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  I have written a bit about this and the trouble is has gotten me into, but those poems are not for publication...yet!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.



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