The Widow’s Handbook

Things NOT to say to a widow/widower:

  1.  It was God’s will.
  2.  He’s in a better place now.
  3. Everything happens for a reason.  (you deserve to be shot for this one)
  4.  You’re lucky to be alive (post-accident).
  5.  God must have a special plan for you.
  6.  What are you doing for fun?
  7.  Do you feel better now? (after several months have passed)
  8.  Have you thought about going to church?
  9.  He (deceased) would like you to do that (fill in the blank).
  10.  Maybe you need a makeover.

I know it’s hard to think of things to say to a widow or widower, and I don’t blame anyone for feeling inept. I know most people do their best not to stay stupid and inappropriate things. But platitudes and suggestions for rejuvenating one’s relationship with their Maker (whomever that might be) are generally unwelcome. Keep in mind that I am a lapsed Catholic, so I do have a religious background and spiritual inclination.

Enough said.

Hope you all have a great day!

Life is Just a Ziploc Bag of Cherries

I always thought the adage “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries” silly, never gave it much thought. But while eating my afternoon snack of cherries in a ziploc bag, I was compelled to look up the lyrics to the song. Judy Garland does a rousing rendition of it, but I preferred Doris Day’s softer, slower interpretation. I’ve had a soft spot for Doris since I was a child. Often thought of her as a surrogate mom–always cheerful, rosy and full of life and love. Anyway, I digress.

Having read the lyrics, I find the song isn’t so inane after all:

People are queer, they’re always crowing, scrambling and rushing about
Why don’t they stop someday, address themselves this way?
Why are we here? Where are we going? It’s it time that we found out
We’re not here to stay; we’re on a short holiday.

And this part:

 . . . The sweet things in life, to you were just loaned
So how can you lose what you’ve never owned?

So that’s all I’ve got today. Thought I’d drift into lighter territory and elude the sorrow.

Enjoy the cherries.

 

Scarlet Widow

(google image)

Don’t ask
don’t tell
A good widow
stays in the shadows
doesn’t mind the stares

I wear my wedding ring,
a source of confusion to some
I will wear it as long as I need to

So many questions

The lady at the nail salon
wanted to know
all the gorey details of the car accident
while trying to upsell me
on an acrylic manicure.
“I’m trying to save,” I said.
“I only have one income now.”
She said, “You’re lucky to be alive.”
I laughed and said, “I guess.”
I didn’t go back there again.

A good widow knows her place
A bad one has a scarlet letter
carved into her heart

She tries not to upset your
sensibilities

She tries to remember her place

Don’t burn her at the stake

 

 

Missing Bernie

(Lorin and Bernie at PetSmart)

I’ve been missing Bernie terribly today. He was the last kitty we adopted–in April 2016.  Lorin saw him at the adoption center at our local Petsmart and said, “You have to meet him.” We already had four cats, so it seemed nutty, even for me, but I went with Lorin on a Saturday to meet Bernie.

Love at first sight. As it was with my Lorin.

They were two peas in a pod.

Everyone loved Bernie, but no one wanted to adopt him, because he was fat. They were afraid he had diabetes or some other illnesses and didn’t want to be burdened with a sick feline.  Understandable.  One of the foster cat ladies named Chris told us that before he landed at Petsmart, Bernie was in a pound. Apparently his owner had died. He had matted fur on his back that had to be shaved off. It was still growing back, and rather coarse.  He had been in the foster system for several months. Chris said we could take him for a week and bring him back if he didn’t get along with our other cats. Of course, we kept him.

He was shy, but loving. He had a favorite red sherpa blanket that he dragged around the house and even brought down to the basement, when Lorin was working there. Lorin’s office was in the basement. Sometimes Lorin helped him drag it down. Bernie talked to his blanket and gathered lots of toys around him. He seemed to need security. We wondered if he had been abused.

Karl adored him, and they started to sleep on the guest room bed together.

\

(Karl and Bernie)

Bernie eventually moved from his “safe space” upstairs and started playing with the other cats. One of his favorite games was musical chairs, played at the dining room table. Karl seemed hurt when Bernie migrated downstairs and engaged in play with Quincy and Samson.

****

I have grieved over Lorin, but have been unable to grieve for my cats. On one hand, I felt  guilty for grieving over my pets, grotesque even, in light of the loss of my beloved husband. On the other hand, I had no space in my mind and heart for more sadness. The pain of losing Lorin was enough.

But today I was able to grieve for Bernie. Like all my lost pets, he is worth grieving for. I wish I didn’t have to grieve any losses, but there they are. I will never forget the image of Lorin lying dead, nor will I forget the image of Sylvester and Bernie struggling to get up after the accident. I was helpless, useless, unable to save them. I didn’t see Quincy, Karl or Samson, and assumed they were dead.

These images still haunt me and weigh heavily upon my shredded heart.

I still fantasize about Lorin walking through the front door.

Lorin found Bernie and wanted him to be part of our family. I am happy we adopted him and that he had a loving home for even the brief time he did.

If I have learned anything from this, it is that every moment counts, as trite as it sounds. Love the people and animals you love, unreservedly. Don’t take anyone or anything for granted. Love is all.

Let Me Breathe

(google image)

Pulling myself out of the earth
grasping at crumbling bits of clay
choking on each bit as it slips
through my fingers and
into my mouth

Let me breathe

two steps forward
three steps back

Let me breathe

Your opinions are not welcome
a listening ear will do

Have you been living in the dirt
with me?
have you seen your husband die
alongside I-95?
then shut up
and let me be

Let me breathe

 

 

I Am the Widow

(google image)

I am the thing that keeps you up at night
I am the thing that makes me sick
I am the elephant in the room

I am the widow not wearing black
I am the hands tied behind my back

Certain things are expected of me
I try to keep up appearances

the world is watching
ever watching

I am the one who dirties your dreams
I am the guilty Sophie’s Choice survivor
I didn’t ask to live
Who chose me?

I am the one you can pity
and despise
for not being who you want me to be
I am angry, angry, angry
wanting to tear off my own skin

I am not the Merry Widow
I am not the ever-mourning one either

I am not made of wax
but I burn

I want you to understand
but I don’t think you can

Rage at the Machine

(google image)

No one to blame
so let’s blame the machine
the machine that drove us to his death
the black Ford Explorer with champagne trim,
like Stephen King’s Christine

or we can blame lack of sleep
we both fell asleep–
not a Viking death
as Lorin had hoped for

death be not proud*

I am not proud

I am deeply depressed

I want to get over it
but I can’t seem to
so I’m trying to get through it
every day

but the days are long
and they don’t make sense

Let’s blame the machine,
the inanimate object,
not the humans who
controlled it
and lost control of it

the lives lost
the heartbreak

blame the machine

 

 

*Death, be not proud (John Donne)

Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

 

Can’t Cook

oreos

(Nancy Rodrigo)

The oreos were screaming at me
from the aisle at Publix
Your favorite cookies
I kept seeing them
around every corner
as if they were the ghost
of you

Knowing I will never
cook for you again
is sometimes too much
you thanked me for every meal
even a frozen dinner

I can’t cook
for one
food doesn’t taste good

Can’t eat
what I used to
or buy the foods
you liked

Why don’t you appear
in the aisle
why don’t you
visit me
I hear stories of other deceased spouses
visiting their wives
Why not me?

I hear you in the chimes
on the back porch
in the TV that went on
in the hotel room
in the middle of the night
in the traffic, sometimes
I was never good at directions

I don’t even have an old
voicemail message
to listen to
we preferred to text

so much silence
so much left unsaid

I can’t cook, and
I don’t want to

 

*Artwork by Nancy Rodrigo.

New York-born artist Nancy Rodrigo uses her life experiences as a medium. “The media and content have changed and evolve to reflect my experiences. I see art as a means of expression and a therapeutic process.” She began her art career in 1981 under the name Nancy Weinstock, exhibiting in the East Village, Soho, Chelsea and Brooklyn. Her recent work of rich, colorful biomorphic paintings‒with vaginal imagery‒influenced by the Feminist Art Movement, including initiators Judy Chicago, Nancy Spero and Miriam Schapiro. In the 90’s she  did a series of works on canvas and mixed media constructions, the “Collective Memory Series.” These intricate pieces are constructed from found objects, organic and synthetic materials, paints and old photographs. Another project she is working on is the “Subway Series” hundreds of pen and ink portraits of people riding the NYC subways, all done without the rider’s knowledge and capturing most of the portrait in under 10 minutes.  This project has been a love letter to my city and her amazing people. Rodrigo’s work is diverse, expressive, and she is very prolific.

Truth or Dare

I haven’t spoken to Mom since Christmas — bad daughter.  Yes, I am. I haven’t had the energy or the desire, I suppose, and I haven’t wanted to hear her rebukes, such as, “You haven’t come to see me in so long!”

When Lorin and I lived in New Jersey, I saw her once or week or at least biweekly. Now it’s once a month. I haven’t got time for more pain, and I’m living far away.

A nurse called me from the Actors Home and asked if I could calm her down since she was ranting about being poisoned, again.

This is nothing new.

She shrieked into the phone, “”When are you going to get me out of here? I’m being poisoned.” Then, “Where have you been?” and “You only think about yourself, or dear ole Daddio.”

That pulled the trigger.

“Mom, I have to tell you something.”

“What?”

“Lorin was killed in a car accident. That’s why I haven’t been calling or coming around.”

“Oh no! Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because I didn’t want to upset you, but it’s time that you know.”

She started to cry or it sounded like crying. “I’m so sorry.”

It felt good to tell her the truth. I have spared her so many truths, but I am tired of lying to her, even if she has Alzheimer’s.  I have no more time for lies and obfuscations.

“And I’ve moved out of state,” I said.

“What? Why?”

“Because I can’t bear to be in New York since Lorin died.”

“But you dumped me here and now I’m alone in this God-forsaken place! Where are you?”

“I’m living in Savannah, Georgia.”

That didn’t seem to register. Her brain must now have been on overload or “tilt.”

“You have to get me out of here. Take me to Grandpa’s house . . . anywhere.”

“Mom, Grandpa is dead. You can’t go there.”

“There’s a room for me there.”

“I don’t think so, Mom.”

More crying.

“I’m coming to see you on Saturday,” I said.

“But that’s not soon enough. You have to get me out now.”

“It’s in three days. Can I bring you anything – soap?”

“Yes, please bring me the lavendar soap. They took that away from me.  And someone scribbled all over my Wuthering Heights. It must have been Lorin.”

“Lorin wouldn’t scribble in your books.”

“Did you bury him?”

“He was cremated.”

“Oh. I’m so so sorry. I’ll pray for you.”

“Thank you. Try to relax. I’ll be there soon.”

“Okay. Jack took me to confession.”

“Oh, good.”

“He prayed with me.”

“I’m glad.”

“I have so many sins. How will I ever be forgiven?”

“It’s okay, Mom.”

More crying. The phone and she sounded far away. I waited for a while, then hung up.

No more lies.

 

 

Rabbit Hole

down_the_rabbit_hole_by_somefield

(google)

Plunging deeper into the rabbit hole
can’t get out
can’t breathe
Nobody sees what I do

I don’t belong anywhere
I don’t want your pity

Re-living the death
Yet
Trying to live
Why

Trying to dig myself
out of the swampy dirt
hole

falling

clawing

trying to find

love

meaning

warm flesh

wherever I can

Can anyone help me
get out