I just finished reading “Braving The Wilderness” by Bren’e Brown. Her book speaks to the Wilderness as the state of Civility in America after the 2016 Presidential election. But that’s another blog post.
My Wilderness is being a widow. New territory in my life as of 6 years ago. Bona-fide member of “The Dead Husband Club”. It probably sounds crass, but it is the ugly truth. It is my reality. For the better part of a decade I have been stumbling around, trying to make my way through a terrain that is both rough and lonely. No one really understands what it is like until you have gone through it. I take this a step further by saying that it is unique to the women, the widows that find themselves without their mate. Why? you may ask..don’t men find themselves in the same situation? Here is the bitter truth. Not much has changed in the last 50 years in regards to men being the determinate in who they go out with. If (God forbid) a woman makes the first move, it is viewed by them as being too forward..that is if the woman is of a certain age. You see when a man has white hair they are distinguished, women not so much…younger women are attracted to older men and visa verse so there goes my dating pool. POOF. That and the fact that women outnumber men. When I go out, and this is true with most of us, the first thing we do is look at his ring finger. Not always telling, but a good start. Another rub is that it seems everyone is coupled up. I go on vacation, couples; church, couples; bars, couples; paired up people everywhere. But I digress.
It’s difficult to put yourself out there. I’m not a loner but I need to start frequenting Singles events. Oh yeah, for older singles. That and taking the opportunity to be with some of my single girlfriends close to my age. Please don’t get me wrong, not looking for a husband, just a companion. I don’t mind my own company, but come on, a little bit goes a long way….When people ask me if there is anything they can get me, I want to quit answering “yeah, a man”.
Some time ago (it seems like a life time) I was given a collection of poems and short stories entitled “When I am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple”. It was close to my 50th birthday, when my dear friend Janine presented it to me. I read it and tears came to my eyes thinking of my Mother and how as time went by the signs of age were taking their toll on her.
October 1st it was time to say goodbye to my sweet friend Janine. After a battle with cancer, as is so often the case, she lost. We met 20 years ago when we were both selling real estate and worked in the same office on Centre St. in Portage. We hit it off right away because we made each other laugh over silly things (practically everything that came out of our mouths). We “got” each other. To say we were friends is a vast understatement. We were cheerleaders, confidants, comedians for one another. We laughed and cried, shopped, decorated, drank vodka tonics. If her husband Andy was home she would tell him to make me one of his famous Bloody Marys. I shared EVERYTHING with her and she NEVER judged, she understood. On one of our shopping trips we were in Steketee’s and saw a contemporary rooster she loved, I went back and bought it for her. It moved from house to house with her, (we were a lot alike in that respect), until she decided I should have it, not too long ago. It sits quietly on my kitchen cupboard and brings back memories of our time together.
I still have that book and I took it out to leaf through one more time. When I was 50 it was fun reading through and imagining what we would be like when we were old. It’s the optimist in all of us. Janine I will miss you every day. We never got the chance to grow old together. You are my forever friend..
There’s no umbrella now to separate you from eternity.
Meanwhile an army marches behind you in the rain.
Your friends are dead or dying. You’re a survivor with all the loneliness of survivorship.*
*Excerpt from “When I am an Old Woman I shall Wear Purple”