Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I’m sitting with two friends in the “community room” of the new library, waiting for the program to begin. It’s a pleasant room, exciting even, with the feel of a small, well-designed airport; a wall of windows lets in a spring sky mottled with drifting clouds, promising in its own way. 
And I realize, sitting on a plastic chair, waiting for our flight of imagination, that among us, I’m the oldest generation of widow. D is inching up on two years, while A’s loss is still fresh; D has brought A here to distract her, and when I greet A with a hug, her face crumples. She’s not a sentimental woman, and her pain is a good lesson for me; I’d forgotten how raw it could be. 
Some time ago, at a dinner, I sat next to a woman who did financial planning. Since the world is full of widows who need financial planning, she had many of this kind of client. She said she had noticed that after two years, a change has taken place. The active grieving seems mostly complete, the widow more ready to face whatever her new life might hold. Had that happened to me also, she asked kindly, and I said yes, it was a fair assessment. 
I mean, I didn’t wake up two years later on August 29 and say, well, time to move on! Depending on the day, I may still think of Dan a dozen times, but that’s down from a hundred. A month before the first anniversary of his death I flew out west to visit friends (see Scary Thing #7). That fall I went to Italy, a trip I had wanted to make all of my adult life. When I got home, I started the kitchen remodeling, a project Dan and I had been mulling when he fell ill. 
I still didn’t read obituaries, too aware of the pain that each death had caused each family. An ancient parent lost, a spouse or brother caught in midlife . . . a child, an infant . . . I turned away. 
And newspaper horoscopes  . . . forget it. For years I had checked them out, for Dan and me both, just in case they held any clue. But they had known even less than I did. 
Eventually, I started the obituaries again; I had always read them for their stories. Today I’ve even forgiven horoscopes; they aren’t meant for the dying, I guess, and “love is in the stars” can be interpreted a lot of ways.
Looking back, I am mildly amazed at how many I preceded as a widow, in a few years. Larry lived longer than Dan, but not much. I never expected John to die so soon after Dan. Ed dropped dead. Then there was D’s Michael and A’s Grant.
Helen died too, leaving Wayne, and Jim lost Anna before he died. 
But that’s it. Two widowers to . . . 
I meet three friends for dinner at a restaurant. P. is divorced, and she looks at the three of us, and says, “You’re all widows!”
We range in age from late 50s to mid 80s. We are legion. 
When you don’t have children, you never know how old you are. So I have no context in time except to see myself as, not the leader, but the forerunner of this little band of survivors.
And I’m not even that. “Really enjoy your blogs,” DB wrote recently, “and relate to them—even 23 years after the fact—it never really leaves you.”