Sunday, May 28, 2006

Dispatch from Widowland

This widowhood thing is exhausting. I realized last night, in those dreary waking hours, that grief is a lot like trying to hold water in your bare hands. No matter how tightly you clench your fingers, its slips through. That process is natural; it’s inevitable. It’s foolish to try to hold on to water using only your two hands.

Grief is like that, lately. I’m feeling—in addition to the sorrow, loneliness, and emptiness—a lot of pressure to try and hold on to my husband, to keep him with me and my daughter, to keep him in other people’s thoughts as well. Someone mentioned to me a novel called A Brief History of the Dead, where, if I understand it correctly, the dead exist in a kind of shared limbo-world as long as someone on earth remembers them. These days, I feel that burden of memory, as if I alone am responsible for preserving him. As if only I can keep him alive, somehow, by holding on ever more tightly. But like the water, he is slipping away.

Since his death, I’ve immersed myself in the routine aspects of life: caring for my daughter, teaching my classes, obsessively tidying my house. I’ve also avoided (not intentionally, but still) some of the friends with whom I have the best memories of my life before. Instead, I spend most of my social time with newer friends and colleagues, who scarcely knew my husband. For them, and, in their presence, for me as well, he exists primarily as a narrative, a point of reference.

By staying away from those deeper friends, I think I’ve fooled myself into thinking I’ve stopped time. As long as I’m not there, I can pretend we’re all in a deep freeze, and that his death is still the biggest thing in their lives, as it is in mine. But I’ve had several rude awakenings: two of my dear friends are contemplating a move overseas; two others have bought a house and begun the procreating. I’m not stupid or selfish enough to imagine that my friends’ lives won’t go on without my husband, but it hurts to come up against the truth of the cliché: life goes on. I can’t stop it; I can’t hold it.

I don’t want him to be forgotten. I don’t want to be the only one who thinks of him, misses him, and realizes what a wonderful man has been lost. I don’t want it to be easy for any of us to move on, even though I am tired of hurting.

In the basement I have box upon box of his things: scrapbooks, notebooks, photos of places and people only he could identify. Toys he saved from his childhood because they meant something special. And my daughter and I will never know what the toys meant, who those people are, what he treasured about his own memories. I’m not going to get the full tale of his cross-country road trip—we were always too busy to dig out the photos. I never got to hear so many of his stories about his life before me.

I had started to deal with losing his present and his future. Now I am mourning his past, as well.


At 7:57 AM , Blogger Badger said...

A beautiful post, Dorcasina. You're in my thoughts, as always.

At 1:42 PM , Blogger ABDmom said...

This is so beautifully written. While it's not the same thing AT ALL, I remember going through a similar process after my grandma died (and still feeling it at times)--finding pictures and letters in her Bible and realizing I'd never know "the story" behind them. Wishing that I had learned how to sew from her (she made beautiful quilts); that tradition is now gone from my family. She was my link not only to a different generation of my family, but also to our culture, and I could feel that slipping away when she passed. I know that is a large reason why I wrote the diss that I wrote--because it's been one way to keep her with me, to keep that connection.

Now that the diss is ending and I don't really know what is next for me,in terms of a project, I don't know what to do. This is what kept her alive for me for years. How do I do that now? I don't know, and it's really hard.

I don't know if it makes you feel any better or not to know somebody else struggles with this kind of issue, but I told you about it anyway. :) I love you and am thinking of you, always.

At 6:26 AM , Blogger OTRgirl said...

You made me cry. The loss of every story you never heard is so true as well as the loss of future stories together. And the reality that no one else in the world shares your exact pain. No one knew him the way you did.

That was one thing that helped with Mom's death, I could talk with my brother and sister and know it was very similar. Widowhood seems profoundly harder. I wish I could give you a hug.

At 7:12 AM , Blogger snickollet said...

So good to hear from you, Dorcasina. When I read your posts, I realize that I'm feeling things I didn't know were inside me--you express thoughts I have that I'm not even aware of.

My situation creates a lot of mourning of the future. I try not to get in that trap because it's a waste of time. I don't know for sure what the future holds. But it still scares me sometimes.

For what it's worth, I may not have known your husband, but I think of him every day, along with you and your daughter.

At 9:18 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your words really hit home.

Glad you are writing.

I've read your site often, but never commented. Thank you for sharing, it has helped a lot to the folks that read you I think, and I'm wishing good things for you and your daughter.

At 7:55 PM , Blogger The other me said...

There was never enough time, so many questions unanswered and things never said. I am feeling hat you are feeling, but as a daughter not a wife, my heart hopes yours finds some comfort soon. Helen.


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