Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I am dating a guy I broke up with many months ago. I am going back on all of my determined made-up-mind promises to myself that he was bad bad bad.

I'm not into this relationship the way I allowed myself to be into it the first time. I am detached. Last time, I wanted him to sleep beside me. I don't now. I think he will not stand for this much longer, and I will lose the relationship (or he will lose me - it's a matter of perspective I suppose) and I don't know what to think or feel about that.

When our relationship was new... I was open to the possibility that this might be the "one." I thought that it might be a gift from God that I would not suffer in lonely widowhood for very long. My children were so young! They would easily transition to truly love and respect a step-dad. My luck was bound to turn upward after going through such a horrendous loss. So... I slowly warmed up to the idea of having a boyfriend and started calling John that. My family was surprised that I brought over a new man so soon after Mike's death... but they were supportive if I was happy.

John was wonderful to get to know. He was funny and very loving. But after an initial honeymoon phase that was (in my opinion) way too short... he began to seem to make demands on my time and attention as if he were my husband. He began to force his way into assuming the role of "king of the castle." He was offended when I made some decisions on my own without consulting him. One of the first major blow-ups occurred when I bought the cemetery plot next to my husband's. He told me in no uncertain terms that it was very offensive to him that I would buy that plot.

Fast forward through many more arguments and pissing each other off... I break up with him... he lingers for a few months... finally it breaks off entirely... we don't talk for 8 months... then "Hello again" this July and here I am now...

I prefer to be alone in my bed at night rather than have him there. I have never in my adult life preferred to sleep alone rather than with a man. I haven't been with a LOT of men, 4 before my husband... 3 who were long-term...

This aversion I am feeling to having a man in my bed is NOT normal. Never in my adult life have I slept alone when I had a man in my life.  From 18 until I was widowed I doubt that I ever was alone in bed for more than 6 weeks in a row.


My memory is foggy, blurry, black and white. I'm not sure if I was capable of judging John's character given that I was intensely grieving my husband's recent death. I was only 4 months into widowhood when I met him.  What I liked about John right off the bat: he smiled at me in such a NORMAL way. Even though he knew I was a single mom, young widow, recently bereaved... he still treated me normally and even flirted with me the very first day we met.

I could sit here an enumerate the several things that pissed me off, the unforgivables... but they are very colored by my perspective.

It would be dishonest to claim that I was not in the wrong on at least several of our arguments. I have no such list. I didn't journal about "John round 1" when we were together the first time.

SO I am giving this a chance. I don't think I am incredibly open to it though. I have a hard time exposing myself to the possibility of being hurt severely. I cannot allow myself to love a man who I don't trust to not trample me. I cannot let go of my confused memory that tells me he was wrong for me before, this is only a diversion now.

I like the way Elaine lights up when she sees him. Elliott needs the male role model in his life... and if it isn't going to be John, I am setting them up for more loss when he goes.  I'm not sure he is the man I want Elliott to emulate... or for Elaine to love in a Freudian way.

Friday, July 2, 2010

the questions about dating...

Reason not to date:
1.) If you are looking for someone primarily to cure your sadness, loneliness, or "skin hunger"... it's a good time to not date yet but rather work on creating more happiness in your SOLO life

2.) If you have small children and you haven't figured out how to take care of their needs first, I think you are not ready to date. Do not make my mistake of going into something too soon and letting the man get involved with the kids. Then when it ends the kids lose another male role model, and whether he was a good or bad role model, they are abandoned again.

The short relationship I went into at the 5 month mark after losing my husband was a Bandaid on a gaping wound. When he turned out to be a controlling and emotionally abusive prick, it was salt on all my wounds and more damaging than healing overall.

So another reason not to date, and exactly what I did:
3.) just because somebody wants to date you. I didn't go looking, I just met this guy... and I agreed to go along with a lot because it just felt better than being alone (for a little while). In my mind, the private conversation I had with myself through it all was "just go with it, I'm single even though I still feel married, just do whatever comes up because this is moving on / moving forward." The conversation I neglected to have with myself in the beginning was "Am I really ready to be a partner to another person? Am I choosing wisely? Is this man I want to be with?"

Best part of dating:
1.) Adult conversation, laughter, nicknames and inside jokes, learning likes and dislikes, learning personal histories

2.) Skin to skin contact - whether it is hand holding, hugging, kissing, neck rub, or whatever more those lead to according to your readiness and comfort level.

3.) Having a partner for doing things... he is the person next to you at a performance, the person you walk with down the sidewalk, the one you talk to while kids are playing at the park, the one you meet for lunch, the one who tells you a funny thing he saw today, he suggests an upcoming outing, he is the one you can use your "buy one get one free" coupon with, he is the one whose shoulder you can cry on when disappointments occur, he is the one who "high fives" you when successes are achieved, he is the one who pumps you up for a job interview and says he believes in you, he is the one you call to say how it went the minute the interview is over...

4.) maybe you'll decide to love each other and commit to each other... and isn't love what we all desire in life? I wouldn't give up the chance for love again just because of my fear of all the pain that widowhood brought me. If I avoid love because I know what it feels like to really LOSE love, then I'm not living a full life.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"what am I, a fucking meteorologist?"

I grieve as I remember.

I grieve for the loss of knowing glances; the death of deep interpersonal understanding; communication by touch of familiar bodies; sighs that are clearly "yes" or "no"; words that mean something different because of how they were used once a long time ago.

I had a boyfriend in high school with whom I actually made up complete sentence meanings of words I liked... names of places in Africa... the only one I'm sure I remember now was "Mozambique." It meant "I shall embrace you in my dreams." It almost seems wrong to write that translation here in black and white because it was our secret love language in its own time. We said "Mozambique" along with "goodbye" and "I love you."

Private language and especially inside jokes are strong threads in the fabric that hold relationships together. Old friends make one or two word references and simultaneously burst out laughing, or exchange knowing glances.

When I was dating my husband, and about to go with him to his parents' home, an inside joke was born. It was near the beginning of our relationship, but not my first time to meet them.

Mike's family is culturally Jewish. I wouldn't call them religious people, or at least not spiritual. In any case, they fasted for Yom Kippur and we were to join them for "break the fast" at their home on that particular fall evening.

Merry: "What time are we supposed to be there?"
Mike: "At sunset."
Merry: "What time is sunset?"
Mike: "What am I, a fucking meteorologist?"

He didn't say it in a mean way... he didn't say it in a bad tone at all. It was equivalent in tone to "Hell if I know!" but more surprising to me in that moment. We both erupted in laughter and tried to gauge our arrival time by the look of the evening sky.

"What am I, a fucking meteorologist?" took on the meaning "Hell if I know!" from that point forward in our relationship.

"Why is that light blinking?"
"Is there a weight limit for carry-on?"
"Will your brother be there?"
"Are we supposed to dress up?"
"Where are my keys?"
"Do we need to bring swimsuits?"
"Will they check ID?"
"What is that buzzing sound?"
"Are we expected to bring a gift?"
"Is his poop supposed to be that color?"

The answer to all of the above: "What am I, a fucking meteorologist?!" followed by that familiar glow that happens between friends or lovers who know what they mean without really saying it.

This was not an equal opportunity phrase. Mike was definitely the non-meteorologist in our family. I may have unsuccessfully attempted to use his familiar phrase once or twice, but I maintain that he didn't ask me as many questions that I, know-it-all that I am, couldn't answer! (Insert just a hint of laughter here... Mike would have laughed a little when I called myself a know-it-all, and then he would have agreed that I was indeed a know-it-all.)

"INSIDE JOKE." Inside of what? Inside of me? Inside of him?

They must be inside of the relationship... they do not reside in the one who alludes to them... without the correct audience the reference is lost. You cannot tell an inside joke to a new person without a lengthy introduction and explanation of the origin. This is usually accompanied by a humor-defeating explanation of WHY it was originally funny in its original context. If the inside jokes survives that, I suppose it is possible to revive a joke.

If he'd lived long enough, Mike would have received that phrase embroidered on a cap. I looked at making it several times... just never hit "Order Now." I think I mentioned it to him once and he wasn't as excited about it as I expected he might be. "Other people won't get it" was his response. In my mind, that meant it could be a conversation starter.

I didn't ask why he didn't want it as much as I wanted to get it for him, but I imagine he thought that our inside joke was personal and he wouldn't want to share it with random people who asked its meaning. Perhaps he felt that the phrase was too long for a hat, in which case a simple word "Meteorologist" with a red circle around it and a diagonal line across would have been perfect.

Is it worth trying to revive old inside jokes?

As I think about this trivial minutia from my relationship with my late husband, I think "YES, I WANT to revive it. I WANT someone to know what is funny about not being a fucking meteorologist." But then it would never REALLY mean what it did once...

So I grieve for more than my dead husband. With him I lost common references, stories, memories, sights, sounds, words, voices, intonations, temperaments, attitudes, touches, feelings...

I grieve for the things INSIDE of my relationship with my husband that are lost now in his death.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

a walk and a cry

I cried taking a walk yesterday with my kids and our dog.

I saw a stranger who lives down around the corner from our house. He's a stranger except that I met him in September when I (lightly) rear-ended him while driving in another part of our city. When we exchanged information and I read his address, I asked him if he knew my husband. I described Mike, our dog, our kids... this guy just needed my insurance information but he was nice about talking to me; calming me down since I was so upset I'd bumped him. And there, on the side of the road, I thought that just maybe this living breathing man would remember Mike because we lived in the same neighborhood. Maybe he would remember seeing Mike walking with the dog or the kids... but he didn't. I remember reaching for that possible connection, recognition from this random person... I wanted him to say "YEAH! I know that guy! He always smiled and said Hi! when he walked by with those adorable kids and cute little dog!"... but he didn't.

When we had exchanged information it was the one-year anniversary of my husband's last night in our home; in our bed. It was September 21... the 22nd would be the date on the hospital chart and the wrist band and the sign on the wall in his room... the admittance date "SEPT 22" was etched into my memory. It was the beginning of the three month long nightmare... 84 days before he would die.

So when I saw this random stranger I met last September, it brought me back to that one-year-anniversary.

I cried.

My son Elliott (5) had our dog by the leash a little ahead of me. We only had a quarter of a block to go to get home. I said "I feel horrible" and Elliott turned and saw my face. He ran back to me and reached up to put his arms around me, puckered up for a smooch, and walked the rest of the way home with me holding my hand.

I love my son. He is a handful sometimes, and I am frightened by the responsibility of raising him alone. I feel like a failure when he's naughty, rude or defiant. But in a moment like that - when we walked holding hands the rest of the way home - I think he's going to be a good man.

O how I miss Mike!


Happy Easter.

Sunday, March 28, 2010


I lost my cell phone...


This is a recurring theme in my new scatterbrained existence. I regularly don't know exactly where I put it. By regularly, I mean that I search for my phone (or my keys, or my wallet, or my checkbook) almost daily.

Usually I find them, and usually they are in one of about five predictable places, but every time I get them it is a sense of gladness for finding them because I didn't know for sure that I would.

It isn't that I don't have an assigned place to put each item so that it is easy to find every time, it's just that somehow I am almost incapable of using the correct "expected location" for these items on a daily basis. SO... there are a handful of places I put these things, and usually they are in one of them.

The only reason this might be even remotely of interest to YOU is that I am under the impression that I am not alone in feeling disorganized, forgetful and scatterbrained in my widowhood. I'm writing this blog for myself, but also for communion with other widows. I expect if you are reading, you are also a widow. Bless you.

I have a life history of being well organized... but that changed when Michael died. Everything felt harder immediately. Not just that I had to do "his" part in the household, but I could barely manage to do "my" part. I became overwhelmed with things that were previously simple.

I could not, for example, get myself to go to the post office to mail a package to return something 100% useless to me. I spent over 5 months with "mail the package" on my to-do list every day. I just couldn't do it. Finally I told my mom and she mailed it for me. I got $65 for the item (in the package) and I really needed the money... so why did I NEED her help to accomplish this silly small thing?

The answer is the scatterbrain... it's a kind of confusion, but mixed with lack of motivation, forgetfulness, and eventually a weird kind of low self-esteem: "I just CAN'T mail that package because I can't believe I've needed to mail it for so many months and haven't done it yet."

I am working on healing this "new me" back into a "normal" me by changing the self-talk messages.

Notes for the post-its on my bathroom mirror, affirmations or positive self-talk:
"I am organized"
"I get things done"
"I will be on time"

The good news is that I got a message and my phone must have slipped out of my pocket last night when I was at a reception at someone's house. So my lost phone's location is known, but still not in my hands... working on it!
To other widows: Are you finding yourself scatterbrained or disorganized? Do simple tasks overwhelm you? Or have you moved through this and become "normal" again? How long did it take?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

bad mommy

I love my children more than anything or anyone else in the world - I hope that goes without saying for 99.9% of moms.

So this morning, running late to get the kiddos out the door and to preschool in time for LUNCH (because I was up so late the night before dinking around on the computer) I insisted that my darling 3-year-old Elaine brush her teeth all by herself.

She can do it!
She's done it before
... lots of times.

I am finishing getting myself decent enough to take them to preschool when I hear "AAAAAAAHHHH!" and the crashing sound of ceramic coffee mug vs. tile floor.

I don't know what maneuver caused it... my coffee was on the bathroom counter but not by Elaine's toothbrush... (I digress)

I ran in to see what was the matter and saw coffee everywhere and my daughter stood there screaming in shock.

Here were my thoughts and the order in which they occurred in my mind:
1. damn, my coffee is spilled
2. shit, did my favorite mug break??? [it didn't - by the way... but I did notice a hairline crack in the tile tonight]
3. good thing I made enough coffee for another cup
4. "Oh honey, are you burned?"

My poor daughter was drenched in coffee from hair to shoes, and half of her pretty sundress was stuck "wet t-shirt style" to her body - light brown instead of white with flowers.

I peeled the clothes off of her, I hugged her, I removed her soaked Princess Tiana panties. I looked at her skin, which was barely pinker where the coffee soaked her than everywhere else. I wiped off her shoes and wiped her little naked body clean with a warm wash cloth.

Elaine stood there and whimpered. The hug was enough... she was obviously more shocked than burned. She was very happy when I went and pulled out a new sundress I had been planning to give her next month for her birthday. She seemed to not even remember the spilled coffee by the time she was dressed again in dry (pretty and new) clothing.

In my own defense (to my self-attack) I knew in the back of my mind that the coffee was maybe 10 minutes old. It wasn't scalding hot, and that I had added some cold half and half...

But still!

I thought about the fact that my daughter's hurt was the last thing to occur to me in the rapid-fire thoughts that went off in my mind, and I felt really bad and really guilty.

If I were a good mommy, I wouldn't have even looked at the spill before making sure Lainey was safe and uninjured.

And of course, I also thought...
"If Mike were here...
he would have thought first of her before all else.
he was a great dad... had his priorities straight."

Mike's voice was in my head, setting me straight, reminding me that Elaine (not the stupid mug or spilled coffee) matters most.

If you are a widowed mom, do you find yourself comparing your parenting now to your late husband's parenting... or what you imagine it would be now?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm going to be a pirate in an illegal lesbian wedding

Aye, ya read it right!

It's coming up soon... May 2010.

My life-long friend is going to marry her partner in Phoenix, Arizona. Same sex marriages are not legal in Arizona, so it's a big party with lots of family and friends and no official officiant who has "the power vested in him or her."

The brides have decided to have a pirate theme wedding.





I wish I were more excited, but I'm not. Same-sex marriage should be legal, and if someone does not approve of them, then in my belief = he or she should not GET one. My lackluster attitude does not reflect my attitude toward the bride and groom both being brides - no. I'm not excited because I still don't have my costume. The stress of knowing I NEED a pirate costume is too much for me to handle right now.

It would be so much easier to go into the local David's Bridal and pick up the appropriate color and style bridesmaid's dress, chosen for me whether I liked it or not, and which I would happily and obediently wear while standing up as my best friend's maid of honor.

But nay... I'm not t' be a maid 't all... rather a first mate, ya land lubbers!


And the other thing... the fact that this will be a wedding... and I HAD a wedding, a beautiful and rather traditional wedding - especially considering I am a female and I married a male, and we wore traditional wedding attire - no theme. The vow "til death do us part" is on my mind.

This is not the first wedding in the last 15 months... my brother-in-law got married. But he said his nuptials on a cruise ship, and I wasn't there. I went to his reception one week later and drank way too much on purpose.

(My brother-in-law is a jerk.)

I just need to get something to wear. The sooner I have my costume, the sooner I can imagine myself actually being there for my friend instead of worrying about my short "to do" list that feels too long for me to accomplish.

Maybe focusing on clothing is a distraction. I can't tell whether or not I am emotionally ready to stand close to my friend while she is making marriage vows (even if they are in pirate language.)


Shoe store

I went to buy my kids new shoes today. I went to Payless Shoes with line-tracings of their feet to figure out their sizes since they just KEEP GROWING!

The sales clerk appeared between 18 to 25 years old. She was perky and attentive. She helped me figure out their sizes and showed me right where I should look for boys size 12 and girls size 8 1/2 shoes. (My son appears to have skipped right over size 11 he's growing so fast!)

I was the only customer in the store. The sales clerk was busy with whatever she was doing, but attentive, as I said, and the minute I was ready to make my purchase she was there ringing me up and making small talk. She suggested I take advantage of the big sale and look at some shoes for myself too, but I told her the truth, "I have plenty of shoes, too many probably."

She told me the total purchase price, I handed her my American Express, she took the card and said, "Oh, it has your picture right there on it, so I don't need to see your license" as she slid the card through the slot on her keyboard.

"May I please have your phone number?"
"Sure, it's ..." I give it to her.
Click click click click... "Is your husband Michael?"

Yep... a shoe store. This is a random place, the sales clerk and I are the only souls in the building. Why do these things happen? I was in a completely new context, away from all who know me, in a moment of distraction while buying shoes for my kids.

"He's dead."


"I'm so sorry, I didn't know. I saw you're wearing a wedding ring."

Wow... now she doesn't know it, but she's actually hit a second sore spot (sort of.) My wedding ring is right back on my finger and I have no immediate plans to remove it. I didn't like having it off when I tried that for awhile... (another story, another time.)

"Would you like me to change it into your name?"
"Yes, please."
"Is the email different too?" she reads Mike's email address to me... the one I can't get into.

I give her my email address. She asks how he died, I tell her it was 15 months ago - pneumonia.

Suddenly, her spirits rise.
"Oh, well 15 months ago, that's a long time!"

[I liked her until that last part...]

"Have a great day!" :-)

I said, "you too," and I left.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

write it down...

I start now, right where I am.

My husband died 15 months and one week ago... he was 37, I was 34, our son was 4, and our daughter was 2 1/2.

Today I thought of something I first heard in high school. Somebody (I think it was the all-knowing all-powerful "THEY") said: teenage boys think about sex once every 10 seconds.

When my husband died, I thought about him, my sadness, his death, my loss, our fatherless children's loss, the whole rotten potato... pretty much constantly from the time I awoke until I fell asleep every day. In the beginning, I fell asleep only with the help of my anti-anxiety pill and an ambien to knock me out. Even as I slept I dreamed of death and loss - if my drug-aided sleep allowed me to dream at all!

So how is it now, 15 months later?

I think I've improved to the level of a teenage boy thinking about sex. I think about "IT" when I wake up, and most of the day every day. But there are moments when I'm deeply involved in a conversation, watching a movie, working on a project or listening to an interesting interview with Terri Gross or report on All Things Considered on NPR... and I find that I skip minutes (dare I say I may have gone an hour) without thinking about "IT."

When "IT" comes to my mind again, after a longer than usual (10 second) interval, sometimes the recurrence of my awareness of "IT" sends a jolt through me. It is THOSE thoughts that feel "out of the blue." Those are the thoughts that catch me off guard or are more likely to cause me to feel deeply pained. Those thoughts catch me by surprise, bring me to tears or slap me across the face when I am least prepared to be metaphorically slapped once again.