How Do You Know If a Widower Is In Love With You


Love Love Love

Image by Gregory Jordan via Flickr

A good number of Google searches bringing readers to this blog lately have been searching for proof that their widower boyfriend loves them. Why they are searching the Internet for the answer to a question that only their widower can provide, I hesitate to guess though I bet I could.

How do you know if any man loves you?

Cher would tell you it’s in his kiss, but it’s in his actions. Does he act like he loves you?

With men (and women too really, the whole “Venus and Mars” thing is mostly based on stereotypical crap), words will only take a person so far if there is nothing concrete to back them up. Concrete as in action.

What’s the guy doing. Or not doing. That leads you to question his “I love you” in word or deed?

Or are you engaging in the centuries old female pastime of reading between a man’s lines like they were leaves at the bottom of a tea-cup? And if you are doing that – quit it. Now. Step away from the high school cafeteria table where you once giggled and obsessed about boys. It was okay then. You were learning about the whole relationship boy/girl exchange, but as an adult woman, the only thing you are ever going to get from it is a big fat bruised ego.

My advice, and it’s hardly revolutionary, is simply ask.

“Do you love me?”

“Are we an exclusive couple?”

“Where is this relationship going?”

And no, it’s not pushy or stalkerish or demanding to ask some very basic questions of the guy you are in all probability getting naked with on a regular basis*. If it’s not too soon to have regular “sleep over” dates than it is not too soon to ask questions when you feel that love is in the air and he, for reasons unclear, doesn’t seem to be feeling it too. You’re a grown woman and this is your life. Speak up.

But, his wife is dead. He’s grieving.

He’s also involved with you. Having sex with you. Insinuating himself into your life and your affections. Although I have been told – by widowed folk – that sex just happens because of the loneliness and pain of loss. It doesn’t. Sex never accidentally happens. Show me a “sex accident” and I will recant, but until I am offered proof, I will maintain my disbelief.

A widowed man who comes a courting, regardless of where he is in the mythical grief process, is perfectly able to deal with the fallout, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Cut no man (or woman) slack because they’ve been widowed. It’s no different from the divorced guy whose “wife screwed him over” or the never married guy who’s “afraid of commitment because of that girl who dumped him once … a while ago”. It’s bullshit excuses. The ones that people use because they know they’ll work. The stereotypical guy whose been too hurt to open his heart again routine has rewarded many a man with the cake sans having to bake it for himself.

A widower loves you when his actions say so. He will not retreat or play “now you see/hear from me and now you don’t” games. Pictures of his dead wife are not adorning his nightstand and his home does not resemble Miss Havisham‘s ballroom. He doesn’t cower under the weight of disapproval from children, in-laws or friends. And even if he has moments where the past intersects with the present, chances are quite good that he will never let you know it.

You will be his priority, his joy and future. He’ll have told you so in a thousand different ways consistently and happily. And he will have taken steps – in the words of Captain Picard – to “make it so”.

But if you are here because you are still not sure – and you don’t believe me – then ask him how he feels and what’s going on. You owe that to yourself.

*And if you are helping out with his children, practically or actually living with him – you are well past the point of having the right to know for sure.

News From the Obituary Page


Gravestones, Koyoto, Japan

Image via Wikipedia

As some of you may remember, I read the obituary section of my former home city’s newspaper with a fair degree of regularity. I remember my parents doing the same thing at around my age and found it – sad – and a bit scary because when you are old enough to be assured of running across people you know, you are well past the age of being able to deny your mortality.

But I don’t read the obits, or run the occasional Google search, because I am certain that my family, friends and other assorted peers from here and there in my life are dropping dead at inordinate rates. I read looking for my late husband’s mother. One of these days, she is sure to show up and when she does, my obligation – slight as it may be – ends.

So today, I ran across news that one of Will’s immediate family has died. No, not his mother. Her mother.

I didn’t really know Grandma Elsie. By the time Will and I began dating seriously, she was on the edge of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s – something that ironically improved her personality immensely – so the first time I met her, she was medicated, docile, sweet and fairly addle-minded. Which I was all too happy with as her pre-Alzheimer reaction to Will dating a women ten years his senior was that I could only be using him.

“Using him?” DNOS snorted when I told her. “For what? You have the career, the house, the money and he is damn lucky you are willing to overlook what a nightmare his family is.”

Harsh, but so like my sister to nail the truth to the door like Luther’s 96 Theses.

Regardless, I rarely saw her and when I did, she was just old and grandmotherly.

The reason I didn’t have much contact with her was that Will detested the old lady. I can’t recall a single pleasant memory out of the many he shared about her. Apparently for quite an extended period during his pre and early teens, she was convinced he was gay and shared her theory with everyone she knew. Her reasoning? He was fatherless and being raised without any male figures in his life. Though the fatherless part was correct as his Dad had fallen asleep and  driven himself off an embankment and into a creek, where he died – being too drunk to extract himself before drowning – Will had plenty of male influence. Indeed, he went out of his way for nearly the length of his life to acquire brothers and father figures.

Grandma Elsie was also a bully who tormented her older children and shamelessly spoiled her younger ones. Judging from the stories, she parented by way of the “divide, pit them against each other, and conquer” theory, which I am pretty sure Dr. Spock didn’t endorse.

Her most heinous crime was stealing the life insurance payout that MIL received when Will’s dad died. Absconded with nearly all of it and used it to buy property and open a business for herself. As far as I know, she was still paying MIL back when she died. MIL had to actually get a lawyer involved to force this and to fend off her greedy younger siblings who didn’t want any of “mom’s money” going to MIL and thus depleting their future inheritance.

Her illness caused a lot of internal conflict for Will. His mother, knowing full well how awfully Grandma Elsie had treated Will, insisted that he forgive her and let the past lie. But he wasn’t really ready and I (something I did a lot of that didn’t endear me to MIL or her family at all) told Will that he didn’t have to forgive the old woman simply because she’d become ill. I did think though that he could at least be polite when their paths crossed because she wasn’t the same person and didn’t deserve to be reviled about things she couldn’t remember or change if she could.

She died back in February and Dee hasn’t received any cards from MIL since before that which now makes sense. MIL tends to power down into complete self-interest mode when she feels victimized by the universe and I would imagine that wrangling with her siblings – and her nieces, who are a self-interested bunch of chips off their respective blocks – would have made interesting reality television. I do hope though that she was finally reimbursed what she lost all those decades ago in terms of finances. She’s lived a bottom-feeder life as a result of her mother’s greed and hopefully that’s over for her now*

It’s kind of sad when the only stories you know about a deceased person are better left untold, and Will told me plenty of those. I don’t know that his family ever realized the extent to which he didn’t care for them or how eager he was to become a part of my family, which was directly proportional to how unloved and mistreated he felt. Many, if not most if we are honest, grow up and get past painful beginnings and letdowns where family are concerned. I don’t know if Will would have. Perhaps. I like to think I was a good influence in any case. He really loved my parents though and that went a long way towards helping him, I think.

So, one down.

*Though I honestly wouldn’t count on it. A greedier bunch I have never encountered. Will’s uncle had his mother caged in her apartment for over a year after the dementia got really bad despite her doctors wanting her in a nursing home. He didn’t want her finances being depleted too much, which would translate into less for him and his kids. Which, I guess, brings up the point of “Was Will named as a beneficiary in Grandma’s will?” And honestly,  I don’t know. I do know that they weren’t able to rewrite her will because of her dementia and Will had been told he was a beneficiary, the same as his three cousins, but my guess is that if there was an inheritance, Dee will never see a dime of it, which is fine by me. I have endeavored to keep any of that stringy family web from sticking to her and she is better off without them.

Dating a Widower


Day of the Dead - Band

Until I read Abel Keogh’s Widower Wednesday, I had no idea that dating a widower was such a widespread practice* that it required its own self-help dating niche. Silly me though because where divorced and never-married men get lumped together in the douche category when they exhibit behaviors that clearly speak to their disinterest in anything other than their own needs, widowers get a pass. Proving that the “widow card” is a mighty little act of self-interest in more areas than simply workplace or guilting one’s family, friends and the occasional stranger.

I am still working on my “success” story for Abel’s upcoming book on dating widowed men. The whole idea that Rob and I are some freak success doesn’t sit well really. I never actually approached our relationship in terms of our being widowed. We liked each other. We became friends. He proposed dating. Then he just proposed and we got married. In “how-to” terms, it wasn’t any different from the first time. And I don’t know that it should be sold as being different either. When we start making exceptions for bad behavior the slope gets shit slick in a hurry.

Abel’s book simply covers the questions that women have posed to him. They wonder if their feelings or the situations that arise are normal. It’s normal to wonder if you are normal. He hopes to caution women away from men who are clearly not ready for relationships or might be using their “grief” in a manipulative manner. In essence, his book is no different from the other dating books out there because the bad behavior men exhibit in relationships really is the same regardless of the label he wears.

What I wish is that women would stop reading men like tea leaves and just ask for and expect to get what they need and walk away when they don’t get it.

On our way back from the city yesterday, we were listening to the CBC’s book talk. One of the authors had written a romance novel that she based partly on the somewhat universal notion women have that love is like the books and the movies they grew up on. Girl meets Boy. They clash. And clash. Until they realize that their antipathy is really love and then they continue to clash all the way to the altar and beyond – because that’s what love is, right?

But it’s not. Love is not that hard. It isn’t fraught with tension, second-guessing and tears.

At least it shouldn’t be and if it is, one should step back and really look at what is and isn’t going on.

A man who loves you is not ambivalent in his expression of it or his desire or in his follow through. If you are loved, you will know it. If you don’t, you probably aren’t loved.

No one wants to hear that or be the one to point it out to someone else. Hence the world of dating self-help. It’s a way to use anecdote, pop psychology and a lot of sugar to tell angsty women what they already know – that he’s just not that into you. Or that his idea of how you fit into his life and future plans isn’t the same as yours.

Lots of couples fall into the trap of being with someone who doesn’t quite fit because they despair of finding someone who does, and it’s sometimes hard to know if the ill-fit is a genuine mismatch or just two people not putting their best forward due to some self-inflicted story they’ve insulated their emotions with over the course of dating and its past disappointments. But if it feels like you are a square peg who hips will never slide through that round hole – it’s time to be really honest with yourself and the other person because love shouldn’t be a drama-fest unless it’s a Hollywood movie or a bad paperback from the rack at the grocery check-out.

Rob and I didn’t “make” our relationship happen. It was a logical progression of escalating feelings. Honestly, grief was never an issue in the way that the world of GOWS (girlfriends of widowers) are taught to believe. Grief isn’t a life long disease. It subsides within a year to a year and a half, and falling in love again, in my experience, should speed that process up quite a bit. Widowed hate the idea that new love is “healing” and I don’t disagree though only because I dislike the “healing” terminology. It makes feeling sad because someone you loved has died seem not normal somehow. However, the best remedy for a “broken attachment” is a new attachment. What worked for us when we were teenagers suffering through a break-up or unrequited love still works when we are grown ups – falling in love again. The simplest solutions endure for a reason.

If you are dating a widower and he is anything less than totally into you, keep looking. You can do better because if he loves you, there is no guessing or tears.

*Disclaimer, it was rather widespread at the YWBB, though no one wanted to own that inconvenient truth. Widowers are in short supply on the grief sites and they are hunted like trophy animals by some widows due to the old wives’ tale of widowed men being proven and seasoned husbands. I don’t think that is the case given the number of my fellow females who are willing to settle for less than stellar consideration. The odds of a widowed man having been not so great a husband but simply married to a woman willing to put up with him is probably 50-50.

The Truth About Grief


Inconsolable grief

Image via Wikipedia

Just finished journalist Ruth Davis Konigsberg’s new book, The Truth About Grief: The Myth of the Five Stages and The New Science of Loss. At not quite 300 pages, and through mounds of boiled down research and stats, she reaches the completely unsurprising conclusion that the grief industry is at best mildly interfering for their own purposes and at worst scamming people.

Davis Konigsberg is one of those rare “grief” book authors who didn’t come to the genre from a place of self-interest. There are no tragic personal losses in her past driving her need to write the book. In fact, her only impetus seems to be a genuine interest in wanting to put the facts of what grief is and isn’t in front of a public that has been fed a steady diet of anecdotal misinformation since Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ five stages were misapplied to grief.

One fact, and it was hardly a shock given who I know, struck me about why the whole notion of the five stages and grief work has always rankled me so much – it’s not based on any actual research.

None.

Kübler-Ross wrote up case studies of terminally ill people and proposed a theory about what the dying experience based on her observations. She published it. It was neat and concise and hit the public at one of those lightning strike times. It was then quickly appropriated by the fledgling grief counseling industry, which needed something on which to base its idea that family members needed support after the death of a loved one.

It wasn’t until George Bonnano began his actual research that anyone had bothered to look into whether or not grieving had stages at all or if people were helped by grief counseling.

As it turns out – there aren’t – only about 10 to 15% of people experience long-term difficulty after the death of a loved one that might require professional help. And by “professional” it is meant those with actual degrees in psychology. Not people who once lost someone*. That’s like supposing that having been sick makes one qualified to practice medicine.

Perhaps shockingly to some, but not to me, a lot of those in the grief counseling profession don’t have any real training. But it doesn’t stop them from pushing their services or the misguided notion that grief is work and without putting in the time, a person is doomed.

The idea of grief as work is a one off of Freud’s. But he saw the work of the grieving as being detachment from the deceased so that one could form a new attachment with someone else. He apparently felt, and there is some validity to it, that the cure for a broken heart was new love whether it be a new partner or another baby. It wasn’t about replacing the person, but giving the feelings a new outlet.

But grief as a chore was the bane of my widowed existence and it made no sense for me as my late husband had been physically separate from me for 15 months and mentally/emotionally lost to me since his diagnosis due to the dementia. His death freed me and all I got from the grief people was that now I was finally ready to get down to the work of feeling truly wretched.

Grieve now or get bitch slapped by the Grief Monster later.

That was one of  many rather unhelpful pieces of advice thrown at the newly widowed on the YWBB.

Fascinating to me was that the author actually attended the infamous Ft. Lauderdale MLK Weekend Widowbago that is now in its fifth or sixth year. She interviewed a gentlemen, who I remember well from my days on the board. An even-tempered – mostly – ex-military chap, who also organizes a camping trip for the widowed parents and their kids every June in Tennessee. Well meaning, as “veteran” of the board, he offered the same “do your griefwork”, “grieving is a process”, and “you’ll never really be over it” advice that dominates the grief counseling industry from church basements to hospice groups.

At one point Rob and I enrolled Dee in a children’s group via the Edmonton hospice program. While she was playing games and struggling with a program that was geared toward remembering a dad she was too young to recall, Rob and I were stuck with a volunteer grief counselor who goose-stepped us through the five stages.

Rob’s disgust vibrated through the room.  I, foolishly, tried to point out fallacies but was ill-received.

The only time I ever found “group grief” remotely real and accessible were the few times the counselor couldn’t attend and the parents were left to “talk amongst themselves”. As one of the longer widowed folk, I was asked a lot about what was normal and if they would ever “be okay”. And I did my best to reassure them that life got better and being okay was the norm.

I did this online too though I earned myself quite a reputation as a heretic and I am sure there are still faceless widowed out there waiting for the day that “grief will get me”.

Truth?

85 to 90% of all those who suffer the loss of a loved one will be fine within 6 months to a year after the loss with absolutely no outside help required. No one really knows why, but spontaneous relief from active grieving is how it works for the majority. Perhaps people are not the delicate hothouse flora the grief industry would prefer we think we are.

Yep, and that’s a proven fact with research to back it up though it is the pet peeve of nearly every widowed person I know.

“We’re not all better at the year anniversary!”

Except most of us are.

I remember the YWBB gent speculating that the members of the board fell into a small percentage of those without much real world support or those with “problems” that they undoubtedly had prior to their loss and which the loss made worse. The new science supports this theory of his but won’t be welcome news to those who need it most.

What’s more. There is no evidence to support the idea that grief counseling will help people return to normal faster than those people who have no guidance at all.

In fact, Bonnano found that people who are encouraged to replay the tragedy and their negative feelings are more likely to wind up with prolonged grieving than those who focused on the positive, good memories of the deceased and kept themselves involved in their lives.

And here’s something else that made perfect sense. In the Asian communities, grief is not discussed. They feel it is inappropriate to burden others with negative feelings, and it is in a way, disrespectful to the deceased. Stiff upper lip and moving on is emphasized though there are quiet rituals to remember the lost loved one that are practiced. And guess what, they do better in the long run than those who are encouraged to “lean into the pain”.

God, I hated that expression. Lean into the pain is the backbone of grief work and it probably couldn’t be less helpful.

The best thing one can do for the newly widowed? In my opinion, of course.

Tell him or her that he/she will be okay. To take things one day at a time. To find distractions if necessary. Focus on immediate tasks. Get enough sleep. Exercise.  Eat. Be around people.  Laugh. Smile a little. And stay away from anyone who encourages you to feel like a victim, which means avoid offers of grief groups, books and counseling as if they were plague.

The Truth About Grief is not really a “grief book”. It will rile up anyone who thinks they are doing good, setting up organizations, websites or planning conferences for the grieving because it will challenge them to think about what really motivates them, and why they are doing something that hasn’t been proven to work and can even harm those susceptible to complicated grief issues. It isn’t a “how to get over your dead (fill in the blank)” book, which so many grief books are.

It’s also not self-serving “year of magical thinking” tripe. Grief memoirs are plentiful and some are really good, compelling stories. But they aren’t blue-prints and should be taken as one person’s experience and not applied to what is true for most people in the same situation.

Davis Konigsberg’s work is a well-presented set of facts based on research and if you are a Kübler-Ross worshipper**, will give you something to chew on.

* p.122 the author asks sociologist Vanderlyn Pine to comment on the influx of grievers turned grief professionals – something he warned the industry about back in 1977. When asked how their experiences can influence the kind of help they provide he said, “The problem is that when people enter the field with a broken heart because someone close to them has died, they feel they have paid their penance and therefore already know all that there is to know.”

And unlike professional psychotherapists, these amateurs are not required to undergo counseling themselves so that they are aware of their prejudices. And yes, I am fully aware that I have a bias where amateur grief do-gooders and not so gooders are involved. It’s also why I stepped away quite a bit from blogs and sites devoted to this feel good industry. I can only speak from my own experience. I have no training aside from the little bit I received when I was teaching – where we were subjected to quite a bit of professional development of the counseling nature.

**My favorite Kübler-Ross quote from a 1981 interview on applying her stages to grief, “Any natural, normal human being will go from shock all the way through to acceptance. You could say the same about divorce, losing your job, a maid, a parakeet.”

That totally needs to be on a t-shirt.

Micromorts


Death found an author writing his life.. Desig...

Image via Wikipedia

Expanding one’s vocabulary deserves missionary zeal, but how many of us bother to learn a word a day?

Here’s a word for you – micromort – it’s the one in a million probability of death. Check out the chart. Very cool.

Most of us don’t spend much, or any, time worrying about our impending deaths. But make no mistake, everyone’s death is pending and has been from the moment you first drew breath.

The lucky majority, and I use the term “lucky” subjectively, will shuffle off to the undiscovered country at various degrees of ripe.

Statistically, only a small percentage of those over 70 can be considered healthy enough to be envied. The rest are, in various ways, chronically ill or disabled or both. One’s sixties, realistically, are the last frontier because the exercise one didn’t bother to do, the healthy foods not eaten, sleep deprivation, needlessly self-imposed stress and a general wishful thinking about being one of the lucky few because one’s great-grandfather married a twenty year old and had a half-dozen babies with her when he was 70 won’t matter one bit. Old age is ruthless and can really only work with the raw material at hand, not the genetic promise willfully squandered decades before.

Some of us though will bite it long before our born on dates could conceivably be considered stale.

Bad luck. Bad timing. Bad roll of the genetic dice rendering us susceptible to environmental triggers for all manner of nasty conditions. Whatever. Still dead.

And the odds mount as we age. At 60 a man’s risk of dying in his sleep on any given day is 27 out of a million. It climbs to 118 out of a million at age 75. In 1841 the odds sat at 86 and 266 per million respectively. But though modern life affords us more years, it doesn’t usually grant us good ones.

If you knew that sometime in your mid to late 60’s you’d physically deteriorate to the point where daily life was a real struggle, would a long life be as appealing?

The yogis – the serious ones – tend to live and live and then just die. But I suspect that their lifestyles make that possible in a way that no one in North America can really emulate.

My mother had a health scare recently. A lump in her breast turned out to be a harmless cyst, but at nearly 80, she has slowed noticeably. Her eyesight is failing at a rate that will result in blindness at some point yet to be fully copped to by her doctor, and she suffers from a variety of ailments that haven’t dampened her enjoyment of life but are harbingers of heart disease and strokes yet to come.

I am reminded of mortality – again – by the death of a friend’s father this last weekend.

Sudden but yet not really.

“How old was he?” Rob asked.

“Five years younger than Mom,” I said.

“Oh, well, that’s getting into prime death territory for men.”

And he was right.

We are lulled by media stories of centenarians climbing mountains but they make the news precisely because there are so very few of them.

The clock is always ticking. It just speeds up at 60 and gets steadily louder and slightly faster with every year after.

Two of Three


Graves at Old Holy Cross Cemetery

Image by Fritz Liess via Flickr

Last Thursday, the ghost tickled the crown of Rob’s head while he stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes. Not an “attaboy”. Rob performs housework without the need for warm affirmations or pats on the head. It was a “heads up”.

So, when the call came later that evening to let us know that his uncle had passed away, the ghostliness of the day made sense.

But it was hardly the only sign this month, lights have been on that shouldn’t have been and there was that incidence with the shadow in Dee’s room. For myself personally, it’s been this persistent feeling that someone was going to die soon. It’s caused me no end of anxiety. First with Dee’s class taking a field trip into the city during the icy weather earlier in the month and then Edie and Silver driving through the mountains to and from Vancouver on their vacation.

It’s not as if we didn’t know about Uncle Francis. He had lung cancer and recently went into hospice, but death comes in threes. It just does. What’s true for the rich and (in)famous holds true for we lesser mortals.

This morning I awoke from a bad dream about a dinosaur trying to bite me (long back story that I’ll go into another day) to see Rob sitting up next to me. At least, I thought it was Rob. The room was Devil’s Den cave midnight. I couldn’t see my own hand when I reached up and then had to bring my hand down to find Rob, who was lying down and asleep next to me.

It was frightening. I sat up and noted that there were dark shadows ringing the bed and then I lay down and went back to sleep.

Tonight, we returned home after depositing Rob’s mom and future step-father at a hotel near the airport. They are heading home on an early flight. A message was waiting on the machine from my mother. My Aunt Peach died last night sometime.

You might remember Peach. I’ve written about her before. She would have been 103 this coming March. She was my grandmother’s youngest sister and the last of the Fagan siblings alive.

Gran lived to 94. She might have gone longer but for the dementia. Uncle Fran and Auntie Anna were 102 and 104 respectively when they passed on. The ones that cancer didn’t get young lived to 75 at the youngest and if they didn’t have bad hearts 90 and beyond. Remarkably long-lived, my dad’s relatives. If Dad hadn’t queered the deal with his drinking and smoking, he’d have cleared 100 easy, I’m sure. He still has two siblings – though I fear for not much longer – who are in their mid-80’s.

Will one of them be the third?

I really hope not though I know many folks who would roll their eyes and say that living to extremely ripe to bursting old age is long enough for anyone, so what’s the big deal?

It is a big deal to die, regardless of when. Death is one of the milestones. It represents fruition – which is a big fucking deal – and opportunity, which is nothing to sneeze at either.

Aunt Peach always made me a bit uncomfortable as a child and teen. She was forceful and larger than life though I towered over her even as a 10-year-old.

The last time I saw her was on our visit to Iowa last spring. She was playing bridge. It took us a good twenty minutes to track her down. No one knew where she was though everyone in the nursing home knew who she was.

She gave Dee a doll and probably more of her interest than she’d given me since I was that age myself. She barely acknowledged Rob or my mother, who was with us.

There’s quite the family reunion going on, if I know my dad’s relations – and I do.

I wonder if they are waiting on anyone?

Under the Bus


Gabe-birthday-part

Image via Wikipedia

Late in the day yesterday I flipped through my calendar of events for the upcoming week and realized that today was Will’s birthday.

Not “is”.

The dead don’t have birthdays and I have struggled to incorporate his deadness into the scheme of holidays and birthdays for the last five years.

Last night I decided to throw it all under the bus.

For some reason I will never know probably, Dee decided that her late father needed a cake last year. Her older sisters’ deceased mother gets cake and picnics, and she was feeling decidedly left out of the frivolity. Which is how she views it. Fun times. Cake and picnics are jolly events to a child. Buying balloons and pin-wheels to put on graves is the whole point of having dead family in the first place. Because she’s a child.

When I was a child, I thought cemeteries were part of the family history experience. I totally looked forward to Memorial Weekend, bouncing in the back seat of the station wagon as we tooled through the countryside from one graveyard to the next. It was fascinating and filled with interesting stories about people my parents and grandmother actually knew. The whole “dead” thing barely penetrated my consciousness.

“I just remembered that tomorrow is Will’s birthday,” I told Rob as we sat in the office last night.

“I know, ” he said with a tone and look that implied that he had been waiting to see whether I’d bring it up or not. Not is usually my go-to because I forget. The anniversary of my dad’s death was just before Halloween and if my mom hadn’t mentioned her plans for the day to me a few days before – I wouldn’t have remembered at all.

“Dee hasn’t brought it up, ” I said, “and I am kinda thinking of letting the whole thing pass, but what if she asks in a week or so? Should I pretend I forgot? I mean, I almost did, but she isn’t all that interested in him again.  Shouldn’t I just follow her lead?

“She had said that the whole thing makes her too sad, ” he said. “She doesn’t want to talk about him.  She changes the subject when his name comes up.”

“Or just gives you that look that says ‘what does he have to do with anything?’,” I replied.

And really, what does he have to do with anything?

She didn’t know him. That he was her father, doesn’t make him any more known or immediate to her. It doesn’t give him standing or influence. She’s decided that Rob is her father and it’s her right to do so.

And I remember Will telling me about his childhood. His dad died when he was seven and his mother never let him forget the guy.

“She was always telling me how I reminded her of him,” he told me. “I hated it.”

With good reason. His dad was a rat, fucking bastard.  Alcoholic.  Child and wife beater. Adulterer.

Seriously, why rub your little boy’s face in any resemblances?

He would be okay with Dee putting him into proper perspective in the scheme of her life. Because it is her life.

Someday, she will want to know Will – or at least have more spontaneous interest, but for now, birthdays for the (un)dead are over.

That is all.