I ran into an old co-worker/friend today in the hallways of the high school were I teach. She is retired now but she still volunteers, working primarily with the work-study program placing kids in jobs and internships. I haven’t seen her since just before Will was diagnosed almost four years ago. She didn’t know that he had been ill or had died, which should speak volumes about the nature of our former relationship and to how much we have kept up. Since we do know people in common though I assumed that she did know, so when she asked what was new I told her about Rob and our plans. And of course, since she didn’t know, I had to back track a bit.
J. has always been the kind of person who interrupts you when you are having a conversation with her. The main reason is for clarification because she doesn’t hear well and for her to one up you. Today’s conversation was typical of how I remember her. She was very upset, not about Will’s death as she barely reacted to that news at all, but about the fact that Rob and I met on the internet. This has upset, and continues to upset, people who basically don’t know either of us very well. Our family and friends have settled into acceptance and happiness for us but there are still incidents like today.
J. wanted to know if I had “checked” him out and knew for sure he was who he said he was. It amuses me a little when someone assumes that the people you met on the web are somehow more dangerous than the guy who lives next door. Just because you can see someone in the flesh, doesn’t make them safe. My next door neighbor all but stalked me last spring and summer after he discovered that my husband had died. It got so bad that I couldn’t even be out in my own yard to mow or play with my daughter without him watching my every move. He is an alcoholic and scares me frankly. But, apparently, I should fear him less as he is “real”. I won’t rehash my history with web-friends and message board communities, but was I less safe with the men I emailed while exploring the on-line dating than I was with the co-worker I barely knew who showed up at my late husband’s visitation and looked me over as though I were a snack while he was offering his condolences?
I was annoyed for a bit after running into J. At first I thought it was because she was critical of my relationship with Rob and the plans we have made. She has no right to question my judgement. We haven’t had more than a few brief encounters over the last fifteen years. Her basis for judgement is the
twenty-eight year old I was when last we had any meaningful contact. I am a long ways way from that girl now. But, as I thought about it more I realized that what was truly upsetting me was that she hadn’t offered condolences about Will. She didn’t ask how he died or I was or how Katy was doing even. She was just worried about the fact that I was marrying some “stranger” from the Internet.
And that is what it comes down to in the end these days it seems. I am marrying again. A friend on the YWBB suggested that it might be a case of “all better now” in that obviously anyone who can love and marry again must be over their grief. Maybe. I know that people are certainly more comfortable with that idea than the reality that I will always carry the grief with me. No one wants to know that because who among us doesn’t lose a loved one at some point in our lives? Someone close whose death will sear and leave scars. They want to believe that tragedies have endings because how do you survive something that doesn’t have an endpoint?
I think though what is also in play is the idea that there is a right and a wrong way to grieve. Those of us who adhere to arbitrary timelines, wear the emotional equivalent of sackcloth for all to see and admire are good little widowed people who obviously had true and beautiful love with our late spouses. And then there are the rest of us.
Rob got PM from a widow on the YWBB who is actually known for her rather harsh assessments of other people’s grief. She doesn’t post often but she is sometimes scolded for being too presumptive and judgmental when she does. Which is ironic if you know the board at all.
At first he was going to just let it go, ignore it. Not something I would have done given the some of the things she presumed and implied, but he is not the type of person to let other people’s opinions bother him. In fact, I don’t think I have ever seen him ask for advice of anyone on the board. He reads. He tires to be supportive. He takes his problems to “real” people. But, this widow stepped over the line, and it was that which prompted him to reveal the PM. He had read a post earlier in the day where someone was telling a newbie (widow only a little ways out) that the board was a safe place to post your feelings and thoughts and experiences. It isn’t though. That is a near total lie. There isn’t a less safe place I can think of to reveal yourself. Rob only mentioned in passing that we were being married soon in response to someone new wondering if there is happiness again someday. He was just telling her there was and offering himself as an example. The widow who PM’d him made a rather nasty assumptions that his marriage must have been bad at the time of his wife’s death, and he must not have loved her much if he could marry me so soon.
Those two sentences leapt out at me when I read the message. They were mean and calculated to be so. Typically that is not how many of the others at YWBB read it. They naturally jumped on our upcoming wedding and droned endlessly about the sacred nature of PM’s. I say this only because if they could read with understanding, and had properly read the two sentences I did, they would have seen what was wrong with that PM. It was condemnation couched in opinion. There is this odd belief that you can hide any nasty comment behind the veil of “just my opinion” and therefore be unaccountable. Rob was right to call this widow out.
Two different sides of the opinion coin today. I didn’t like either one. Or rather I didn’t like the tone and hadn’t much respect for the sources.