Monthly Archives: July 2020

Living in the Present

When you are grieving, you have no choice but to live in the present. Reliving the past, at least early on, is full of landmines. It is not helpful to rehash the way he died, the last goodbye, and all the “what ifs” that go along with that. You can’t help doing some of that, and it can be very painful. Eventually, you move on when you realize dwelling on painful memories does not help, and may even be inhibiting your recovery. And you know you can’t change the past.

            You can’t plan the future because you don’t know what it’s going to look like. You are too unsettled and too vulnerable to make major changes.

            But, just like living in the past and living in the future don’t work very well, living in the present as a newly single person can also be difficult. I was married to a handyman who could fix anything, and I got dependent upon his talents, and spoiled, I must admit. Now I find things around the house that really need his touch, but he is not here. A year ago I had a bad fall and cracked my pelvis. Jerry was there; he was always there for my mishaps. He couldn’t do anything medical for me, but he took me to Urgent Care, and he was just there. He became my caregiver, as needed – a role reversal for us – and I knew he would take care of me. Now? I go upstairs and a little voice tells me, Be careful on those stairs, don’t fall, whatever you do. There is no one to take care of you.

            I find myself thinking about all the things that could go wrong. What if we have a hurricane and one of those huge pine trees in my yard falls on the house? What if we lose power for days? I didn’t have these worries in the past. Jerry and I were a team, and we felt we could handle anything.

            Living here, in the house we shared for seven-plus years, it is easy to forget he is gone. I sometimes feel like he could walk in any minute, but I know he won’t. I am always thinking of things to tell him. Jerry, you are getting awfully out of touch these days.

            I was single for ten years after my first husband died. I became very independent, so my second marriage required major adjustments. I am older now, but I know I will get back to living alone comfortably again. These are the kind of thoughts I try to concentrate on.

            Jerry knew he was going to die first, and we both felt that I would be okay. And I will, eventually. But right now I am missing those blue eyes and that easy grin, and the comfortable feeling that everything is going to be all right.

            Goodbye, sweet prince. I will be okay, but I sure do wish you were here.

Unmasked

Three cloth face masks

dangle from a rod

in my laundry room,

colorful and whimsical,

ready to protect me and others

when I venture out into the world.

I don a mask of pink flowers

to match my outfit

and now, incognito, off I go

to the grocery store.

But where are all the other masks?

Few of my fellow shoppers

feel the need to cover up.

I hurry through the store,

avoiding the aisles where

the unmasked linger. They

do not see the sadness

in my eyes. We are not really

all in this together,

are we?

When Your Number Comes Up

My husband, Jerry, was a fan of numerology, a “science” like astrology, which goes all the way back to Pythagoras. Proponents believe numbers can affect personality or events. There is no evidence to support that idea, but it’s fun to think about. It’s like magic: a random number can have an influence on some aspect of our life, all of which is out of our control. Who doesn’t love the mystery of magic?

            Jerry’s favorite numbers were: 1, 11, 22, 28, 39 and 1957, and probably some others. I don’t think he ever played them in the lottery, although I encouraged him to. I would have liked to see them come up. His numbers were based on dates, mostly birth dates. When the clock would turn over to 10:10 or 5:55, any identical numbers, he would call out, “10:10, make a wish!” I don’t know where he got that but he got me doing it, too. A lot of wasted wishes, I’m afraid.

            My favorite number is 8, for my birthday. I am always amazed when I meet someone who has my birthday, July 8, and I remember who they are. There haven’t been many, and that surprises me, considering that the billions of people on earth may be born on only one of 365 (or 366 in Leap Year) days. But maybe date of birth is not something you commonly find out about a person until you get to know them better. So all those July 8th people are out there; I just haven’t met them yet! I have had very little in common with any of the ones I have met, so I guess that debunks the “science” of astrology, though I must confess I do read my horoscope occasionally. And I always read it on my birthday!

            Jerry had also heard that “444” was “Die die die!” and would repeat that when that number appeared. I wonder what he would have thought if he knew ahead of time that he was going to die on 02/20/2020. Although 2 was not one of his numbers, he would have nodded his head, and acknowledged that the powers that be had arranged that just for him. By the time he died he was long past such fantasies, however. I know he would have preferred 02/22/2022 as his day to fly away, as that would have given him two more years. But we don’t get to choose those things. I remember telling him that we could celebrate our fortieth anniversary this summer if he lived long enough. “But 39 is one of my numbers,” he said. Was he really saying he wanted to die before July 12th? I don’t think so – but now 39 is etched in our mutual history.

            I discovered recently that Jerry’s mother – who died when he was 8 – was born on February 20th. I don’t recall him ever mentioning that. I think he’d appreciate the eerie symmetry of it, though.

            I am more practical than Jerry. At the last place I worked, I was the only person who did not pay into the group lottery tickets for Megamillions, when the payout was huge. I know, it’s just a fun diversion, but it was just a waste of money to me. I would listen to my co-workers fantasize about what they would do with their winnings, but their numbers never came up. I liked to fantasize with them, however—-: “If I won the lottery, I would set up a foundation to give it all away. But of course the first thing I would do is quit this job.” (It wasn’t a very good job.) My father played the lottery every week well into his 90’s. He wanted to give the money to his kids, but I don’t recall him ever winning anything.

            Now the numbers we try to avoid are the ones that tell us how old we are. We say, “Age is just a number,” “You’re only as old as you feel,” “Life begins at 40, or 60 or…”

            One thing is for sure, like it or not: you will die when your number’s up.

Choose Love

I am reading a self-help book a friend gave me called Life Lessons, by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kennedy. They contend that, “Love… is the only truly real and lasting experience of life.” There is power in that statement; love is universal, something we can all experience.

            The book’s authors describe love as the opposite of fear. I had always thought the opposite of love was indifference. Perhaps my concept of love was too small. I did not see how its opposite would have to be larger, gripping, disabling. Fear of the unknown, fear of loss of control, fear of being open and vulnerable is what prevents us from living fully and finding the love we are all seeking.

            In this fractured world we live in, daily life so disrupted, so rife with anger and hate, it can be hard to be loving. We live with the threat of the coronavirus, and we are steeped with the mentality of “us vs. them.”

            How do we find the love in this world? We know it when we see it: a child raising money for a sick friend, people handing out food in a parking lot to their neighbors, choruses and orchestras who get together virtually, making beautiful music together. The music brings peace and joy to us, gifting us, loving us. We can love others by passing on what we have been given. Every act of kindness, no matter how small, can mean everything to someone who is suffering. We all have a story, and we will never know someone’s story unless we see them, and listen to them.

            So the answer to finding love is to be love. If we let fear disable us we will shrink from offering something of ourselves to another. But there is everything to gain if we can move beyond the fear.

            In my current state of early widowhood, I find myself vulnerable, ready to cry at every act of kindness I see. This morning I was touched to see an old man bringing flowers to his aerobics instructor. No longer able to join the class, using a walker while recovering from a broken ankle, he handed his flowers to her. That was love. She was touched, also, but I think I was the only one who felt tears come to my eyes. Others were smiling, but only I was crying.

            My husband was a man who often presented people he cared about with gifts large and small. He gave a rose plant to his cousin when she was battling breast cancer. After she died, he gave two rose plants to her daughter, who posts frequent pictures of the roses on Facebook. I am not sure she knows how much she is loving me with those pictures; I must tell her.

            She doesn’t know how I am affected, but I know she takes special care of those roses in honor of her mother and of Jerry’s gift. Since Jerry died, so many people have told me that they miss his cookies, or his raisin-craisin bread, or something else he gave them. They are saying that they miss him and his loving acts, and they loved him in return. After he realized it was not going to work for a fishing boat, he gave his kayak to a woman friend who says she thinks of him every time she uses it.

            It is not always easy to do the loving thing. But it is so worth it.