Monthly Archives: July 2012

7/21/12: From NYC to Disneyland

The trip to NYC was pretty last minute and spontaneous up to and including inviting my sister to join me there (instead of visiting me here in Wisconsin next month). It’s been some time since the two of us spent time together without the buffer of husbands or other family members. Happy to say that the connection was immediate and the visit went well. The one standout on this trip was our visit to the Folk Art Museum across from Lincoln Center. The entrance wall to this small museum features an incredible quilt (actually it’s quilts since there are multiple panels) commemorating those who died on 9/11–on the flights, in the Pentagon, and in the towers. Thousands of small, hand-decorated blocks, each with the name of a victim embroidered on it make up a tableau that forms the skyline of the city with the twin towers set in the palest beige-colored blocks as if they were there once but are no more.  I spent some time walking along the length of the exhibit, reading the names and recalling how I read every single obituary featured in the NY Times in the days and weeks following the event. Somehow I felt a duty to know these people at least to the degree that knowing a stranger is possible. As I studied the quilt I thought of all these lives and the lives their deaths had changed forever. And of course I thought of L and how his death has changed my life forever. I wanted so much to share this moment with him because I knew that he would have been every bit as moved and inspired as I was. That night my sister and I attended a big Broadway musical that was the very essence of what everyone thinks of when you say “Broadway.” It was silly, and kitschy and just plain fun and we walked back to our room humming the Gershwin tunes that made up the music and feeling pretty good.  So in a single day I had come face-to-face with the sheer ugliness and downright meanness of life on this planet to the song-and-dance  fantasy world that we sometimes wish were more the reality.

The following morning I woke early–it was my b’day–a day I do not choose to celebrate as to me it represents the passing of time and a ticking clock that limits the hours I will have to do all the things I want (and have not yet dreamed of) to do. It’s times like this when I need my solitude so I set out for a walk.  And as I passed others I found myself wondering what challenges they might be facing in their lives. This woman looked incredibly anxious and when I approached her to ask about a place I thought might be in the neighborhood, she practically ran from me. By contrast a NY police officer that I approached with the same question pulled out his I-phone and did a map search trying to help. Later when my sister and I went to Grand Central to get the train to CT to visit a cousin for the day a woman clearly on her way to work approached us and asked if she might help. (We were clearly wandering aimlessly and seemed lost.) I told her we had over an hour before our train and simply wanted a place to sit–not available in the famous main concourse! She could have just offered directions but instead she showed us the way.

All of which got me thinking about stereotypes and how in so many ways that is one of the roots of  the discord that grows between nations, political adversaries, people from cities vs. people from the country; etc. If we could just set aside our instinct to label others based on dress, gender, skin color, body language, might we not be better equipped to solve problems instead of perpetuating them?

Okay so if you’ve read this far you might have 2 questions:

1. what about Disneyland?

2. how is this about my journey through widowhood.

Well, Disneyland is a blatant teaser for the next entry–I am headed there for a conference this coming week and frankly I see that journey compared to the one to NYC as a little like the day I saw the quilt then went to the musical.

How is this about my journey through widowhood? EVERYTHING these days is related to that journey because in every situation and experience I find myself searching for clues to the future–who am I without L and who will I become?

7/6/12: Reality 101

The 4th of July is one of my two favorite holidays (the other is Thanksgiving). In both cases you know what to expect in terms of food and the schedule for the day; you pretty much know what to wear; and there are no gifts involved. L was well aware of my preference for these 2 holidays as well as my love of fireworks so together we looked forward to mid-summer with its heat (well, he wasn’t so fond of the heat), blooming gardens, picnics and other gatherings with friends and fireworks. So when friends invited me to join them for a neighborhood barbeque on the $th I was delighted to accept. I picked up another invited couple and headed off to our friends. I knew that they had included some neighbors and others that I didn’t know but was looking forward to ‘new blood’ in the usual mix of our circle. So how come three hours later I found a way to arrange for someone else to drive the friends I had picked up home, slipped out of my hosts’ home without saying goodbye and barely made it to my car before bursting into sobs?

The truth is that my tears of grieving have all come at the most unexpected times–none more unexpected than this. I began to be aware of an undercurrent of discomfort early in the evening. I ignored it. All during dinner and the dessert that followed I laughed with everyone else at oft-told stories from the past, some new adventures from the present and stories of the antics of various grandchildren. Nothing unusual there. I was aware of a certain discomfort when it came to the folks I didn’t know–they were all delightful interesting people and yet I was unsure if they knew that L had died and I was a recent widow. Because I talk freely about L in the company of our close friends I found myself holding back even though there were stories that would have been appropriate for me to share. If they didn’t know I didn’t want to put a damper on the festivities and if they did know? Well, same story. So i found myself being quieter than usual–observing rather than actively participating.

By the time dessert was being served I was beginning to realize that I was really close to the edge. Suddenly I was aware that my close friends all had their partner plus children plus g’children–in short they had support well beyond friendships. And although we all know families can be dysfunctional–in these cases there is a closeness among the generations that is downright inspirational. Because L and I never had children (and obviously no g’children) I think what struck me was that absence in my life in a way I had never even considered it before and the very fact that we don’t get do-overs (at least in a situation like this) was emotionally crippling in a way I had not yet faced.

In the days leading up to this event I had actually been feeling pretty proud of the way I was adjusting and finding my way. But I was truly fooling myself. The words that I found myself repeating over and over as I sat in  my car sobbing were, “I don’t think I can do this.”

So where am I a couple of days past this moment? Struggling as I try to come to terms with the reality of L’s death–his absence from my daily life and the daily/weekly routine that was our shared life. I have my work. I have my friends. I have the comfort and security of a home. In short I have a great deal that I know others would like to have. But that life–that routine–those hours spent at the end of the day catching up and laughing together and yes, sometimes arguing…those are all behind me. I talk out loud to L every night before I go to sleep going over the events of the day as I would have if he were here. But the reality is that it’s not even close to being the same. And the true reality is that I need to figure out what my life is going to look like — for real — now that he’s not in it.