Sunday, October 28, 2012

Interview with Susanne Braham, Contributor to On Our Own: Widowhood for Smarties

Susanne Braham is the author of two poems included in On Our Own--"Widowed" and "Garden, Remembered."

TZ:  Your poem, "Widowed," evokes the widowhood experience so beautifully.  How long were you widowed when you wrote it?

SB:  About a year and a half.  My husband Robert died in November 2002.

TZ:  What's been the hardest thing to cope with as a widow?

SB:  There have been many.  Robert died suddenly and we had been extremely close.  He was in near perfect health and had gone to work that day, but he had WPW syndrome, an irregular heart beat.  Around 1:00 a.m. I woke, and he was standing at the foot of the bed.  He told me to call EMS, that he thought his heart had stopped beating.  I asked him what I could do for him. He collapsed on the bed, unable to speak, but indicating I should beat on his chest, which I attempted to do.  But before the EMS crew arrived, he turned purple as I tried to give him mouth to mouth rescusitation.

I was unprepared to take over all that he did.  He was a physician and oversaw all our family health needs, so when I got sick with Giardia a couple of years later and my daughter had gone off to college, I was home by myself.  It was devastating.  I felt totally abandoned and frightened.

I guess the second hardest thing has been learning how to survive without a sex partner, as we had had a very active sex life and my strong drives didn't die when he did.  I have written a bit about this and the trouble is has gotten me into, but those poems are not for publication...yet!

TZ What has been your proudest accomplishment as a widow?

SB:  Survival itself.  There were many times I wished I had died, not he.  When I began to write, it helped.  I've also been losing my hearing since I was in my early forties.  Music and dancing had been my greatest sources of pleasure besides sex, and having to deal with oncoming deafness has been a real challenge.  But I've turned to visual arts, especially photography.  I go off on my own with nature, taking photos of things I love and then I share them via the Internet with people who are special to me.  My mom, age 92, lives right at the ocean but she is no longer strong enough to go to the beach, so I bring the sea to her in pictures and she relives with me those wonderful moments I would have shared with Robert.  I'm becoming very good at capturing wildlife with my camera.  For most of the time since I've been alone, I've dreaded retiring, but I now see myself both writing and taking pictures and maybe sharing them with the rest of the world.  I'm also becoming somewhat of a spokesperson for the hard of hearing in terms of bringing open-captioned and hearing assisted performances to New York City audiences.  That, too, will be a new direction for me.

TZ:  Any advice for widows?

SB:  Figure out what you most enjoy and go for it.  Indulge yourself in the hobbies you loved but didn't have time for before.  This won't happen overnight; joy doesn't come back right away.  Grief needs to express itself.  Get help if you need it.  And remember, pretty much half of all married people will be widowed, so you are not alone.  I guess the lucky ones will be able to unite again with another kindred soul.  I always keep my eyes open for that possibility but I've learned not to be discouraged.

TZ:  Tell about your writing background and your writing process.

SB:  Justr today the New York Times published a blurb I wrote about my first poem appearing in Child Life Magazine when I was 6 or 7.[] It put into my head that someday I would write.  It took a while, but some of us are late bloomers (if not Boomers).  I needed something to write about; becoming widowed unleashed the forces.  I now write because I have to, to survive.

TZ:  What are you working on now?  Any writing goals?

SB:  I'm in the middle of a short story, a sort of medical mystery, in a way related to my Giarda experience.  I go back and forth between writing funny, satirical pieces and my tragic poetry.

TZ:  Thank you so much for your poetry and your insight.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

In Memoriam: Ralph Zirkelbach, October 16, 2005

On October 16, 2005, Ralph took his last breath.  He'd fought a courageous battle with acute myelogenous leukemia for a year, endured medical mishaps that sapped his strength but never diminished his will, spent seven months in the hospital and managed to make it a home for both of us, and uttered his last words to me the night before he died:  "I love you."

This is one of my favorite pictures of us, even though it doesn't show our faces.  We look so comfortable together, still in love with each other after many years, much laughter, arguments that he usually won, and all the bumps on the road of life.

I remember him with love and dedicate Tuesday to his memory.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Quotes for the Week: Football from Two Perspectives

I am a football nut.  Why?  I grew up in Austin, Texas where football is life. See my picture at the bottom? 
Why post this now?  Because the Houston Texans are one of two undefeated teams in the NFL and because the Texas Longhorns are comin' back.

Football is like life, it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority."
                   Vince Lombardi

"Football combines two of the worst things in American life. It is violence punctuated by committee meetings."
                 George Will

Sunday, October 7, 2012

New Release: On Ouir Own: Widowhood for Smarties

I'm excited to announce the release of On Our Own:  Widowhood for Smarties, an anthology compiled by Silver Boomer Books,   I've published pieces in several of their anthologies and when I came up with the idea of one on widowhood, I contacted them.  Working as co-editor has been a delight for me.

The book contains poetry and prose about all aspects of the widowhood experience--loss, grief, dealing with every day life alone, venturing back into the world, memories and eventually joy and laughter again.  The many talented authors who contributed to the book are a joy to read.  I plan to interview some of them--I wish I could interview all--over the coming weeks.  I hope you'll enjoy what they have to say.

On Our Own is available at the link above or from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Quote for the Week

I found this quote last week and love it.  It makes me think....a lot.

"We walk into an unknown, beckoning future
With our past beside us."
    Harold Schulweis

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