Friday, June 22, 2012

And Then He Was Gone

I have been confused by many things in my life.  But I would say that, by far, the thing that has confused me the most is being comforted by a boyfriend while I cry about my husband.

Yup.  That's a doozy.

I would imagine that it's confusing for him as well.  I mean, if my husband were boyfriend wouldn't be.  So it's got to be a little difficult to say to me, "I'm so sorry he's gone" because if he wasn't we would have never met.  But since he's my best friend, too, that's what he says.  And he means it.

How did this happen?  How did I get here?  How did I go from being married for 11 years to dating for 3?

I think so often about the beginning of my widowhood and I've made it no secret that I started dating what some people would consider "early."  I've often said that that was because my partner had been ripped from my life, suddenly and without warning, and I wanted that void filled.  I wanted to skip the part of dating where you wonder whether or not someone will call (or in this day and age text, IM, email, or message in some other way) and the other games we all play no matter what age we are.  I wanted catapult right back to where I was - comfortable, sure of my rock-solid relationship, taking care of someone I knew would take care of me.

So while the perception may have been that I didn't "love my husband enough" and so I immediately started dating, the exact opposite was true:  I loved him so much that I wanted him back without missing a beat.  I wasn't ready to grieve him.  Because I loved him too damn much.

But there was another reason for it.  I had all of this love to give, a specific kind of love that was his and his alone.  It was the kind that keeps people together for a lifetime.  The kind that isn't exciting, but sure and definite.  The kind that was born the moment I said "I do" back in 1996 and kept growing from that day on.

And then he was gone.  But my love wasn't.

It was like my heart had a defective homing device that was sending out signals that weren't being received.  It was such an empty feeling, knowing that I had it but that it had no place to go.  And it wasn't just missing saying "I love you" before hanging up the phone; it was the whole package - the nurturing someone else, taking care of someone else, knowing that someone is enjoying his life a little more because of what you're bringing to it.

All of that, being thrown out there into the world, without that one person to accept it.

Where does it go?  Does it dissipate?   Does it eventually reach someone overseas who sits up suddenly and says, "Hey.  Somebody out there loves me!"

No, really.  I'm asking.  What happens to it?

I was such a fool to think, when I first started dating, that the love I have for my husband could be given to anyone else other than him.  It can't.  It's all his.  Just as the love I have for each of my children is individual and sacred, developed for each one of them and impossible to change, the love I have for my husband is his and his alone.  But the heart is a complex, ever-changing, and infinitely expandable thing.  It makes room when needed (and, yes, can sometimes close in order to self-protect).

So while I cry on my boyfriend's shoulder about how sad I am that my husband is gone, never does that mean that I wish my boyfriend wasn't here.  And when I smile, laugh, and accept the love that's right in front of me, that doesn't mean that I don't wish my husband could somehow be here, too.

It just means that my homing device must still be putting out a weak signal after all of these years.  And that someone was paying attention enough - looking for my specific signal - just waiting to receive it.

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fatherless Father's Day #5

I've been thinking about my Father's Day blog for a while, but haven't written it because I've been waiting to feel worse.

I know that sounds really strange, but I try to be as honest as I possibly can be with this blog.  I share, the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly.  And so, as Fatherless Father's Day #5 looms before me this year, I've been wondering which I would be sharing.

And as it turns's the good.

This is probably more shocking to me than anyone else, especially because I was an inconsolable mess last year the days leading up to Father's Day.  I cried constantly and literally made myself so physically sick with grief that I couldn't even bring the kids up to the mountains to visit him (our yearly tradition) and we had to go the following week.

What a difference a year makes.

If you had told me last year how I would be feeling this year...I wouldn't have believed you.  Never would I have thought that such an enormous transformation could have happened.  But it did.  And here I am, writing to you from the other side of what must have been a transition that I didn't even know I was going through.  Yes, the idea of Father's Day still makes me sad.  But it isn't the tidal wave it was last year, knocking me off my feet and dragging me out into the abyss.  It's more of a gentle wave that I can dip my feet in, maybe even swim in a little, but still see the shore.

I feel pretty good.  The kids and I are going to visit his grave a day early so that we can have Father's Day free to spend with my dad.  I'm looking at this trip to the mountains for what it has become - a family tradition and an excuse to spend the day together free from other distractions - and not for what it will never be again.  And all I can say is that, after 5 years of fatherless Father's Days, I think what I'm experiencing is acceptance.

And relief that it has come at last.

I don't know why it's happened this year.  I don't know if it has to do with just the passage of time or the fact that I have over-thought my grief so much that the table finally turned so that this year, I can look at it in more of a detached way.  It could have to do with the fact that, with each passing day, I'm more and more excited about what may be on the horizon.  Or it could just be that I'm completely delusional and that next year will be just as hard as last year.

Who knows?  Maybe the difference is that this year, I'm smart enough not to question it too much and just take it for what it is, a welcome reprieve.

As you all know, I never write this blog as a blueprint and what I think you should follow.  There are some people out there who never had a problem with Father's Day and some who will grieve that day every year for the rest of their lives. And that's okay.  I know enough at this point to acknowledge the fact that I may feel good today and then later this year, some day that's never bothered me before will sneak up on me.

But today...I feel good.


Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Hello! How May I Sue You Today?

It's no secret that America is a sue-happy country.  I mean, any nation where you don't even blink twice before you sue a restaurant for making your coffee too hot...needless to say things have gotten a little out of control.

No one really talks about it, but it's a worry for us all.  If you get into an accident, you're not only worried about your insurance but also if the other party will sue you for things you haven't even thought of.  If the sidewalk in front of your house hasn't been shoveled within a certain amount of time, you run the risk of getting sued by someone slipping and falling on what is considered your property.  People sue for emotional distress, minor injuries, and occasionally something they actually should be suing for.  The point is:  It seems like when something happens - like life - the first thing many people think of is how they can get some extra cash out of it.

But is cash all they're looking for?

I was just reading a story in the May 2012 issue of O Magazine about an incredibly sad and life-altering accident that happened to some sorority sisters at Ole Miss.  I was riveted by the article, a story about friendship, sisterhood, tragedy, and loss.  I cringed when I read how, during a fundraising walk along a 2-lane highway, 5 girls were killed when a truck hit the car one of the girls was driving behind the walkers with her hazards on, warning cars (who could drive that road at 55 mph) that there were people ahead.  The girls had participated in this walk for years, but that particular year, the highway patrol advised them not to, saying it was too dangerous.  The wreckage was unimaginable, knocking into some of the walkers and changing the lives of the survivors forever.

Like I said...I was glued to this story.  And then, towards the end, the writer mentioned that the families of the girls who were killed filed a lawsuit against the company who owned the truck and employed the driver.

Wait.  What?

After the police found that the driver was not at fault at all - no alcohol or reckless driving, he just came upon the car that was virtually standing still on the road with no warning - the families still sued the company and the driver for damages.

And I found that part of the story almost as heartbreaking as the deaths of the young girls.

Of course, I knew that the money wasn't what the families were looking for.  After all, most of those girls came from pretty well-off families.  What those families were probably looking for, but had no idea of it at the time, was for someone to feel as bad as they did.  Something had happened that they couldn't explain because it never should have happened.  The nature of the accident was almost too much for anyone to wrap their minds around.  And in the absence of an answer to the question "why"...they needed someone to blame for it.

I've been there myself .  Actually, I haven't.  But I've witnessed it.  When my husband was in his accident - for which he was at fault, by the way - and I initially talked to him in the ER, would you like to know the first thing he said to me as he was laying on a gurney completely immobile?

"Shit.  We're going to get sued."

I worried about that a little myself, but I never voiced that concern.  And I can't tell you how much I HATE that that was one of his first (and last) thoughts in the hospital.  I hated that he was worried about it.

Now, I'm no dummy.  I know that if the accident had been someone else's fault...I would have wanted to sue the shit out of someone.  I would have had someone to blame, someone to be angry with, and someone I could make pay.  And I probably wouldn't have realized for a few years that all of the litigation in the world wouldn't have mattered.  My husband would have still been gone and a few grand in the bank really wouldn't make me feel any better about it.  And now, years later, I have a twisted sort of gratitude that my husband was the one at fault.  Because if it had been someone else's fault, I'm very much afraid I would have carried that anger with me for a long time, if not the rest of my life.

I watched several members of my family and his, after we found out he wasn't going to make it, pour over CT scans that they didn't understand and test results that made no sense to them, demanding the medical staff explain to them how this could happen.  They were angry and wanted someone right there in front of them to blame.  Maybe we could sue them and make them pay.  But I didn't.  I took what was going on at face value:  That my husband had been in an accident - it was an accident - and as much as we all wanted to blame someone, that someone didn't exist.

Believe me.  I've been around the widow block long enough to know that litigation is sometimes necessary.  There are incompetent doctors who need to be selling used cars somewhere, negligent drivers who need to be off the road, and people in general who need to pay attention to what the hell they're doing.  And often the best way to get them to pay attention is to go straight for their wallets.

I also know that there are families who enter into legal battles over things like ashes, cemetery plots, past debts that everyone forgot about until the spouse is gone, homes, children, and just about everything you can think of.  And it's all about anger.  It's all about blame.  It's all about trying to explain what none of us can by pointing a finger and saying, "You.  This all happened because of you"...whether it's true or not.

But the truth is, I wish more people would consider why they're picking up a phone and calling a lawyer.  What do they want the outcome to be?  Will it solve anything, make anyone's life better, stop someone from doing something they shouldn't, help people in the future from going through the same thing?  Or is it because we're personally looking for some resolution or closure and think it can be found in a legal summons?  Is it that we make someone else pay for our misery by making them just as miserable? 

And in the end...what good does that do anyone?

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the owner of and the author of the upcoming memoir Confessions of a Mediocre Widow (Jan. 2014).  She is also a writer for The Denver Post's Mile High Mamas and a contributor to several books on grief and renewal.