Thursday, November 7, 2013
The Upcoming Holidays and the Table for Five
"Are you okay?"
As a widow, you know there are about fifty different ways to answer that question.
The nice I-don't-want-you-to-worry-about-me way: Of course I am! Why wouldn't I be? The I'm-so-tired-I-don't-have-the-energy-to-bullshit way: No. I'm not. But don't ask me why because I just don't want to explain it AGAIN. Then there is the I'm-bitter-and-I'm-not-going-to-hide-it way:
Hell, no. Would you be okay if you were me?
But the people around us aren't mind-readers and most of the people we love are actually asking because they care. And when my mother asked me that question this week, I couldn't help but be honest.
"Not really. I'm pretty tired."
And then she asked a very intuitive question.
"Are you lonely?"
Now, for many of us...this is a no-brainer. Of COURSE we're lonely. But, the truth is, that so many of us do such a great job of masking it that the people around us have no clue how truly painful our situations are. I gave my parents a glimpse of that this summer when my basement flooded and in tears I said to them, "You guys have no idea how lucky you are to have each other."
Even though I have been widowed for six years and feel that I lead a very full life, there are definite moments of loneliness. I recently had one widow email me and explain in detail how much she missed the comforting touch of her husband, something that I completely understood. Because even though I know I have friends I can call to come over and hang out with me...it's not the same.
Not by a long shot.
I think I get this way every year. I know it's because the holidays are looming before me and that's a lonely time for a lot of people. I keep busy and there are many things that I find joy in during the months of November and December. But there are specific moments when...well...
I HATE IT. Like, "take my widowhood outside and want to beat the shit out of it" hate it.
"Yes, Mom. I am lonely."
And then I said something that surprised her. And I was kind of surprised that she was surprised.
"I hate being the fifth person in everything that we do."
I have a very close family - both of my parents live near me as well as my sister and her family. And believe me...no one could be more grateful for the support that they have. I know that when I wake up in the morning, if my world should come to a crashing halt, they will be there for me.
Because they've already proven that.
But I hate being the odd man out. I hate being that extra seat. I hate not being part of a twosome. I hate packing my kids up alone after a family meal at my parents' house and heading home. I hate that I don't have someone squeezing my hand under the table every once in a while. And, to be honest, I hate that my sister's husband doesn't have the buddy he once did to hang with him and watch football while the women gossip in the kitchen and cook.
My mother was mortified when I said it. "Oh, Catherine. We don't make you feel that way, do we?"
"No one makes me feel that way," I said tearing up. "It's not an emotion. It's just a fact. I'm the extra."
It's sometimes amazing to me, how well I've masked my emotions. When I asked my dad what he thought of my book, the first thing he said was, "I can't believe how much you went through. I mean, I knew most of it, but I had no idea the depth of all you were feeling." His response surprised me a little because I thought they knew everything.
But I guess there's a lot that I keep to myself.
It's funny how I didn't realize that my mom thought I was perfectly comfortable at all of these family functions. But I guess if I don't tell her and show up smiling...how is she supposed to know? There is no quick fix for this and - to use my least favorite phrase - "it is what it is." It's been six years and do you know what I've realized?
It's okay to be sad.
It's okay to let people in on it.
And it's okay to miss what was. Because maybe that will help me find what could be.