Friday, January 14, 2011

10 Scary Things I Have Done Since My Husband Died

OK, he wasn’t my husband, strictly speaking, and I’ve done 110 scary things since he died, maybe 1,010, but I’ve culled what for me is the top 10, and I’ll share them here one at a time in what I understand to be a David Letterman–type list (without a TV, I lack experience with much of our culture), in which 10 is the least and 1 is the most.
10. Got up in the morning. 
In this way, the widow not only acknowledges that life goes on, but also that he or she accepts it. This can be dreadful and scary. 
My father died in the evening, and my stepmother did not rise from the bed for a day. She had my half sister and me downstairs, dealing with the concept and practicalities of the funeral. Dan died at about 9 p.m., and after a few hours’ sleep I got up the next morning: our two dogs had to be let out and fed—at seven o’clock, not nine or noon. At that point, you might as well make a cup of coffee and stare out at the backyard. Or go to the computer. 
Since everything had gone so terribly wrong for the last four months, I was writing Dan’s obituary myself, so that it would be correct, and would include what I wanted it to: the dogs and me as his immediate family; his canoeing the length of the Connecticut River, from the Atlantic Ocean to Canada, in weekend trips (and not writing a book about it); his full academic scholarship to Columbia; his generosity to local causes. 

I had to deal with the odd but kindly woman at the local funeral home, which I had chosen only the night before, minutes after Dan’s death (I grew to think of her, not unfondly, as Morticia). I had to call the gentle, marvelous people at the Buddhist cemetery across the Hudson River, which was the only place I could think of in which Dan might be happy to have his ashes buried. 
In all of these distractions I took some comfort. Because not only had I lost the love of my life but also, in another part of my brain, I knew that each thing that I touched—the kitchen sink with its mysterious gurgle; our three cars (his idea) with their total of almost 400,000 miles; the ancient Cooper, the adolescent Lulu; my unremarkable paycheck—was now mine to deal with alone. 
Not just the expense, more important, the decisions, without Dan, the witty, practical man with cutting-edge taste in music who paid off his credit card every month, and who had been at my side for 25 years. During the four months of his illness I had paid the bills, cared for the dogs, got the cars serviced, and neglected the house.
Now it was September, and I wasn’t so much up a tree as out on a slender branch, among leaves that fluttered to the hardening ground.


  1. Another comment from Bernie, while he figures out if he wants a Google account: "Beautifully written, Debby, and I am particularly grateful because it brought into sharp focus my memories of Dan and what a 'true friend and good writer' he was (and you were and are) and what wonderful times we had together when we were Columbia County neighbors."

  2. I am utterly riveted. (BTW, IMHO, there is so much more feeling and beautiful writing in this work than I experienced in YOMM, but I know I shouldn't compare.)

  3. Incredible writing. As Elvis said, "I'm All Shook Up!" The personal, intimate, lonely moments in which we make our decisions about how to proceed are so beautifully described...a reminder of the freedom we have in the moment, the Buster Keaton-like comedy they sometimes carry (thinking of previous post), and how much they shape what is to follow. Thanks so much for this, Debby!!!

  4. Keep on Truckin! Not Scary - challenging! The trip/s on the Connecticut River sound great.
    And I just read your article about Nancy Smith in the Columbia Paper. Will she/can see appeal?
    She is one great lady. I got to know her when I worked as Bookstore manager at CGCC in the 70s.
    Lots of fun but I did get a real job after that.
    One thing to remember as you venture along in your discovery mode - remember what your feet are doing. Sound goofy? Just do it. Thanks for
    sharing your new life.

  5. Thank you, Ruth! Nancy Smith pleaded no contest to a federal misdemeanor charge of trespassing at Ft. Benning, George, during a School of the Americas Watch demonstration last November. She is now serving six months in prison. That was her intent. My two articles about Nancy Smith can be found at I guess I should make that a link to this blog. When I figure out how to do that, I will.