband was a much better writer. His style was personable in a story-teller way and had he chosen heavier topics, I think he would have easily proved his superiority. My dislike of her is personal though. It goes back to the early days of Will’s illness when I was trying desperately to get him on SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance). Having been told by the kindly young man who walked me through the application process that it was fairly likely that Will’s claim would be denied, I was willing to try anything to call attention to our plight and elicit some help in getting him accepted. At this point I had already sent emails to both state senators and several legislaturers. I would eventually receive help from the Republican Senator, Charles Grassley, but at this point I was desperate.

Someone I knew thought that I should contact Ms. Basu. This person was a fan of her writing and thought that Will’s story was the kind of cause that Basu usually took up. And I have to admit, she does use her column to point out social inequities and injustices an often uses real life stories of Iowans to do this. Not feeling I had anything to lose, I sent her an email as well. Within a few days I returned home to a message on the answering machine from her and asking me to call. I did. I never heard back from her.

It wasn’t until much later that I learned, through her husband’s column, that she had joined me in the widow in waiting club around this time when he was diagnosed with ALS. Will was in a nursing home by then. It was closing in on the last summer of his life. I don’t think I paid much attention to the news coverage and columns that followed but to note that it must be better to be famous when you were terminally ill because you seemed to get more help and support that way.

She lost her husband the June after Will died. There was a lot of press coverage. She was sainted. Shortly after she began writing her series on Surviving. In her widow’s zeal to make sense of her tragedy by helping others, which many of us do early out, she wrote about all forms of loss as though they were equal. Any widow can tell you that in no way does losing your spouse compare with divorce or unemployment, but she was very early days and, evidently, number than most at that point.

There was a message board attached to the series. It invited people to comment and tell their stories. I was just coming out of the fog at that point, and shy I am not when it comes to sharing my opinion and feelings in a message board forum. Let’s just say, I could have employed more tact. But since no one ever responded to me, I quickly lost interest and went elsewhere.

A couple months later, Ms. Basu wrote a column about the WET group, Widows Experiencing Transition, that was active in the metro area where I lived. I had been trying desperately at that point to find a support group that wasn’t online. The only ones I could find though were mixed groups, not just for those experiencing the death of a spouse or for groups or widows and the divorced which I couldn’t fathom attending. Thrilled to know of a real live widows’ group I sent her an email. Judging from her reply, she had read my posts to her message board and apparently I was not someone she wanted to hear from. She sent the contact information for the group but wrote also that she didn’t think I was the kind of person who would benefit from it. Ouch. I wrote her an apology and then scurried off the the UK widows’ board to flog myself for having hurt her feelings. It was only then occurring to me that as the further out, I should have been more cognizant of the tone of my posts and more supportive of her efforts. It was a mistake I have since strived to avoid in my dealings with “younger” widows.

I don’t read Rehka Basu’s work much anymore. I find her writing clinical and self-righteous still though I was impressed by the piece she did on profiling when her son was victimized by it recently. I also read her column about the death of her mother-in-law which kicks off her semi-dormant surviving series was again. The link is below.

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