What do I want to hear?

That was Mimi's question in response to my last post, about how widows hate the question, "How are you?" -- especially when it's said How are you? with soulful eyes by someone we hardly know.

What do I want to hear?

Lots of folks have posted about this on the widow board, but I think I'll go ahead and put my answer here, for my nonwidowed friends, and because someone dear to Mimi has suddenly and terribly lost her dear husband.

First, let me tell you the two things I do NOT want to hear:

Do not tell me that this is God's will, or that my loved one is in a better place. God created us for love and glory, not for death and suffering. Death is an insult to God, a slap in the face of the Lord of Life. I had heard my priest preach on this a hundred times, but I never understood it, REALLY understood it, until I stood in the ICU watching my Nicholas die.

Do not tell me to call you if I need anything, anything at all. Don't even ask me if there's anything you can do for me. The newly bereaved is in a state of shock and can't think of a darn thing to say. And when I do think of things I need ... well, they seem so trivial in the grand scheme of things that I feel silly asking. Instead, simply tell me that you'll be over at 3:00 to take the kids to the playground or library. Simply come over with your rake and start cleaning the yard. Simply drop by with an extra gallon of milk or loaf of bread. And if I'm sitting in a daze, go ahead and start picking up toys or loading the dishwasher ... I won't be offended, really.

What do I want to hear?

Say, I'm sorry. I'm so so sorry. If you knew Nick, tell me what a good man he was. Speak of him often to me. Let me know that others remember him and miss him and carry him in their hearts. If you knew Nick, write something down for my boys to read later -- not the generic stuff about his character, but an anecdote or two, a cherished memory -- a story that will help Nick's sons know something about him, that will bring him to life for them.

If you are close to me, go ahead and ask How are you? and be prepared to hear more than you bargained for. But if we don't really know each other, if you haven't been part of my life ... well, there really is no way for me to answer you.

What do I want to hear?

Silence. The silence of love and compassion. A silence that allows both tears and laughter. A silence that doesn't need to be explained.

"How are you and the boys doing?"

Is there a widder anywhere who doesn't hate that question? Countless threads have been posted about what to say when people ask, with answers ranging from the sarcastic and bitter to funny and touching. The consensus is that you can be open with someone who really cares, who has been there for you. If the person is asking just to be polite or social, you can politely say, "Fine, thank you," or "It's so very hard," or (my personal favorite, which I used a lot the first year or two) "It's best not to ask."

But what do you say when the person is not part of your life, but is genuinely concerned and, in fact, deserves an answer?

Nick and I adopted both our sons; both the boys' birthfamilies have contacted me recently (if in the last 3 months is recent) wanting to know how we were. They want to know how I am doing, and how the boys are doing.

In each boy's first year of life, I sent a letter every month or six weeks to the birthmother, letting her know how her son was doing, sending pictures so she could see him grow. The second year, I sent a letter every 3 or 4 months, because the changes are slower and harder to describe. After that, I wrote to N's birthmother twice a year until Nick died. Then I just couldn't write anymore. Nick died just after S turned 2, so his birthmother received far fewer letters from me.

Now, they both want to know how we are doing. How do I begin to answer that? I've been postponing and procrastinating, because I simply don't know how to tell them what the last 2 years have been like. It finally occurred to me that I should simply share bits and pieces of my blog (this one and my blog with archived posts from the widow board).

So I'm going to go through and find the posts that tell the story... some of the bad, some of the good... posts that show my boys lives. Then I'll find pictures and give each birthmom specific anecdotes about her son. It won't be easy, but at least I now know what to do.

BTW, Let me know if you think of any specific posts I should include.

Back to the old routines

Ron has gone home. Thanksgiving break is over. The boys are in school.

The laundry and dishes and bathrooms and bills are waiting for me.


But first -- something I found on Mimi's blog!


'What will your obituary say?' at QuizGalaxy.com

Hey! A post went missing!

I just saw that my post from Saturday the 18th went missing! It's back, with apologies to Sharon for the delay of credit where credit is due!

Happy Thanksgiving!

In the spirit of the old family tradition -- which was never a tradition in my family -- let's go around the Web and each person name one thing you're grateful for.

Rule #1: No fair copying other answers, which is why I get to go first!
Rule #2: Choose just one thing, so that people who follow you still have things to choose from.

Okay? Okay. I could be all sappy and mushy. But I won't.

I am grateful for my computer, because it connects me to all of you and makes me feel less alone even in the wee hours.


Hooray for Sharon!

As for why? ... I guess that will have to be our little secret for now. Well done!

-- Pentha, really smirking snickering and smiling

Since Ron arrives today, it will be a few days before I post again. I trust you understand!

It's a beautiful day

The rain is over; the sun is shining; the world smells wonderful.

My house is getting clean; the boys are at school; Kohl's is having a big sale.

And Ron arrives tomorrow! He'll be here until next Friday, celebrating both Thanksgiving and his birthday with us.

My heart is full.

Hooray for Ali!

As for why? ... I guess that will have to be our little secret for now. Well done, dear!

-- Pentha, smirking snickering and smiling

Ain't it fine...

I just heard this old song by Alabama ...
She and I

She and I live in our own little world.
"Don't worry about the world outside,"
She and I agree.
She and I lead a perfectly normal life.
Ahh... but just because we aren't often seen socially,
People think we've got something to hide.
But all our friends know we're just a little old-fashioned,
She and I.

Oh, ain't it great,
Ain't it fine,
To have a love for someone that others can't find?
Ain't it wonderful to know all we ever need is just the two of us?
She and I,
So wonderful,
She and I.

She and I share with everybody else
The same wants, needs, and desires.
She and I save,
She and I pay on everything we acquire.

Ah... but just because we aren't often seen separately,
People think we live one life.

It's hard for them to see
How anyone could be as close as
She and I

Oh, ain't it great,
Ain't it fine,
To have a love for someone that others can't find?
Ain't it wonderful to know all we ever need is just the two of us?
She and I,
So wonderful,
She and I.

Ain't it great,
Ain't it fine...


That's all. Just breathing.
Deep breaths and restful moments.
Let the silence be.
Tender is the heart
and so Fragile are the dreams.
All I want is peace.

Today: Sunny and mild, high 70 degrees

Warm autumn morning,
The year is slowly dying --
But I am ALIVE!

Unanswerables #4

Will I ever get used to being blindsided by grief in its various manifestations? Will it always be able to sneak up on me? Will I ever not feel like a bruised and battered soul?

Vignette #1

I've decided it's time to clean out the closets; I need to clear out the clutter of my living space because it is reflecting and affecting the clutter of my inner space. I need to get rid of the detritus, both external and internal

Monday, I went to the walk-in closet that Nick and I shared. I finally threw out the last of his toiletries, his old x-rays, his travel kit. I cleared all my shelves, putting away summer clothes, pulling out winter ones, giving away things I'll never wear again.

I turned and looked at the few clothes of Nick's that were still there... I decided I really didn't need to keep his tennis t-shirts. And I started screaming at him, full-voiced screaming. I was three people:
  1. A woman screaming in rage and grief, with tears streaming down her cheeks: I hate you! I hate you! I hate you for dying! How could you do that? I hate you for leaving me! I need you! I hate you! I hate you! God DAMN you for leaving us!
  2. A woman tenderly remembering her husband, lovingly folding items for Goodwill, carefully placing his wedding tie in the garment bag with his wedding suit, caressing her cheeks with his slippers before tucking them into the garment bag (screaming at him all the time).
  3. A bystander chuckling at the dichotomy of the two women, shaking her head and wondering how the hell they co-exist.
Vignette #2

The next morning, S crawled into bed with me around 5 a.m., as usual. N joined us around 7 a.m., which he never does.

Mom, why does S always get into your bed?
Because it's nice and snuggly and warm!
You used to do that, remember?
I like it; I like having my boys here with me. We're all here feeling safe and loved. Right?
Not really.
What do you mean, Not really? Don't you feel safe and loved here?
Not everybody.
Oh... Not Daddy.

In my mind, I was back on the morning of August 9, 2004, waking up with N next to me, snuggling, safe and loved ... and telling him that his daddy was dead. And tears started streaming down my face, tears which I couldn't let the boys see... not at that moment of needing everyone to feel safe and loved.

Unanswerables #3

  • Where are all the new pants that I bought for N this season? They aren't in his drawer or on his floor; they aren't waiting to be washed or waiting to be folded.
  • How do I get S to wipe his bummy after doing his business? His panties are disgusting.
  • How does a grown woman learn to keep her bedroom picked up? I can't nag the boys when my room is as bad as theirs.
  • Why can I not keep my car keys in the same place all the time?
  • Why does N put empty juice bottles back into the refrigerator?
  • Where are the 2 dozen socks that match the ones in the pile on my bedroom floor? That is not an exaggeration -- I have 24 unmatched socks belonging to all three of us.
  • How do you match remote controls to the vehicles they control?
  • Where are all the pens I bought for my use alone?
  • What is the fascination with tape? Neither boy can leave a roll of tape alone... they pull it off by the yard and then complain when they need it and there is none.
  • How do I get N to focus on his schoolwork? He is so much smarter than his grades would indicate.
  • Sigh.... will I ever stop sighing?

Unanswerables #2

Why do so many widoweds suffer from low self esteem? If anything, we should be prouder, stronger, more secure. We have endured the most grievous loss imaginable, and yet we are still standing living breathing growing trying, we are moving adapting transitioning integrating. Dang we're good!

But look at my last post:
Was the Old Woman real, or did I merely want her to be?
Is the New Woman real, or am I simply taking the path of least resistance?

In two lines, I have denigrated both my life with Nick and my life since him, basically my whole adult life. Why?

My life with Nick was good, very good. We had a strong, but not perfect, marriage. Part of the grief process for me has been coming to terms with some of the shortcomings... his, mine, ours. But those shortcomings do not devalue all the wonderfulness we had together. Why do I then question the validity of who I was when Nick was alive?

My life since Nick has been ... words are insufficient ... But I know that I am okay, that my boys are okay. What else should matter? What invisible standards am I expecting myself to meet, so that I can't see where I am, but only where I am not?

Unanswerables #1

B in Boston wanted more from me after my brief post yesterday. Let's start with the biggie:

Who am I? I know that life is about learning, growing, changing. And all we widoweds know that we are not now who we were before our spouse died: How could we be, when half of our being was ripped away from us? (... and the two shall become one flesh. What happens to the One when one is gone?)

The woman I am now feels so very different from the woman I was when Nick was alive. Are we really the same person? Would he recognize me now? Would he fall in love with me if he met me now? How can I be so very changed? Was the Old Woman real, or did I merely want her to be? Is the New Woman real, or am I simply taking the path of least resistance?

Who am I? Who do I want to be? Who can I be?

I used to say, "Who does God want me to be?" Why don't I ask that question anymore?


That's all.

There are simply too many questions and not enough answers.