Widowed: The Blog

widdaI really wanted to step away from all the grief stuff. Widowhood. People who date widows. Widow blogging. As I mentioned to an old friend from the YWBB days (yes, I did make friends when I was there), grief on the web anymore is about selling it. Promoting a website, a convention, a book or whatever niche business you grew out of the depths of your despair. And if you did, good on ya! Do what you love and know. But I never could get past the idea that I was taking advantage of vulnerable people by asking them to pay me for something that they needed – kindness, advice, common ground.

Now that the YWBB is in its final days, I find myself oddly drawn back in to the community. One that I never fit into really and didn’t derive much direct solace from hanging around on its edges. My aforementioned friend found herself added to a Facebook group of YWBB alumnae (and now you know that no one ever leaves high school just as you suspected and probably feared as much as I do). She in turn added me and quite a few others. It was just like a high school reunion. Right down to my not recognizing a single soul because we are all sans aliases and aside from those who really are my Facebook friends, I have never seen a picture of a single one of them. In between shock and venting (oh, some of us were a tad ragey though nothing like I remember from the YWBB’s wilder west days), stories were shared. Some I recall. Many I do not because I don’t harken back to the earliest days of the board’s existence like many of the story-tellers do. And while we reminisced, the current residents of the YWBB were scrambling to find each other off-site and two hardy members were setting up a temporary refugee board. A kind of virtual muster point that an astounding 400+ people registered at one point before a permanent home was established at Widda.

Though I sort of enjoyed the Facebook reunion group, I found myself far more concerned with the new site. The flight. The information that needed to be shared. The reformation of the group that is rather than the group that was. For me, the Internet has always been a world with real places. People dream about outer space. Space travel. My husband does and so does my middle daughter but the real alternative universes and worlds already exist and better still, we have access to them. They’re on the web. YWBB is a real place to me. Just like Babycenter was when I was there fifteen years ago now. The fact that I can’t touch it, and the method of interaction is virtual, has never stopped me from immersing, meeting, sharing and establishing very real connections and relationships with very real people. Some of whom I know now in real life – like my husband for example – and some of whom I have never even had a phone conversation with – like my YWBB and FB friend, Stella. I met Rob at the YWBB and it’s a story I’ve told countless times and in as many places, so I won’t rehash it word by word, so the board has special meaning.

When I told Rob the board was closing, he shrugged. It didn’t matter to him. He has such a profound faith in our connection that he really does believe we’d have met regardless of the board. I love this about him. But the board is still our meeting place and soon it will no longer exist. It feels just the same to me as when I learned that the Science Center in Des Moines – where my late husband and I established the relationship that would lead to marriage, baby and widowhood – had been closed. It was the week before he died and the day after he died, I went there. Parked in the empty lot and walked around to the far side of the building to stand in the spot where we were standing the evening I realized that I loved him. I just stood there and cried. Said goodbye.

I haven’t cried about the YWBB. But it has brought back memories. Sharp. Stinging. Regretful. And, as per usual, when I am faced with emotions that threaten to swamp me, I act. I shuttled information between the new board and the Facebook group. Searched the YWBB archives, took screenshots and found links that I shared. I even posted again. Lord Almighty, save me from becoming “that widow”, who hangs around the board past her “best before” date, trying to “fix” and emoting far too much. Something that I swore to the imaginary gods that I would never do. And I won’t be her. Not for much longer but as the original YWBB founders feel the need to finally drive a stake through a dying board forum (and sadly, it was dying and this new board is just the jump-start it’s been needing), I find I have just enough widow left in me to pass it backward. Give so that a new haven for young widows can become a new place for others. Sure, there are a shit-tonne of venues for the widowed, but as I mentioned, they drip with the stench of self-help conformity and commercial entrepreneurship. The beauty of the YWBB (and with luck Widda) is that it’s a community of just people. No angles. Nothing being sold or promoted. Just people who hurt, sharing and healing – hopefully – with the help of one and other. Even the worst day on the YWBB, and there were plenty of those, someone reached out and someone cared enough to answer. 24/7. 365 days a year. The board never closed and no one was ever (knowingly) turned away.

Jill is right. I should blog more.

I have heard more than one widowed person lament that they feel like a teenager again sometimes. Usually in response to some dating dilemna or disappointed/thwarted romantic pursuit. Often though, I find mysef wondering if I have not actually started my life over at 17 again. There are days when the only thing I feel is too young, inexperienced and naive to be doing the things I am doing. I feel as though I am playing. Pretending. At work. With friends. Online. My family looks at me with expressions that echo my own bewilderment. Only my daughter still seems to recognize me but even she knows when I am faking it. Knows better than nearly anyone else. The thing I remember most about highschool was the increasing frustration and sense that I was being purposely held back. I wanted so to be older. Twenty-seven or Thirty. I wanted my life settled. I wanted to know who I was going to be. Because I knew I was not her yet. That is how I feel now. I want to know who I am going to be when this journey is done. Where I am going to be. And with who. It’s like looking out the front window into the fog. Past the tiny handprints, beyond the ornamental shrubs where the sidewalk becomes the easement which is swallowed by the misty thick air. That is where I am. The I am that I will be. A dimly perceived outline in a shadowy, but not necessarily dark, future place.

A close friend whom I consider family really lost her father-in-law the other day. He suffered a stroke just before Christmas and never really recovered. He died in hospice on Wednesday. I found out about it when I was reading the paper this morning at work. His visitation was this evening. I wasn’t too sure that going to the visitation was a good idea. I knew that it would more than likely be an open casket. I didn’t know how I would react to see the body. After all I did know him though not particularly well. But, I felt like I should. I can’t hide behind my widow status…not where friends are concerned. I had to take my daughter. There are few instances when I don’t. Besides, last minute babysitters are harder to find than regular ones. I prepped her as best I could and we set off. The funeral home was in a little town to the east of Des Moines. It is a farming community really with the tallest buildings in town being the grain elevators that make up the only thing that could pass as a skyline. We spotted my friend right away and she admonished me for coming. “After all you’ve been through, you didn’t need to.” In some ways though that is exactly why I needed to. All I have been through has altered me in ways I never would have imagined and in ways I am probably not even aware of yet. I didn’t want one of those ways to wind up being “not being there for friends”. We sought out all of the family. Paid our respects, which turned out to be more difficult for my daughter who is now trying t sort out the idea that there are big and small boxes to be buried in. And then, we left. I didn’t feel like crying and still don’t. I feel uncomfortably disconnected in a way that is too familiar. I am proud of myself for not taking the easy pass. It is not what friends should do. It’s good to have another first behind me for a change.