Wobbling through a Weary WidowLand



I am a widow.  I find I have to repeat the phrase several times a day.  I can’t believe it.  I still cannot believe it.  On forms where you designate marital status – I now have to check “W”.  I’ve spent the majority of my life and nearly all my adult life as an “M”.  I do not know how to be a single person, let alone a widowed person.

After the accident, I did not even think I could breathe without my beloved.  I didn’t even want to.  But breathe I did…and I surprised myself with my strength.  I was numb, bruised, disoriented, and incredibly heartbroken – but the sun continued to come up every day and life continued on for those of us left behind.  But what a painful life it was in its emptiness.  I thought that grief would crush me.  I felt as though I was swimming to the surface of a murky pool of sadness and misery, and sometimes I felt I was being pulled backward.  But I kept swimming, struggling.  At the surface would be the things I would need to survive: healing, peace, love, hope, and strength.

I learned to do a lot of things that he had always taken care of.  I navigated forms, accounts, procedures and processes I never dreamed even existed.  I learned about “primary account holders” and credit cards that can be cut off while you are stranded in Nebraska waiting for your husband’s remains.  I wrote his obituary, and planned a celebration of life, even though I could not celebrate.  Did not want to celebrate.  I just wanted him back.  I wanted my family to be whole again.  I wanted to be an “M” again.

I forgot our joint bank account number – and learned that account will have to be closed anyway because he was the account owner.  I learned that people that I didn’t even know prayed for me and for my family.  I learned that what I had always believed, was true – things don’t matter, people do.  I learned that a traumatic event can be relived over and over again – with or without triggers, and with or without being awake.  I learned that just because your heart is already broken, doesn’t mean it can’t break again every day when you wake up alone, or go to bed alone…or try to read a note he wrote in his incredibly sloppy handwriting.

I don’t sleep.  I don’t even want to most of the time.  I’m afraid of what I’ll dream.  I sleep with one of his t-shirts, with a book he gave me under my pillow “100 Reasons I Love You”.  His things, his books, pictures, clothing – all of it brings me comfort and smiles – but is just as likely to turn to tears when it hits me again, like a fist to the stomach.  He is not coming back.  I’ll never kiss him again or feel his arms around me.  I’ll never hear his voice again, or smell his clean, soap smell.  Never again in this lifetime.

I have given up trying to understand.  There is no understanding a freak injury in a freak accident.  There is only acceptance.  Acceptance of the fact that I am now wobbling my way, weary and weepy, through this wretched state of widowhood.

I am still on my feet and I no longer wish I had died there alongside the highway – lying in the median beside him.  I am glad to be alive and want to really start living again instead of just breathing and going through the motions.  It is going to be a long, and very slow process with many hills and valleys and I’m sure to stumble along the way.  But I’ll keep moving forward.

Widows wobble but they don’t fall down…




December 31, 2016 · 12:40 AM

Alone, Again. Naturally.


sleepy lioness

You visited me last night, as I knew you would eventually.  It was my first night completely alone and instead of feeling lonely and sad, there was a certain peace over the household.  I held your pillow – and your unwashed shirt, the one that says “I’m the reason the beer’s always gone” – and drifted off easily.  Your presence is very much felt in this home, as it always will be.  Your chair, your dreadfully messy desk, your pictures…your scent which is fading daily.

You smiled your sweet smile and told me that I would be all right and for a second I believed you.  You said I was strong, and for a second I believed you.  You said you loved me and that I did believe completely.  You said I would be happy again someday and I laughed and called you a liar.  You smiled your sweet smile again.  You told me to go ahead and laugh, swim, play, write, and yes, cry if I must.   I asked you what it was like where you were – but you were gone, as quickly as you had appeared.

I woke, as I often do these days, with damp cheeks and a huge empty hole in my heart.  And I was alone again.  Naturally.

Alone Again, Naturally


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I. Will. Never. Forget.

wedding day


I lay facing my sleeping husband in the bright moonlight.  It was nearly as bright in the room as if we’d left a light on.  As usual, at least one part of our bodies was touching…no matter the size of the bed, we found each other.  In this case our knees were touching.  I stared into his face – so brightly illuminated, and listened to his gentle snores.

I traced his features with my fingertips, over and over, as if trying to memorize them.  The scars from skin cancer removals and drunken teenage car wrecks…the wiry eyebrows I had promised to trim but somehow had neglected to find the time to attend to.  The smooth upper lip that had carried the moustache for so many years that I loved – but that he had come to hate.  The lips I had kissed countless times.  I knew every pore, every scar, every inch but I kept tracing, studying, reveling in his face so close to mine.  He opened his eyes briefly and looked into mine.  “You’ll never forget me” he said and gently kissed me…and we fell asleep.

Thirty-six hours later I lay next to my husband in the grassy median of I-80 in Nebraska, under a clear blue sky in the warm sunshine, as paramedics worked frantically over him.  I held his hand and looked for the last time at the face I had loved so much for so many years.  I whispered my goodbye, and promised never to forget.  And I never will.


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Ghost of Christmas Present


I seem to have lost my writing mojo and am trying to get it back while recovering from yet another surgery, and a raging case of shingles.  While I am off work recuperating, I have taken to walking my dog during daylight hours…we normally walk in the dark of the very early morning before work, when there isn’t much that can be seen.  Because I have a 4 inch incision in my abdomen we aren’t going to win any land speed records.  With this leisurely pace I often find little treasures or unusual items that spark my imagination.  I’ve decided to write a short story for each discovery.

Several days ago I passed a small, unopened package perfectly wrapped in Christmas paper.  It was lying in the grass a good distance from sidewalk the first time I saw it and was propped up against a tree the next time I saw it.  On the third day it was gone.


“I think my Mom liked you.”

“If you say so.” She sure had a strange way of showing it, I thought.  After the cursory introduction during which his mother gave me a long, thorough inspection – taking in my hair, face, body and clothing – she finally offered her hand and asked to be called Shirley.  A cigarette hung from her lips and she squinted through the smoke and offered me a beer.  After I declined she popped open the can, turned away and made her way to the kitchen, mumbling under her breath something that sounded like “another uptight, holier than thou teetotaler”  Or something like that.  I was too busy taking in the disarray that was the living room.

“No, really, she has never liked any girl I’ve brought over.  She liked you.”

“And your Dad?”

“Dad doesn’t like anyone…present company included.”

“Your own father doesn’t like you?”

“Never has, never will,” he stated flatly.

“Why?”  I could not fathom the family dynamics I had witnessed that day.  Chain smoking, chain drinking mother.  Cold distant father whose only conversations bordered on abusive tirades about the shortcomings of every family member present.  Boisterous children, and grown siblings who called each other names she wouldn’t have called her worst enemy.  I was the only child of older parents whom I had moved to Florida to care for as their health declined.  Our gatherings were quiet, usually elegant, and peaceful.  And frequently mind-numbingly boring.

“Something about being born some time after he caught my mom cheating on him.”  He shot me a sidelong glance. “With his own brother.”

“Hmmm.”  I opened my car window for some fresh air, but being Florida at Christmas time, the air was heavy and damp. I wanted the cold, crisp air of Christmases past.  I wanted the quiet of my boring little world.

I thought about the present in my purse.  I was nervous and more than a little scared.

“Want to come over for a drink?”

“No.  I can’t.” I said a little too quickly.  “I mean, I’m tired, it’s been a long day.”

We’d been dating for nearly a year. I hadn’t met his family before and although that seemed strange, after today I thought that might have been a good thing.  I thought he would have a present for me, but he hadn’t offered one so far and Christmas was nearly over.  “I think I’ll just go home.”

“Oh, okay.”    He gave me the sidelong glance again. “I wanted to talk.”

“I wanted to talk to you, too.”

He pulled into the park near my parent’s house and parked the car.  “Let’s walk off some of that dinner.”  He grabbed a small bag from the back seat,  opened the car door and came around to open mine.  I slung my purse over my shoulder and joined him on the sidewalk.  We walked in silence in the damp air.

“You first,” I said.

He cleared his throat.  He looked nervous.  He looked everywhere but at me.  He cleared his throat again.  He’s going to ask me to move in with him, I thought.  Or marry him.  I inhaled deeply.

“I know you just met my family today, for Christmas and all.  My mom insisted I invite you.” He stopped walking and faced me, but didn’t look at me.  “But, the thing is…”  he cleared his throat once more, and studied his shoes.  “My ex and I have been seeing each other again.  She’s going to move back in and we are going to give it another try.  New year, new beginning and all.”

I felt as though I had been gut punched.  I exhaled slowly – my stomach threatening to relieve me of the wretched meal I had endured with his dysfunctional clan.  The meal I had endured through cigarette smoke that made me gag, noise that made my head hurt, and interactions that had left me speechless.

I finally took a breath and steadied my voice.  “Why not take her to Christmas dinner, then?” I asked.  “Instead of me?”

“My family doesn’t like her,” he shrugged.  He handed me the small bag.  Inside was my toothbrush, my hairbrush and a few other toiletries I’d kept at his apartment.  And the condoms I’d bought but that sometimes were forgotten in the heat of the moment.

“I see.”  I didn’t really see, but I didn’t know what else to say.  I tried not to look hurt, but I’m pretty sure I was unsuccessful.

“I’m sorry to do this on Christmas Day and all but she’s moving back in tomorrow.”  He started walking again but I stood where we had stopped.  He turned back toward me.  “What did you want to talk about?” he asked.

“You wanted me to come to your place tonight and she’s moving back in tomorrow?” I could not breathe.  I was incredulous.  I wanted to scream.

He finally looked me in the eye.  “I am sorry.”  He looked sheepish, but not at all sorry.

“That’s the truest thing you’ve ever said.  You are sorry, all right.”  I paused and took a deep breath. “We’ve dated a long time with very little forward progress.  I mean it took you nearly a year to introduce me to your parents.  What I wanted to say was that I think we need to see other people. Guess you beat me to the punch.”  I took the condoms from the bag and handed them to him.

“You’ll need these before I will.”  I turned and started walking toward my parent’s home, fighting the urge to vomit.  And the urge to cry.  He stood silent in the damp air.  “Have a good life” I shouted over my shoulder.  I walked past his car and toward the street.

As I neared my parent’s home, I fumbled in my purse for the present.  The one I had wrapped so carefully after peeing on the stick and seeing the results.  I had carefully capped the pregnancy test and sat on the bathroom floor for so long my mother knocked on the door and asked if I was all right.

I looked at the perfectly wrapped gift and threw it as far as I could.



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Ben Carson – Please stop talking


Today was a sad day.  Nothing happened, exactly. The coffee maker didn’t die, My jeans fit when I put them on. It was a relatively pain-free day (for me, anyway). The sun came up, the air conditioner was working, and my dog greeted me after work with a sloppy wet kiss.

No, nothing bad happened.  It’s just that I had to do something that makes me sad…and a little angry. Teachers at my school were instructed to prepare our classrooms and our students for a “Code Red” lockdown drill.  You know, lockdown – when a deranged shooter carrying a dozen or so guns or maybe a few bombs made in their basement storms the school, and school employees secure their classrooms and shelter the youngsters entrusted in their care.

My job, once a lockdown is announced is to step out into the hallway and grab any and all students, staff, or visitors near my classroom.  I lock the door, cover the window, and herd my students to a corner where I am to instruct them to remain silent and to turn off their electronic devices. I turn off the lights. I e-mail administration to let them know if any students are missing or if I have picked up other students from the hallway.  Everyone must be accounted for.  I need to keep them calm.  I wait for the all clear.  I open the door for no one. I know what to do.

It’s a drill (this time).  I get the need to be prepared.  As I am instructing my students today I kept thinking about what an incredible responsibility that is.  And how politicians haven’t a clue.

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson on Tuesday (Oct 6) said he would have confronted the shooter at Umpqua Community College, had he been present at the time of the attack.

“Not only would I probably not cooperate with him, I would not just stand there and let him shoot me. I would say ‘Hey, guys, everybody attack him! He may shoot me but he can’t get us all,’ ” the retired neurosurgeon said on “Fox and Friends.”

Really?  With what should I attack?  I teach nursing.  Throw a bedpan at them?  Stab them with an insulin syringe? Blind  them with my laser pointer?  Wrap Ace bandages all around them?  Threaten him with a catheter or an enema? Charge him and get killed so that my students will be left unprotected?  They are my responsibility.  As I scanned their faces today realized that every one of them would look to me for protection, for guidance, for safety – as much as it is possible for me to provide.  I wouldn’t be able to face a parent if I didn’t do everything in my power to protect their child.  And I don’t protect them by charging an armed killer.  I have about the same chance of stopping someone intent on murder as I would have mastering that new math crap.

I’ve worked with neurosurgeons and every last one of them thought they were God.  Maybe being up to your wrists in a person’s skull does give you superpowers, I don’t know.  But don’t try to make school administrators, teachers, janitors – even the lunch lady – feel guilty for not charging the shooter.

Just stop talking.


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