young widows falling in love again

city in clouds

I “celebrated” the official end of the first year of widowhood, mourning or whatever one chooses to call it with lunch. I took a sick day and met my BFF for lunch at our favorite Mongolian grill.

It was a girly thing. The kind I don’t do anymore as my few girlfriends are scattered all over North America making lunch and window shopping dates a  bit hard to arrange. And being girly, all manner of girly things were discussed once she took my emotional temp for the day.

“How are you doing?” she’s a home health care nurse. Temp taking is second nature to her.

“Surprisingly fine, ” I said, though in retrospect it probably shouldn’t have been. The power of suggestion is strong and stronger when emotions are amped to the stratosphere, as mine were because I was an active member on a message board for widowed folk at the time. People in the first year or so were constantly bombarded with messages that probably led their emotions more than it helped them sort emotions out.

Being a nurse, the talk turned to the sinus infection I suspected I had and she applauded me for making an appointment for after our lunch with my doctor. I had a habit of trying to ride them out because they would supposedly peak and resolve themselves with OTC care – mine never did but I chalk that up to a run down immune system, among other things. I seldom run to the doctor for sinus now that I have discovered a few home remedies that I wish I’d had in my arsenal back then.

We talked kids and her husband, who was not stellar at the time until she turned the table and brought up Rob.

At that point, Rob and I had known each other a bit over a month. We were email pals and IM buddies. It was nice and though I recognized that he and I were quite compatible and scarily alike in more and more ways, I wasn’t inclined to pursue him. Mostly because he’d indicated that he was going to wait out his first year of widowhood before attempting to date and in some part because another widow at the message board where he and I had met stalked him for a while despite his point-blank refusal of her attentions. I liked Rob and didn’t want him to lump me into the same category with her.*

“I had a short note from him this morning,” I said.


“And what? We’re friends.” I said, and not for the first time. BFF suspected he had feelings for me from nearly the get-go.

“I like him and sure, I could go there, but it would have to be his idea. I won’t spoil our friendship by introducing romantic intentions. He’s too sweet and he wants to wait until after August to start dating. I respect that,” I said. “Besides, he lives in Canada and I live here. Logistically difficult at best.”

“He’s going to make a move, ” she said with that sage look of hers.

“I doubt it.”

I was home on the 24th too. Sinus infection. My new lease on work included taking sick days when I felt like crap and I did. I taught too many years with the idea that I had to drag myself in because I owed it to my students and employer, but as a 20 year veteran, I was finally over that. The only reward for dedication in education is nothing. Truly.

Dee was at preschool. She attended an all day Montessori school run by my school district and I was damn lucky to have gotten her a spot. Her teacher saw them for a few hours in the morning and a few in the afternoon. The rest of the time she was in the daycare that she’d been attending since she was seven weeks old. An awesome set-up that made the whole single mom thing far less of a hassle for me than it was for most.

After I’d dropped her off, I hit the Starbucks at the grocery near home. The young man had my drink started even as I walked in. He smiled and inquired after me, and I admitted I was playing a bit of hooky that day. He just laughed as I paid him. I stopped at the Chinese deli in the store for egg drop soup and rice. I lived off that because in spite of the removal of my gall bladder a couple of months earlier, I still couldn’t eat much. In fact, it’s only just recently that my ability to eat has started to return to normal.

Sipping chai and scanning my work email – because even sick there was work I could do and I could never completely shake my keener ways – I noted that my personal email had a new note from Rob.

It was long – even for him. And rambling. Even for him.

And it radiated with “I have something important to say”, so I began skimming until I hit a paragraph many paragraphs in that proved to be the big reveal.

He admitted having feelings for me that were more than friendly and proposed exploring them if I felt the same way.

That was four years ago today and though I write about this every year, it never loses its awesomeness. Nor its wonder. If I were ever to come to a point where I believed the universe had no meaning or that destiny was a fiction – I have only to remember this one day to set me right in my thinking again.

Rob’s modest proposal kicked off a whirlwind of long distance courtship that culminated with our meeting in Idaho Falls a month later and the rest, as they say, is history. One that we are still working on and is destined for the books, in my humble opinion.

*Every new widower who posted on the widow board was subject to her “attention”. It wasn’t the good natured banter that occurs in co-ed groups. It was predatory Gone with the Wind style. She fancied herself a southern belle and I always pictured her a cross between Suzanne Sugarbaker and Dolly Parton. In reality, she sported the biker chick look complete with a mullet on top.

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.

Gravestones, Koyoto, Japan

Image via Wikipedia

Everything happens for a reason.


Without a doubt that is one of the more irritating platitudes you will hear during the first year or so of widowhood. Because even if it is true, it’s the last thing you want to try and force your shattered heart to accept. That the love you had, the life you lived, was in some ways never meant to be. At least not in the Hallmark card version of marriage most of us view as the rule rather than the exception. Two white-haired octogenarians sitting on a porch in the twilight, holding hands and rocking slowly in a swing.


My husband got sick just about five years ago when I was pregnant with our only child. He died a long slow degrading death. It was a genetic disease, and he passed the marker for it along to our daughter who will someday run the risk of passing it on to a son, who will die the same way his grandfather did. Meant to be?


We live in a cause/effect world, so yes, probably there is a reason for everything that happens. That doesn’t mean that the reason was something profound or wonderful or even good for all parties involved. And it doesn’t have anything to do with people being good or bad. People will come into and exit our lives for our whole life. That is just the way life is. Does knowing this make it easier to accept? Hurt less?


Was I meant to be a widow? Raise a child on my own? Maybe. For a short time this has been my destiny. Even if there is a “plan” mapped out for us all, what difference does that make? Would knowing make Will’s death, the way he died even, hurt less? Make being a widowed mother easier? Meeting Rob the way I did and coming to love and trust and depend on him as I do. Destiny? Sometimes there are no answers. We just do the best we can. Get up every day and put one foot in front of the other. Be grateful for the wonderful things that once were and in awe of that which is.


A family came through the house last evening with yet another realtor. Very nice. Very polite. The husband was more interested than the wife which makes me think they will not be the eventual buyers. When it comes to buying a home, it is usually about what mom wants. Three very well-behaved children. I want the house to go to a family. It would make me feel better to know that someone will live out those dreams here that Will and I were never meant to.