insecurities and dating a widower

…that pat your leg or sit in the backseat just the the right of your peripheral vision or that say,

“Hi, Ann.”

There are a lot of ways to meet your husband’s first wife but her disembodied greetings on the edge of sleep is probably not the preferred way.

On the drive home from the city, Rob admitted that what had woke him was the presence sitting on the end of the bed touching his legs. This has happened before. It’s usually associated with an anniversary for him.

“Even now, I can feel someone in the backseat,” he said. “I can almost see a dark figure just on the edge of my vision.”

“What do you think it’s about? Your birthday?”

But it could have been Edee. She’d been up all night the previous night with Pandora in her arms as the little cat alternated between struggle and a death like limpness.

I didn’t tell Rob until the next morning that as I was falling asleep Saturday night, I saw Shelley in the background of my waiting dreams. It’s not as odd as it sounds. Rob had a dream once where Will had given him a hug. And I have a half remembered dream of speaking with Shelley but I don’t recall what was said.

When I told Rob what had happened his reply was,

“So, you’ve been identified by name now.”

I was quite startled when it happened, but I’m not frightened. I am not at all sure what it means. I am sure that if I were to hear a recording of Shelley’s voice, it would be the same as the voice that greeted me. I’d like to think that she approved of my handling of the cat situation and Edee. I was quite worried I’d overstepped and been too motherly. It’s hard not to mother. I am a mother. It’s not something I can switch off. After Dee was born I found that my approach to children – of all ages – in general was more maternal. It made me a better teacher and was a liability all rolled up in a neat package.

The house has been quiet since early Sunday morning. Pandora recovered though it was a very close call. I spent Monday afternoon on my own for the first time since June and all was well. I am taking that as a good sign.

The wives of polygamists refer to themselves as “sister-wives”. I think this is meant to impose a familial feel to circumstances that could easily dissolve into something competitive and downright ugly were it not for the veneer of a pseudo-relationship that the term implies. Despite my own negative views on the subject of plural marriage, I wonder if the term doesn’t more aptly describe my relationship with Shelley than any other.

Shelley was my husband Rob’s wife. She died of melanoma eight months after my first husband, Will, back in 2006. She would be 47 years old now had she lived. Just a few months older than Rob is, and he never let her forget it. Now he must contend with being older then I am by a couple of years, and I am not sure why I think this, but I’ll bet Shelley is enjoying that particular turn of the table. Read Full Article

Bruce Lee wall painting. Tbilisi, Georgia

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“Take things as they are. Punch when you have to punch. Kick when you have to kick.” – Bruce Lee


Rob has this saying that he uses to explain, qualify, quantify and generally achieve a zen state about nearly all things that are beyond his reach and control. “It is what it is.” I have to admit the path to Nirvana is not as cut and dried for me. I have a difficult time just leaving things alone even when all I can really do is worry about it.


Back in the last month or two before the first anniversary of Will’s death, I had this nagging feeling that something “wicked this way comes”. I called this feeling “the other shoe” as in “waiting for the other shoe to drop”. I am not unique in this anxiety ridden state of being. It’s common among the widowed. Common among most survivors of tragedy in general I would venture to guess. When you have lived through one of the worst things you could ever possibly imagine happening, no matter how fervently you hope for better days…..believe in their eventuality even… cannot help but fear the future a little. It hasn’t smiled too widely on your recent past after all. After a while I came to understand that this feeling I would get was nothing more than the grief alerting me to the passing of another milestone or “first” without Will. It was what it was, I guess. But even all these months later, and the ample opportunities life as provided for practice purposes, I am still not over the need to try and control circumstances through action. Pre-emption even when possible. I can’t let things just be what they are. I need to fix or explain or something. A side-effect of care-taking? Something inborn? My teacher side? I don’t know.


It’s turned me into something of a risk taker. Even while I was trying to shore up the crumbling sand castle that was my life, I was taking tremendous chances. Changing teaching assignments two years ago when I knew that the end was near for Will and I would be in a new situation without my established support network. Going back to get my masters when Will was first sick even. Tossing aside fair-weather friendships because I didn’t think their occasional help and support was worth the emotional strain. Completely changing the terms of my relationships with family and in-laws for much the same reason. The whole dating thing when I clearly wasn’t ready. And, of course, Rob – who turned out to be the least risky of all my leaps of faith.


I am asked all the time how I am feeling about leaving for Canada to be with Rob. Am I worried? Am I scared? Am I sure?


I worry about the details because that is who I am: a water rabbit. I am scared of crossing the border because Immigration is an authority unto itself. But, I have rarely been this sure of who I am, where I am going and what I want.


It is what it is. Just kick when you need to and punch when necessary.

Family arrangements in the US have become more...

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There is no new normal because, honestly, the whole idea of normal is highly subjective even under the best of circumstances which makes our former normal a matter of opinion really. Just as an example, for my four year old daughter old normal was a terminally ill father whose unresponsive shell she visited weekly at first in a nursing home, then in a hospice and finally in a cemetery where she would hug the grave marker good-bye before leaving. Now her normal is Daddy Will and Daddy Rob and two big sisters, one of whom she has yet to meet. This is normal to her. Even when she compares herself to her peers at the preschool she attends (and she does), she doesn’t see herself as different. Her friends have fathers and she does too. Her friends have older siblings and she does too. Her friends have DVD players in their cars, and now thanks to Daddy Rob, so does she. Four year old’s have their priorities straight and are shockingly practical.


Society fights a losing battle to norm itself, set standards and define optimal situations. While they seem to work for the majority of people, it doesn’t seem to be how the majority of people actually live. As another example, about a month ago a state trooper came into the high school where I teach to deliver a presentation to the students on the dangers of meeting people on the Internet. I sat as far back in the auditorium as I could, and I listened to the kids around me as they dismissed most of what the officer had to say as largely misinformed scare tactics, and although I don’t personally discount the possibility of predators on the net, I had to agree with the students. There are predators everywhere in real and virtual life. It is wise to know what signs to look for and to be careful when getting to know someone, but normal for most of the teens and young adults I know is meeting people via the Internet. Friends that you have never seen or talked to is no more unusual to them than the old concept of pen pals. Cyber introductions are similar to “friend of a friend” connections. I met Rob on a message board. In fifty-five days we are going to be married. In times gone by men and women met and got to know their potential mates via correspondence with their first face to face meetings often being their weddings. And that was normal. Twenty-five years ago my friends and I were meeting and dating young men we met at bars and frat parties. And that was normal, but I don’t remember any lectures on stranger danger from state troopers back then.


Normal is in the eye of the beholder. As my darling husband-to-be would say, “It is what it is,” which is a topic for another day.

Simulated gravitational lensing (black hole go...

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Lay down all thought

Surrender to the void

It is shining

It is shining

-John Lennon, lyrics to Tomorrow Never Knows off the Revolver album




Widowed people often ask about filling the void left by their deceased spouses, or rather they talk about how it can’t be filled. Surprisingly, I don’t disagree with them. Voids can’t be filled. How can you fill something that isn’t empty?


Voids are black holes of the soul. They devour. Nothing escapes their gravitational pull. Everything that was joyous and worth getting up in the morning for has been sucked into this pitch-colored vortex, never to be experienced again. They act almost like vacuum, clearing away the memories left behind by our spouses like cracker crumbs. Remnants of a life that hide like a set of misplaced car keys when you need them, but turn up when unexpectedly and rock us to our core.


Voids are necessary for the same reason that basements or backs of closets exist. They hold the things that our lives can’t rid themselves of, for a variety of reasons, but can’t use anymore either. Psychic storage units that you venture into at your own emotional risk. Why would you throw opportunities for love and happiness into that?


The life you find yourself living in the aftermath hangs on the edge of this blackened crater. It would be easy to fall in, let the dark claim you, but most of us don’t. True, we wander the rim for a time, but eventually we walk away in search of unscathed earth to resettle ourselves upon.


It’s not about “filling” anything or in the case of “the void” paving over it. It is about relocation, finding new space or in some cases making new space. Some people don’t have the capacity. They surrender to the grief. Or worse, they seek replacements and dump new love on top of old pain. It always comes back to this however, acknowledging the former life and honoring the love that once was while moving forward and being open to the possibilities that life does present even to those who aren’t paying attention.