Something in Common

I seldom buy The Edmonton Journal these days. I am a Globe and Mail girl. However this last weekend I was compelled not once but twice to grab it as I hustled in and out of the Safeway. The Saturday Edition featured the story of a young (very young) widower on the front page. His wife had been murdered by his brother and it inspired him to crusade on behalf of the victims’ rights movement which inadvertently has become the start of a promising political career. My friend, Marsha wrote a blog piece recently about finding the good in tragedy and this young man is a prime example of this idea. An idea that not everyone shares but I believe is true. Something good is meant to come from loss. Even it doesn’t then the lesson was lost and the tragedy is magnified. Lessons? Yeah, lessons. We weren’t put on this earth to accumulate stuff and make imaginary friends on Facebook. There is a higher purpose.

The Sunday Journal did not appear to have any widows hiding in it, but on the inside of the Culture Section there was an op-ed that first ran in the NYTimes by an author named Patty Dann. The piece detailed her relationship with another widower and how it went from the sharing of a mutual experience to friendship and love. He had written a review online about the novel she had written detailing her late husband’s illness and death. She sent him a note and they eventually became e-mail pals. The whole thing reminded me of Rob and I. How we’d started out on the e-mail and somehow what was just support and an opportunity to “talk” to a like-minded adult of the opposite sex subtly and suddenly became oh so much more. As often as I was told back then that it wasn’t possible to know something through their written words it’s nice to be validated by Ms. Dann’s story. Not that it surprises me. She and her husband to be are writers and Rob and I too. People who don’t know how to make themselves heard through the printed word or to hear someone in kind couldn’t be expected to understand how powerful a medium the writing is.

I am not sure why but I don’t relate to every widowed’s story. I understand the emotions because they are common to us as a group but the deaths themselves are so varied. The young man whose brother killed his wife had no warning. His brother was a drug addict with a mental illness who’d been released from jail on bond without any warning to his family despite his harassing them. That’s awful and too common but not something I can relate to. Just as I know that very, very few widowed can understand what it is like to care for a 29 year old man with dementia or be married to a non-responsive invalid you only see on weekends in the nursing home or hospice. I was widowed long before my late husband actually died and will never accept the idea that was so forcefully pushed at me that there is no such thing as anticipatory grief. It’s real. And I know that from ugly experience. So I find what similarites I can with others who lost spouses to long illnesses but know that I likely won’t find anyone who was emotionally and mentally cut off from their spouse for years prior to the end. One thing that draws me to some widowed people are tales of their loved one who changed mentally. Personalities flip-flopped by diseased brains. Ms. Dann’s husband had glioblastoma and lost his memory. My late husband’s memory was wiped clean by a neurodegneration caused by an inherited metabolic disorder called x-ALD. Her husband was terminal from day one. So was mine. It’s different when there is no hope. It just is.

She was luckier than me though. Most people with determined outcomes are. Her Willem understood what was wrong with him, and my Will never did. He was able to help her make final arrangements for himself. I had to do that alone, guessing at what he would have wanted as we’d never had a whole conversation about it. I dug through my memories for anything I thought might help. The only thing he did give me was the headstone. I knew that he wanted one and a place to put it. She got to make love with her Willem again and I did not. Will was uninterested in anything but pacing in circles and Mountain Dew, which he would have consumed non-stop had I not hid the cans. He didn’t know who I was. He called me “Babe” and called to our daughter as though she were a puppy  “SweetiePie. Here Sweetie Pie.”

Ms. Dann wrote a book about her experiences. It seems to be what widows do, if they have any inclination or ability (and even when they don’t have the latter at all). I honestly haven’t read anyone’s first-hand account of widowhood in book form even though I know that I need to write my own story and might benefit from seeing how others have done it. Or not. 

For now though, I have found a widow with whom I feel a bond. We fell in love again with men who wrote us e-mails.

2 thoughts on “Something in Common

  1. I think the ability to know someone through their words is, if the people are sincere, the truest expression of their soul and who they are, without the distraction of the physical. If you read my words, you read ME–who I am, what I think and believe, my hopes and dreams. If you’re insincere, well, then, I suppose all bets are off. There is nothing different about that in “meat space,” either. People can lie to you in any and all media. But I met my sweetie on via the internet, and I know too many love stories that have sprung from there to doubt that real and true relationships can come from there.

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