young widowhood

Here is the oddest thing about the closing of ye olde widda board for me, personally.

When the board closed, the alumni site at Facebook cranked up the invites/adds to its page. A group that was fairly dormant. And I was added.

Okay, the fact that I was added is not odd. I did make friends in my time at the YWBB. Yes, I did. Don’t look so incredulous. A few anyway. So my inclusion in the round-up as Rome fell isn’t all that a weird thing.

The strange part is how nonchalantly I have been included in the conversations and happenings.

As I mentioned in another post, it’s just like a high school reunion where the most popular girl in the class, the one that married the star of the state championship basketball team, was a cheerleader and never gave more than a withering glance of disdain to you, is suddenly all smiles, hugs and

“Oh my gawd! you look GREAT! I am SO glad you are here.”

Alright, not that exactly, but creepily close.

Rob just chuckles.

“Back with your besties from the board, eh?”

I had no besties at the board.

In fact, the few YWBB members who I count among my friends are folks I met at the board but got to know via our widow blogging. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be friends.

Like most of my friendships – virtual and in real life – I grew on them slowly because I am something for which the taste for needs to be acquired and that takes time. Instant friendships have never happened for me. Ever. Except maybe Rob.

And I tend to develop friendships with people that no one would ever suspect me of being friends with.

As I recently told a very conservative political Twitter acquaintance (who follows me only because I confound her definition of a “liberal”),

“I have an open mind, a preferences for people who can pry theirs wide a bit too, and enjoy a healthy give/take debate. And snark is good too.”

Of course, I paraphrased into 140 characters.

Yes, I can be brief, but I don’t enjoy it.

So, where did I begin? Right, wagons circling.

Old board members do nothing well at all if not circle up. The founders should have remembered this if going quietly into the good night was their aim. (And they’d do well to remember it in the future if the rebrand of Soaring Spirits includes YWBB terminology, stories or ideas stolen from threads. Yeah, stolen. Really hope I am wrong about this.)

They posted a terse and uninformative message when they locked all the forums, which effectively threw the lurkers under the bus and sent the newbies, who generally have few contacts inside the board (forget about outside) in grief spins I don’t want to think about.

But if they thought this was going to satisfy the GenNext widdas, who really founded the current incarnation of the board, they’d apparently been away too long.

After the shock and the scramble to contact, add, send out the word and help – as much as possible – support the YWBB survivors as they hastily set up a new forum at Widda, the questions came.

What happened? Why so suddenly? What will happen to the thousands of pages of posts? The history. The stories? The resources? The friendships?

OMG! How will people find each other again!

All good questions and – as per usual – the founders were reluctant to come down off the mountain to deal with any of it.

My history with the founders is slight but contentious.

I took them to task about the cyber-bullying, and their non-to-tepid at best responses on a few occasions, and the few who bothered to reply to me were condescending when they weren’t just dismissive.

So while the others were willing to give a benefit of the doubt, I suspected that the founders probably had motivations that were more about them than the widow board or the members because that’s how it’s mostly been since they stopped actively needing it.

Is that judgmental?


But I am just as harsh a critic of widowed folk who spring board their tragedies into careers that milk the vulnerability of grieving folk.

While the YWBB founders may have simply walked away after having picked up their lives, at least they didn’t sell hoodies and mugs with logos and pretend that somehow this was good works. And, thank the goddess, they avoided the Oprahfication of being widowed into a 12 step program where slapping on the stilettos, working out and attending weekend seminars to work that grief will land you in the valley of the happy widow dolls again.

Eventually the idea – a good one – took root among the alumnae of kicking in cash to maintain the board as an archive.

Posting agitation ensued to the point that one of the founders agreed to talk with the others, but the ultimate answer was still “no”. Closing down the YWBB was just a “business decision” that made the most sense.

Nothing personal, ya’ll.

A kind of dismissive, sucks to be you but I’ve moved on and what do you people want from me after fifteen years?

Still, the circling efforts and the fact that I was included (granted that some of the others probably didn’t/still don’t know who the fuck I was on the board) made me reconsider the nature of the board and whether or not I could really participate in the start up of the new one.

I am nine years out. Married again for nearly eight years.

I am not grieving anymore. Even the odd memories don’t knock me off course.

Although, I hate the fact that I cry easily now. I never did pre-dead husband and don’t like that I have lost my ability to be like a stone in the face of manipulating commercials, songs and YouTube videos.

Oh, I blame it on the approach of menopause, but it was widowhood that reduced me to this female cliché.

I have participated in these early days of Widda. I post. I share. I try to let people know that nine years out is a good place. It gets better.

But I haven’t totally hated the reunion. It’s good to see how far I have come in stark terms and how the people behind the aliases have done the same.

The furor is dying down now. The YWBB goes dark this coming Friday and now that the shock has passed and the posts are being archived on hundreds of different hard-drives, most of these people will go back to their lives. Just like people do after high school reunions.

Dana hace Yoga en la Playa

Image by via Flickr

And not with each other.

Two distance healings, a trip to the dentist and many back rubs from my ever patient and saintly husband later, I ventured back to yoga class. There is a warm yin at noon on Fridays, and I arrived early to secure my spot by the heat lamp ( heat lamp.) where I snuggled into the Maduka Lite mat, as my new and far comfier heavy weight mat made my shoulders flinch under their own power, and prepared to “let go”.

Yin is not quite restorative yoga. Restorative is about relaxing, a far more difficult thing than people imagine and part of what makes it a harder sell than physically punishing practices like Ashtanga, but yin is about space. Finding a depth in a pose that allows the body to fill in until full expression is gradually found. Despite the props, there is not a lot of ease or comfort about it.

During one of the final poses before savasana, Jade, my teacher, read to us from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjail by Sri Swami Satchidananda, Sutra 33 which discusses the four keys that open our lives to serenity and happiness.

We studied this sutra and Satchidananda’s observations during teacher training last year. Essentially, there are four kinds people and having the “keys” necessary for interacting with them puts one of the path to a serene mind which in turn promotes happiness.

Patanjali, the universe bless him, wrote this:

By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.

And Satchidananda reminds his readers that Patanjali was not describing some long ago world but one nearly identical to ours today because what people want and need at their core hasn’t changed. He reminds us to be happy for those who are happy in their lives because our jealousy or ill-wishes towards them will only harm us in the end. He entreats us to show compassion for those who struggle regardless of their reaction because in being kind we do ourselves a good too. He asks us to be “delighted” in the virtuous, see them for the shining examples that they are and try to imitate them for our own sake.

And then he discusses the wicked.

By wicked Satchidananda isn’t necessarily referring to the Adolfs and Wall Street swindlers of the world. He is talking about those we encounter in our daily lives who seek to pull us down because we are content and they are not. They are notches lower than the unhappy who though they may lash out truly do so without malicious intent. The wicked seek to hurt because they hurt and view our non-hurting and any advice we might give as an insult to them and their pain.

Jade went on to read the story of the Monkey and the Sparrow, which I believe I have shared before but it’s a wonderful teaching tale and it relates directly to something I recently forgot and was sharply reminded to recall.

One rainy day a monkey was sitting on a tree branch getting completely soaked. Opposite of the monkey on another branch was a sparrow sitting in a hanging nest, staying warm and dry. The sparrow saw the monkey getting drenched from the rain, and points out that even though he only has a small beak and no hands like the monkey, that he built the nice nest (home) expecting the rain. He also points out that Darwin said the monkey was the forefather of human beings, so why hasn’t he used his brain to build himself a house? The monkey made a terrible face, and yelled at the sparrow for advising and teasing him, and then tore the sparrow’s home to pieces. The sparrow was left to fly out and get drenched in the rain.

There are four keys needed in life to deal with the four types of people. Friendliness, compassion, gladness and disregard. If we are friendly to the happy, compassionate to the unhappy or sad, glad for the righteous/good and disregard the wicked, serenity of mind is ours and with that happiness.

Lately, I have been commenting on a blog written by a writer who was widowed but is long since remarried. Though he blogs about many things, he would occasionally write about his widowhood and this prompted women who are dating or married to widowers to email him with their questions regarding their relationships. In response, he began to answer their questions with a post every Wednesday.

I have replied and mainly just shared my story and opinions in an advice-free manner. Sharing from a personal perspective without judgment or placing oneself as an expert is the safest route when the medium is the written word. Mostly because people in general are such poor readers it is easy to be misunderstood.

The topic last week was on second chances. Widowers who’d established relationships. Pledged love, fidelity and a future, and then pulled the old “it’s not you: it’s me. I need more time to grieve.” It’s really no different from the divorced guy who suddenly realizes that his ex and their marriage have made him rethink commitment and not in a positive way. Or the never married guy who’s been “so hurt in the past” that he can’t bring himself to commit – even though if he could commit to anyone, it would be you.

Men who are … douchebags … um … wicked are so, regardless.

I threw in a sanitized version of my opinion along with my own story about readiness and moving on.

The end. Except not.

A widower found the blog. Even though the Wednesday posts are clearly marked and have nothing to do with being widowed personally, he felt maligned because it wasn’t promoting grief in a way that worked for him, so he came in swinging.

Mostly at the blogger but a bit at me. Probably because the blogger and I are remarried widowed, who are clearly in the “loss happens, you cope and then you move on”camp. The widower is new-ish and still very much invested in the idea put forth by the grief “industry” that promotes self-help, processes, journeys, and the idea that grief is never-ending. Which isn’t true but you can’t tell that to someone still in the thick of it. Time and distance move us all away from the idea that we will hurt like bastards forever. It’s not the grief but the rebuilding that convinces people to cling to that notion. Mourning is less work than moving on.

Had I not bothered to reply. All would have been well. But I made the mistake of explaining*, which is advice by another name and voila – a flaming hot comment thread.

And then I got irritated because the gentleman pulled out the tired “denial” thing to explain my inability to admit how right he was.

Denial. Irony abounds.

But thankfully, Patanjali has set me straight via yin class. All praise Yoga! Thank you, Swami Satchidananda!

*When you make the mistake of explaining, the other person will see it as defensive and begin deconstructing your explanation line by line, giving themselves the advantage of pulling things out of context and spinning it. At this point, you’ve been played and should walk away. A sad/unhappy person won’t bother to do this by the way, but a wicked one will.

UPDATE: The angry Widower wrote a scathing blog piece attacking the “industry” that is building up around the women who date widowed or GOW’s, as they call themselves. They have blogs and message boards and websites, which are almost identical in the defensive, selfish stance that widowed take. They share the misguided belief that grief is some sort of mental breakdown rather than a normal human experience. They just come at it from opposite angles. Both groups? Could use a bit of reality dosing, but it won’t happen because they group together and reinforce each other. Interestingly, a blogger/self-help writer was the target of the Angry Widower and she was quite unkind (snarky really) in her assessment of him when she found out and wrote this reply. I tried to leave a comment to the effect that she was misrepresenting grief and that men who play games do so for reasons that cross all types (widowed, divorced, and never-marrieds) because the reality is that widowers who love women – marry them and those who don’t act like douchebags until the women in question wake up, respect themselves and find someone better. She deleted my comment. As on the widow blogs, I don’t fit with the promoted view that grief is a syndrome in need of 12 steps. The irony is, of course, that these two groups are just the same and the people who cater to the delusion aren’t all that dissimilar either.

I have a basically unread copy of Eat, Pray, Love that I will likely never read at this point especially now that there is a movie version. Reading a book that you can watch is just very not done in my homeland. Americans are practical in their quest of the lowest road that will not make them appear too lazy or uneducated.

I am probably one of only a handful of women in the western world who hasn’t read more than the chapter excerpt of Eat, Pray, Love which appeared in Oprah magazine sometime in early 2006. I bought the book because I wanted to use the O magazine version as a reference on my comps. We had to write a bibliography of all the books or magazine articles we quoted, or that influenced ,the gazillion mini-thesis papers that made up the examination at the end of the masters program I was just finishing in the spring of 2006. Unfortunately, I had reached my limit on the number of magazines I could use and needed books. So I just figured since I liked the chapter, perhaps I could claim to have read the whole book and then do so after the fact, in case I got quizzed on it during our Masters week in July.

As a matter of fact, or point of reference, take your pick, I was working on those comps exactly four years ago. Or I was trying to. My father was having surgery and Mom was freaking out. He had a growth that needed removing that could have been cancer but the doctor didn’t think it was overly likely. I was prevailed upon to come home for Spring Break and … step up? … despite the fact that I had a thesis paper to finish and comps to take.

Big memory of that week, being annoyed that I was stuck taking care of kids, sitting at the hospital with Dad and generally being expected to be strong and serene while Mom and DNOS went about their normal routines for the most part. It was like they didn’t notice that I had really important agenda items on my plate that I couldn’t delegate. Sigh, always the delegatee back then

Anyway, Eat, Pray, Love.

I’d heard about this movie. Investigated the author and novel’s premise a bit more. Decided she was a poser and dismissed it all as self-help garbage.

“Why do people need to travel to exotic locales to find themselves?” I asked Rob on our most recent lunch date. “Your self is inside of you. There is no need to go looking.”

“Well,” he said, ” I’m a little hurt by that statement because it’s kind of what I did after Shelley died and I took my trip down south to revisit places we’d been together and see people we knew.”

Which, to my mind, made what he did different from what Eating Author did. She was running away in hopes that the bad stuff about herself would be sloughed off as she discovered new things or cultivated new things or something like that. Rob was reconnecting with memories – the good ones that get lost sometimes after your spouse dies.

I remember at the time I read that single chapter thinking “wouldn’t it be nice to have such simple problems and be able to shed a whole existence and start fresh with someone else bankrolling you?”   That just wasn’t my reality and never had been. When life needed overhauling, I had to stick around and do it and pay for it myself.

However, in a way, coming to Canada has been my mini-Eat, Pray, Love – minus the pray part or Yoda or getting to hang in India.  Canada? Not India. I have put on weight though. Perhaps I am like Eating more than I care to acknowledge?

Since Rob would rather sledgehammer a toe than go to a theatre to see a chick flick with delusions of enlightenment no less, I will likely only see this if the universe nudges me to pick it up at the bookmobile but since the book hasn’t moved me to crack its spine in fours years, I doubt it.

I hit 40,301 words into NaNoWriMo and my memoir Sunday evening. The plan is to hit 50,000 by Friday or Saturday and the full 79,000 – my own goal – by December 11th, my birthday. I write between 1400 and 2000 words a day, so I am confident.

I also made the decision to supplement the story-telling aspect with actual emails between Rob and I and IM sessions too. I mined old posts from the babycenter group and the soap opera message board I was a part of through the bulk of Will’s illness up through widowhood as a means of dating and clarifying events. I have been re-reading a lot of my own history in my own words and it has been, uh, interesting, looking back at who I was and how I got here.

There is going to be some rewriting. Early in the memoir I tried to be vague about people and events, especially with in-laws and the widow board, but as I wrote I realized that I can’t make sense of the storyline if I leave things out to spare myself and others embarrassment. I am reminded again of the advice I received on writing this memoir in the first place,

“Tell the story, big and messy.”

So, the incident with Rob’s widow board stalker is in. Fortunately she is no longer a reader of my blog. I think once I left the widow board most of the people there stopped reading and forgot all about me. And I wrote, though not in graphic detail, about my horrific attempts with dating prior to Rob. No real names naturally; it is good thing that I was already in the habit of nicknaming men. I haven’t known a single man who was nameable and the great thing about the Internet is that people conveniently re-christen themselves or are so predictable that their new names jump right off the screen at you.

For example, Rob’s stalker had the cutesy-poo habit of “decorating” her posts with flash graphics of the hearts, flowers and fluffy animals genre. We called her The Hallmark Lady for a long time, although she’s recently been downgraded to Mullet Woman.  My fault totally and I should be ashamed.

Most nicknames are pedestrian, however, and denote occupation or a physical characteristic of equally mundane origin. I don’t spend too much time bestowing monikers, but for purposes of telling a tiny portion of my life’s journey, I guess it’s a good thing I have bothered even a little.

I am also pretty honest about the mother-in-law but without being mean – at least I hope I am not coming off as vindictive. I feel more sorry for Will’s mother than anything else. But it’s hard for me to illustrate just what why I reacted to some things the way that I did without using examples and, even in a memoir, ya gotta show at least as much as you tell. MIL is not someone I would ever have chosen to share a stage with but she is a cast member who has to be acknowledged.

Rob raised an eyebrow – both actually – when I told him I was using our correspondence.

“All of it?”

“Well, no. Some stuff is private.”

The look I got was indicting, and rightfully so, because I have a long track record of indiscretion where writing about my life is concerned. Needless to say, Rob gets to read the manuscript before anyone else, and I doubt I will be looking for other beta reads before February anyway.  But I really want a good, shoppable draft done by April 1st, so I will need to find additional readers other than my husband.

November to April is a good six months from start to finish. I would give myself longer with a fiction novel but my life is really already written up to the current day, so I can’t say that more time would make it more interesting. It is what it is.

There is this idea that floats around about adversity and tragedy bringing people together. That would be other people. People to whom I am not related.

It’s tempting to write specifically now about the melodrama surrounding Dad’s last days but another time. Suffice to say that my brother, CB has at last burned one bridge too many. He is stranded in a place that Mom and DNOS, especially, are fully content to let him be. He even managed to alienate BabySis, and since she has blindly worshipped him since childhood, I wouldn’t have thought it possible had I not witnessed it.

Did he step over any of my lines? Yes he did. He knows it. He has been extra careful with me all week because I am his only lifeline. I choose to withhold my charity from him for the time being. Instead, I carefully painted him into a corner and he was on the earliest plane back to Nevada this morning. I am still the oldest and I still, mostly, rule. However, I gave him money for the trip. I consulted with Rob first, because we had agreed not to be ATM’s for our dysfunctional siblings, but even he agreed that there was no good reason to be so cruel to CB.

“It’s funny but as a non-Christian, I am the most Christian person in the house right now where your brother is concerned.”

I was very angry with CB. His behavior while Dad was dying was appalling. What he said to me while our father’s still warm body was lying in the other room is not something I will forget any time soon. I am not one of those people who believe that grief is blanket permission to behave as one pleases. I heard many times during the latter part of my first year of widowhood that grief can cause a person to act out and that it was part of the “process” and therefore should be overlooked or at least tolerated. It was not okay, I was told, to call people on what amounted to shitty behavior for which a non-grieving person would be handed his/her soundly kicked arse.

That is bullshit.

Being in pain isn’t an acceptable reason to inflict it intentionally or to not apologize when it is done in a moment of thoughtlessness.

And there is no hierarchy of grief. Widowhood does not trump the loss of a parent, no matter the age of the child though, in the latter case, age dictates the level of personal responsibility expectations.

I really can’t say that I felt worse after my first husband died than I do now. The relationships I had with Will and with my father don’t compare. They occupy different spaces. I feel each loss in a different way with equal intensity. The point of view may change but the sorrow is the same.

I was not with Dad when he died. I knew it was coming but I chose to go with Rob and the two kids to McDonald’s for lunch. There is a play area there and, though all I can eat is the side salad sans dressing, I didn’t want the little ones around and I thought Dad might be more inclined to go if they, and me too, were out of the house.

It was a moment in time that hurt very much to give up, but I knew it was the right thing to do.

I went in to be with him when we got back. I had forgotten the waxen look a body takes on after death. The complete absence of animation in the face. Mouth gaping and eyes hooded and the stillness, the chest no longer rising and falling.

There were a lot of tears. It was easier this time because Rob was there to envelop me. It felt safe to cry and I have never in my life felt able to safely show my sorrow in such a manner. He was not a panacea but he was, and continues to be, amazing.

I helped the hospice nurse, A, undress and then redress Dad. Mom couldn’t. Neither could DNOS. I wanted to and was glad I was able. Truthfully, helping care for my father in his last few days was wonderful. Dad was not someone who said, “I love you.” Consequently neither was I for much of my life. His way was to take care of a person. Provide and do. That is why actions are so important to me. Words are good but without accompanying actions, they are meaningless.

“Dad didn’t say ‘I love you’ to me until just a week ago.” BabySis complained to me the day after he died.

Lucky you, I thought, because he didn’t say the words to me at all. He did love me. I know that because of the things he has done for me. For BabyD. For my late husband. I guess it would have been nice to hear the words, but he showed me in a hundred different ways and what more is there?

Taking care of him was a way to show him back.

It was hard. The death rattle was agony to listen to. I have written before that I heard the sound many times during Will’s hospice stay. He was in a six bed hospice for three months. One room had the same occupant the whole time but the other four changed over at least three times each during those months. I heard death rattling a lot. I saw death’s shadow more than I ever cared to. The sound, the look and the smell are all things I never wanted to encounter again. But I loved my dad more than I worried about the effect of his dying on me. I wanted to show him I loved him even though I could have simply said the words, which I did as well, and let someone else do the rest.

I don’t think I want to watch someone die of lung cancer again but judging from my siblings’ coughs, and their strange habits of taking a smoke break after watching our dad gasp, wheeze and hack up a steady stream of brown phlegm, I could easily be witness again.*

I would like to thank all of those who read and took the time to comment. I appreciate your concern and your friendship. I have more to write about but I am unbelievably tired and quite swamped with things that need to be done before we head for home. The exhaustion, I have to say, is every bit as awful as when one is widowed.

*I might be much more militantly anti-smoking from now on.

When cancer has metastasized to sites beyond its origin, they call it “stage 4”. In my dad’s case that means that the tumor in his lungs has either grown into the heart muscle or aorta or that the size of it and the effusion it has caused warrant the dire level.

In any case, he is 81 years old and already suffering from pulmonary disease and severe osteoporosis. He would not survive cancer treatment. They are discharging him from the hospital tonight.

When I talked to my mother, the lung specialist had just left, and the nurses were getting Dad ready for discharge. They don’t waste time. Mom sounded very matter of fact. I remember that tone. I used that tone a lot myself. I still use that tone when I talk about Will’s illness or death. I have cultivated it and it can be a very useful barrier.

I have tried to remember what it felt like that day, the one nearly five years ago now, when the doctors gathered in that tiny exam room just off the lobby of the neurology waiting area in Iowa City and told me that Will was going to die.

Only that is not what they tell you.

They give you the name of the disease. They tell you that it has no treatment. They tell you that things will progress. Sometimes they have a time-line. Mostly they try to exit the room as soon as they can.

The day they told me that my husband was going to die, my Dad was in the waiting area watching BabyD, who was truly a baby then – just fifteen months old. I was too angry to cry. Angry with the doctors for not knowing more about what was wrong so they could answer my questions. Angry with Will for hiding so many of the early symptoms of his illness from me. Angry that I was alone and too grown up to just throw us all in Dad’s car and go home with him.

And my Dad said nothing. He didn’t chastise me for my reaction that day. He didn’t judge me like so many people would in the care-giving and widow years to come. He just helped me get Will and BabyD to the next waiting room for more tests and then to the parking lot and our vehicles for the trip back to our house in Des Moines that would never be our home.

Aside from my Auntie, Dad probably was the most consistent supporter I had during that time.

I asked Mom how he was doing, but I could hear him joking with the nurses in the background. He is quite the flirt when he is in the hospital.

I wonder what it feels like to be told you are dying when you were dying already. It’s like double-secret probation in a way.

Later when I talked with Rob, I told him that I feel worse knowing he has cancer and is dying then I did knowing he was just dying of the pulmonary fibrosis. And it doesn’t make sense because we all knew he didn’t have much time left anyway.

The doctors say a year or less which is nonsense. Even Mom saw through that evasion. And the doctor balked at hospice. What is it with doctors and hospice? Why do they wait so long?

I called my Auntie. I left a message for CB. DNOS called me, and we talked a bit. Mom told me not to come yet, but I think she is still in shock. DNOS agreed and is going to use her professional connections to get the real scoop on Dad’s condition. It pays to have a social butterfly sister who used to work at the hospital lab.

I asked her how she was.

She said, “Fine.”

But she choked on it a bit and when I asked again, she told me she would call me later after she knew more.

DNOS would have made a pretty good NOS.

Today is the second anniversary of Shelley’s death. Two weeks ago MidKid was quizzing Rob about plans for the day and if I felt uncomfortable marking the anniversary. Like most people who haven’t lived this, she is curious about the effect that  “living in another woman’s shadow” has on me. After all I live in Shelley’s house. Sleep in her bed with her husband.

A more introspective person might have trouble with that.

It is a curious thing. I have spent more time in the past year and a half participating in the remembrances of Shelley and her departed loved ones than I have remembering my own late husband. In fact, as I thought more about it I realized I have devoted more time recently to memorializing people I don’t know than I have ever spent acknowledging the death anniversaries of members of my own family. Aside from having masses said, of course, we just didn’t count birthdays anymore or visit graves other than over the Memorial Day weekend. In fact aside from Will, I can’t even remember the specific dates anyone died, even those whose death had a great impact on me and my family.

What probably causes me the most discomfort is that fact that I don’t feel a ton of need to mark dates of death or anniversaries of birth, and so I am at a loss when others do feel the need.

Rob has spent the last several days telling Shelley’s story because he felt it was something he could do to mark the day.

Sometimes it seems very important to mark the day(s) but how to do it is not always as obvious.

Other widowed we know tell their stories. Some about the end. Some about the beginning.

I wonder what Shelley would think about it all. I sometimes think I know more about her than I do my own sisters but I haven’t any idea when it comes to this.

Will would be appalled.

Although I have written about his death, and I did that very early on, I plan to revisit it again only when I write my memoir this fall – and then never again from a specific detail point of view. Most of what I write/have written where grief and widowhood are concerned is about me and the experiences I had. And about moving on*.

Will’s story is his.

I don’t feel right about exposing him more than I already do to the world. He was a very private person. This blog for example would have made him very uncomfortable.

Sometimes – okay, all the time – I feel that the observations of other widowed and the omnipresent role that their deceased spouses take in their current lives is just proof of what a terrible person I am because Will has no role or place now. Often I don’t think about him or our life at all.

My last post about our wedding anniversary almost didn’t happen. The first version was a very angry diatribe about why I can’t romanticize the past and am much happier where I am than I have ever been in my whole life – thank you very much. I still feel defensive about being happy when so many people would go back in a heartbeat. But it’s ridiculous. My life is not open for debate, and I don’t need to feel bad for being where I want to be and happy about it.

The compromise post was just memories. Not great ones but they went with the soundtrack, and the song seemed appropriate to the event and how I feel about it. And most important, they are mine.

But I don’t know that I want to continue marking days**. In fact, I know I don’t. It feels like obligation*** rather than true sentiment.

Shelley died two years ago today.

I owe my happiness to her.

It’s not a comfortable thing to know, and I don’t know at all what it says about life or the universe or God or me.

*I hate the term “moving forward” but I adopted it when I was at the YWBB and posting because it was less incendiary, but what we do really is move on.

** I had already broached Rob with the idea that just he and the girls get together. I am not uncomfortable with gatherings but I am keenly aware that they hold back because BabyD is there and that I am not their mom.

*** Obligation is probably not the best word. I feel I need to be around for Rob. The girls are adults but we are all still children to our parents. I know in my twenties the fall back position when I was around my folks was effortless, and the girls need to be able to lean on Rob and express their grief. They are not as far in their journey as he is because kids of all ages grieve in spurts and in between the experiences that are transforming them.