Friday, January 7, 2011

Welcome to my blog

Welcome to my blog, 2becomes1.

Widowhood, Joyce Carol Oates has written, isn’t “placid and tragic so much as it’s physically arduous.” If she were to write a memoir, she said—which she has now done—it would be “filled with all sorts of slapstick, demeaning and humiliating things. Like trash cans whose bottoms are falling out.”

Oates was comparing her experience to The Year of Magical Thinking, the memoir by Joan Didion, which took widowhood onto “a very high plane,” said Oates, “beautiful and elegiac.”

Here in upstate New York (Columbia County), I’m in the Oates camp, the widowhood that’s arduous not only emotionally but also physically, widowhood, that is, for the rest of us, who work full time and then take care of the dog, the house, and ourselves, probably in that order. And children! God bless the widows with children, an experience I don’t share.

Dan Zinkus, my husband in all but ceremony, became visibly ill in May one year, and died, at 56, of brain cancer in August of that year. In the maelstrom of those four months, I made some adjustments to living alone, and now it continues—one, living the life of two, and learning when to pull back, into the life of one.

As for humiliation, the bottom of my trash can hasn’t fallen out, yet, but I did lock myself and our 16-year-old dog out of the house one dawn in late January, the winter after Dan died.

That winter was the hardest we’d had in ten years. We had an ice storm over Thanksgiving weekend and an official blizzard on Christmas Day. By late January the back of my little white house by the side of the road was snowed in except for the sliding glass door that led out to the deck. I’d shoveled tunnels through the waist-high snow for our two basenjis, the ancient Cooper and the puppy Lulu; they could have easily climbed the snow stacked against the fence and escaped, but basenjis are smart dogs, and usually know when and where they are better off.

Imagine first light; the temperature in the teens, the snow waist-high and more, banked against the fence. I’m wearing a jacket and boots over my pajamas and sleep-socks. The dog, Cooper, is blind and suffers from what the vet kindly calls “cognitive dysfunction.”

We’re standing, Cooper and I, stock-still in a dog tunnel I’ve dug through the snow in the backyard. He doesn't know we're locked out, while my mind ricochets around the house, looking for entry. Resolutely middle class, I don’t really expect to freeze to death, but I'm scared and I don't know what to do.


  1. You are such an amazing writer! I am right with you in this surreal adventure you describe, widowhood AND being locked out. I can't wait to find out WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?

  2. me too, Deb. A pleasure to be reading you again. I did read the excerpt of Oates's book in the NYer and found it riveting, and I also liked Didion's book and the play made from it. (This is becoming quite the genre--Anne Roiphe wrote a book on the same theme, not as good, but still readable, called Epiloge.) I like yours best.

  3. Debby,
    I read the article in the New Yorker. Where else has Oates written about the death of her husband?

  4. Rebecca, it was a while ago, shortly after he died in 2008. I can't remember where it was, I just made a note of what she said.

  5. What happened next? When shall we expect the next installment?