Monday, January 28, 2013

WANTED: Husband

I have a request.

It's very girly, sexist, and I'll be honest with's not very enlightened.

When something goes wrong in my house, I'm the first to admit that I'm proud that I've fixed it.  But I'm going to admit something else.

I don't wanna.

I don't want to plunge the toilet.  I don't want to troubleshoot the rattling in my car.  I don't want to get out a ladder and change that bulb in the hall.

I'd rather close the door on that bathroom, turn up the volume on the radio, and find a flashlight.

It annoys me.  

And I want a husband to fix it.

Now, I realize that I don't need a husband for these things.  In fact, I'm not entirely sure I'm ready for a husband.  I know I can do it myself, call a handyman, or (when desperate) make an emotional plea to one of my male neighbors.

But again.

I don't wanna.

I want that guy here who has to fix it because it's his house, too.  Who notices that the light above the sink isn't working and since it's his house as well...he trots off to find the bulb, stands on a stool, and replaces it.  Who plunges the toilet because it just needs to get done.  Who whisks my car off to the nearest mechanic to get that rattle fixed.

And since I'm not sure I'm ready for a husband - I want this guy to do all of this without the added side effect of snoring in my ear every night.

So, basically I want a guy to just show up at my house, fix all of my shit, and go home.

Now, the only thing that might save me at this point is that there might be some widower out there who is embarrassed to admit that he wants a wife.  Someone who might like to cook, who enjoys fresh flowers every once in a while, and who changes the sheets on the bed just because she knows it needs to get done.

Yikes.  I'm wondering if my therapist is reading this????

Widow Chick (aka, Catherine Tidd) is the author of the 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, January 25, 2013

All Dogs Go to Heaven

It's been a little bit of a running joke between my agent, my editor, and myself that, when asked what my thoughts were on the cover art of my book coming out later this year, my response was as follows:

"I'll take just about anything except a large 1980s-looking flower or a woman walking down a path of dead trees.  If I see one more cover like that, I'll throw it and whatever helpful book it's attached to out the window."

So, it was not lost on me that the other day, as I was struggling with what was about to become another loss for the kids and me, that I found myself crying and walking down a path of dead trees.

And that made me smile a little.

Last night we put our beloved family dog down, something I've known was coming for a long time but didn't know how hard it would be until it happened.  She has been struggling for a while with arthritis and old age and a brain that couldn't tell her legs how to function anymore.  I warned the kids earlier this week that it was probably coming and then picked them up from school yesterday so that they could go with me - something I had promised them I would do so that they wouldn't suddenly come home and find her not in her usual spot, loudly snoring on carpet in the living room.

As with all loss, even when you know it's coming it doesn't make it any easier.  I have two kids home from school today who cried themselves to sleep last night and woke up crying again this morning.  My oldest, hoping that her friends would provide a little distraction, stoically went to school armed with a note to her teachers that should she get upset, I will come pick her up.

This hasn't been an easy 24 hours, to say the least.

Our dog was our first baby. My husband and I got her from a shelter a few years into marriage, thinking that children might be on the horizon and figuring that if we could keep a dog alive and happy we would be okay to proceed.  In those early years, that shy puppy was the ideal camping and 4-wheeling companion, easy company, and we probably have more pictures of her than we do of any of our kids.  With one ear that was always floppy and one that stood straight up, she always appeared to be listening to us.  And her permanent look of concern about whatever it was we had to say was always a comfort.

When we brought our oldest daughter home from the hospital, we worried that the dog would retaliate because she would no longer be our focus.  Instead, she took on the role of "mother," staying awake all night to watch over the baby, crying when my daughter cried, and generally working herself into such a state that I worried I'd have to sedate her just to get her to sleep for a little while.

In the later years, she was my comforter and my friend, allowing me to bury my face in the soft neck of her fur and cry in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep and everyone else I knew would have gone to bed long before.  There was a look in her eyes, in the early days of the loss of my husband, that made me think that she knew her dad was gone and she never stirred when I would curl up beside her on the floor and hold on to her for dear life.  She would just sigh softly and let me cling to her.

I know that we did the right thing, but that doesn't make it hurt any less right now.  The kids have lost a friend and I have lost yet another connection to my husband which confirms what I've known for a while - that while the pain of loss eases over time, there are parts of grief that are endless.  Last night, as we drove home, our tears dried a little only to start all over again when we walked in the door.  I didn't realize how the jangle of tags on a collar had become part of the soundtrack to my every day and how even though she hasn't been very active at all in the last year, just knowing she was around made me feel less alone.

There have been signs though, that maybe the kids and I are not as alone as we think we are.  When we went to the room for our final good-byes, the vet had laid down a blanket that turned out to be an old, worn out child's blanket with Star Wars figures all over it.  And since my husband worked in the space program (and loved the Star Wars movies) and our dog was actually named after one of the programs he worked on, the irony of this was not lost on me.

And in the past couple of days, we've had a visitor at our house.  A black cat has been hanging out on our back porch, peering in the door only to run away when we come close.  He reminds me of the cat that my husband and I had when we were first married, one that did the exact same thing until we gained his trust and he came in.

"He's always wanted an all black cat," my mother-in-law told me all those years ago.  "I don't know why, but he's always talked about it."

The appearance of that cat has provided the kids with a welcome distraction.  They live in hope that he might become a part of our family soon and watch for him as he darts past the door.  And I can't help but think that maybe someone has sent him here to help us get through this a little.

We are by no means the first family to lose a beloved pet.  But I know from experience that that loss is often brushed off by others because it's easy to say "it was just a dog."  And that's okay.  No one has to completely understand what we're going through, just as we might not understand the same for others.  And we're lucky to have each other so that we can share happy memories and our current sorrow.

My youngest asked me, "Do you think Dad will be able to teach her how to fetch in Heaven?" (Fetching was never a talent of hers.)

And all I could say was, "I don't know.  But I know he'll be happy to see her."

Take care of her, B.  We miss you both.

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.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Finding Rainbows

I've been in the widowed world long enough to know that some people believe in signs and some people don't.  For me, personally, believing in signs from my husband isn't really all that far off from how I lived my life before he died.  That's because I've always be somewhat superstitious and have had a firm belief that there are larger powers at work in my life.  I like reading my horoscope, making wishes when all of the numbers on a digital clock are the same, and looking for signs that I'm on the right path.

It doesn't bother me that other people might not believe in signs, just as I hope it doesn't bother others that I do.  And since my husband's been gone, I have looked harder than ever for those clues, those confirmations that someone is out there encouraging me and trying to show it.  Whether you believe or not, it's nice to think that you will always have someone on your side.

(For the non-believers out there - yes, my therapist knows this about me and since I'm typing this, she obviously hasn't put in that prescription for the straight jacket.  Yet.)

The last month or so has had me going through a lot of transition:  A break-up, a holiday season when I finally felt joy after 6 Christmases in misery (a good transition), and other things that have had me looking for signs from my husband to either let me know that, yes, I was making the right decision or at the very least...that he was on my side if I wasn't.

Right after Christmas, I was contemplating buying a new car, something that I needed but also something I knew I would have a hard time with.  You see, I had two cars that I was planning on trading in:  a minivan that my husband had surprised me with almost 10 years earlier that was slowly starting to fall apart and a little sports car that I had purchased just months after he died in the throes of my Retail Therapy phase.  To purchase the new car, I would have to trade in both and even though my head knew that it was time, my heart wasn't quite so sure.

The night before my appointment with the car dealership, I lay awake in my bed, staring at the ceiling in the dark saying over and over, "Just let me know if you think I'm doing the right thing.  Just give me a sign that it's time to do this."

And the next morning...I got it.

I was leaving the house in the minivan and all of the kids so that I could drop them off at my parents' house and bring the car to the dealership so they could begin evaluating it while I got the other car.  And as I started to make the turn off of my street, I looked up.  And there was a fraction of a rainbow just sitting on a cloud.

I've never seen a rainbow in the winter.  And that's not to say they don't happen - maybe I just haven't been paying attention.  But I sat there at that stop sign and just stared until my oldest daughter said, "Mom!  Are you going to go?"

I slowly put my foot on the gas and as I did, the song "Life is a Highway" - a song that has special meaning for me when it comes to my husband - came on the radio.

"Wow," said my daughter.  "We haven't heard this song in a long time."

And suddenly I knew that everything would be okay.

About a week later, I needed another sign, but frankly at that point I felt like I was getting a little greedy.  Some personal turmoil was forcing me to make some hard decisions and making me feel more alone than I had in a long time.  Again, I found myself staring at my ceiling in the dark and begging quietly, "Just tell me it will be okay.  Tell me it will be okay."

The next morning, I woke up and wished my youngest daughter a happy 7th birthday, my body dragging with exhaustion and fear of the future.  She and I dropped both of her older siblings off at school for before school activities and then I said to her, "You know what?  We have a little time to kill.  Let's go pick up your birthday cake before school."

We went into the store and bought a cake with pink frosting (that I would later find out was bubblegum flavored.  Whoever thought of that idea should probably quit baking and find another vocation).  And as we were leaving the store I looked up.  And there was that rainbow again.

I didn't say anything to my daughter and I don't know if she heard my sigh of relief.  But then I heard her little voice say, "Mom!  Look!  A rainbow!"

"Isn't it pretty?" I said brightly as we walked through the parking lot.

"You know what?  I bet that's Daddy telling me 'Happy Birthday!'"

Gulp.  "I bet you're right."

I guess signs are different for all of us and can mean many different things.  That morning, I looked up and thought my husband was saying, "You can do this.  I'm here.  You can do this."  But when my daughter saw that winter rainbow she knew that it was her daddy wishing her a happy birthday the best way he knew how.

The best part?

I think we were both right.

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.