Monday, January 16, 2012

Creeping Through Horseradish

To a widow, especially a new one, the whole world is widowhood.

Grocery shopping: The first time you're at the supermarket, it hits you. You're shopping for one now. How much to buy? All those other carts you pass are so full. Yours, not so full. And do you want to cook anyway? Your new world doesn't lend itself to gourmet food, new recipes, Everything tastes like cardboard. Maybe you'll buy a few frozen dinners and be done with it. Or stop at McDonalds and pick up a Happy Meal (There's an oxymoron for you. Meals are no longer happy when you're eating alone). But wait. Frozen dinner and fast food, Happy Meal or Whopper, will just make you feel more alone. Who knew sitting across the table from someone could mean so much? You never gave it much thought when it was an everyday occurrence.

Going to bed: Another decision. Stay on "your" side, move to the middle, sleep on "his" side because maybe you'll feel closer to him that way? Personally, I've never moved an inch away from my side.

Everything in your life seems suddenly connected to your new status. The toilet seat is always down now. You can't fasten a favorite necklace. I once woke a neighbor because I couldn't unfasten one. My burglar alarm once started beeping because its battery was low. Even with a ladder, I couldn't reach it. I swallowed my pride, marched across the street and introduced myself to a new neighbor. I hadn't met her yet but I'd noticed she was tall.

You see a couple standing shouler to shoulder in line at the movies or an elderly couple strolling hand in hand toward the park. A stab of pain and envy hits you. Why couldn't that be you and your husband? Why don't you belong to someone, with someone any more?

Those people at your office or in your book club,complaining about their spouses, they don't realize how lucky they are. Or how their complaints hurt. You want to tell them, but you keep quiet. They wouldn't understand.

But gradually some of the pain dissipates, maybe after months or years. Oh, it still comes back at time, surprising you with its intensity. You hear a song, pass a restaurant you used to love, see a couple you used to go out with, but they don't include you any more.

But you've begun to make a new life. Not because you want to, but because you must. Another Yiddish proverb says, "When one must, one can," and you've taken it to heart. New friends, new interests, bigger fasteners put on those old necklaces. You struggle out of the horseradish, and suddenly you can see the sky.


Louise Gallagher said... [Reply to comment]

This is a beautiful write Thelma -- you touch my heart.


Widow in the Middle said... [Reply to comment]

AMAZING post and insights! Your words brought back a lot of memories for me (been there, done that!). I recalled pushing my cart through the grocery store sobbing; ending up with the decision to keep sleeping on my side of the bed; not being able to fasten jewelry; not being able to open a stuck pickle jar; all those times seeing "couples" together out and about; being furious at those talking down about their spouses; sometimes it is good to revisit memory lane and then compare it to where we are today and who've we become!

Carol Apple said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for sharing what this experience is like. I believe my Mom had similar experiences after my father died. They had been married 30 years, so I can imagine how that would affect the way you think about everything. Some of us who have not experienced it as yet, may have this experience in the future.


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