Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Right after Andrew died I started saying that I felt like half of my own self was gone. We were so connected and the feelings brought about by his absence were beyond peculiar -- I definitely did not feel any sort of normal. Eight months on, I still feel strange most days -- as if I'm continually forgetting to do something important, but can't begin to remember what it is.  It's a very weird way to go through life.

People keep telling me how lucky we were to have shared such a deep and profound love. And I suppose that's true. It would surely be torturous to exist day after day in a loveless, or even tepid sort of relationship. Though our marriage went through the normal rocky periods, we were unfailingly smitten with each other, and so always managed to find our way through. I'm sorry to think that there are probably many people who never get to experience that deep connection with another person.  I'm sure I should be feeling incredible gratitude for the time that we had. But right now I'm not feeling so grateful. I'm feeling greedy. I'm greedy for more delicious years with my husband. I'm greedy for his humor, his humanity, and his kindness. Greedy for his great looks, his fearlessness, and his beautiful mind. But I'm mostly greedy for his conversation. Oh, the conversation! Seventeen years of the funniest, most intelligent, insane, and interesting conversations possible. This will come as no surprise to anyone who spent even a small amount of time with him.  Wherever he was was usually the most interesting place to be.

Andrew was intensely curious about the world -- he quizzed people endlessly about their lives, and their thoughts, and he especially loved to provoke their reactions! He read constantly and was incredibly well informed about subjects he found interesting. He could debate anyone and generally would. My sister-in-law once became uncomfortable, thinking we were fighting -- I had to say "No, this is just how we talk! We're animated, we debate, we argue." But the debates were never angry or hostile - they were full of passion and love and vigor, and life.  The part of our day I most enjoyed was evening, after work and dinner. The boys would finish their dinners and head off to play -- Andrew and I would stay at the table for as long as possible, finishing our wine and just talking about everything and nothing at all. Such bliss.

Our conversation -- constant, thrilling, hilarious, ridiculous, inspiring, and never, ever boring -- was our unique way of being in the world together. Now, I find that I go long stretches each day without ever speaking a word. The silence in the evenings after the boys are asleep can be be positively deafening. The conversation has disappeared with my husband -- I've lost half my own self, and don't think I'll ever be quite whole again.

Around our table -- the site of so much great conversation.

Saturday, August 3, 2013


The challenges of widowhood are many – emotional (obviously), practical (my contractor/handyman might as well keep a room here – he doesn’t even listen to my messages anymore, he just picks up the phone immediately to find out what new household calamity has befallen me). But the hardest challenge thus far is figuring out how to keep my children on an even keel. My little one seems well – he requires only cuddles and kisses and smiles, which I’m happy and able to bestow upon him daily, but my older son is a different matter. Jack is eight. He was very close to his dad and is very like his dad – highly intelligent, creative, complex, and stubborn as the day is long. As Jack said to me yesterday, “I make my own decisions.”  Children don’t experience grief the way adults do. They may feel sadness, but quickly compartmentalize it and move on. They have to, to survive. But they still manifest their grief, just in different ways. 

Jack has always been a challenge to parent (not always a negative, mind you). He was a very colicky baby. Friends used to shake their heads in sympathy as Andrew and I would use every tool we could think of to soothe his cries. I remember a legendary evening at a friend’s party when Jack cried from the time we arrived until we finally took our leave 3 hours later, after failing to comfort him. He cried for 3 hours straight! And we tried everything – feeding, jiggling, walks around the block - nothing could ease this poor child’s discomfort.  This was a pretty regular occurrence, but as new parents we really didn’t know any better – aren’t all babies like this?  When sweet and contented Ewan came along we realized just how very different children can be. As he grew, we realized what a smart and fascinating and complicated kid Jack is. He’s very sensitive; he feels things deeply and reacts with strong emotions. His mind is quick, and you can’t get anything by him. He can be bossy and difficult, but his heart is like a soft and squishy peach.

Lately, Jack and I are butting heads pretty good. I remember reading an author (possibly David Sedaris, but can’t remember) talking about how his parents didn’t parent so much as manage their children. I’ve since tried to be conscious to avoid this, but I admit I don’t always succeed. I find I do manage them – “get your shoes on, get your teeth brushed, we’re late”.  A common refrain.  And frankly, Jack needs a lot of managing. But he’s also a little boy who’s just lost his father, and I’m becoming painfully aware of the need to do better by him.

So we’re getting some help. Overdue, maybe, but I’ve never been to a therapist before. Andrew was always fairly anti-therapy. His thinking was, life is difficult – you just get on with it, and stop bitching. His father went through the Great Depression and World War II. That generation was all about getting on with it. When you’re watching your friends get blown to bits, you understand life and death on a different level and you don’t spend too much time feeling sorry for yourself. I always admired Andrew’s ability to face difficult situations and just get on with it.  Even during his illness he never once asked “why me”. Wrong question, he said. Just, how do we address it?  His bravery in the face of losing everything was remarkable, even to the end. But now that he’s gone, I’m struggling. Andrew was exceptional with Jack. I am less so. My greatest fear is having one of my sons grow distant from me.

I recently visited with a very nice family therapist who gave me some great, specific tools to use with Jack. He’s also going to meet Jack soon and try to get a better idea of what’s going on in his head.
These are things I never thought I would have to face. When I was married, I often said “ I wouldn’t ever want to be a single parent – wow, it’s so hard with two parents, can you imagine doing this on your own?” And I meant it. But life is not always kind, and here I am – desperate to help my child navigate life without a father, but with little real knowledge about how to do this. Unfortunately for my children, my all-consuming grief at losing the dearest person in my life has kept me from doing much beyond getting through days. But I hear Andrew’s clear voice in my head telling me to get on with it. Find a way to survive. Find a way to give extra support and love and attention to our children, who don’t yet have the tools. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

About a House

Today the sale of our Maple Avenue house became official.  Those who know us and have spent time at our house understand why it was impossible for me to live there after Andrew had gone. His presence was huge, and the emptiness in the house was more than I could reasonably bear. Though we owned the house for a mere seven years, it’s difficult to overstate what the place meant to us. This 110-year old, Victorian fun house on the river was our absolute refuge and sanctuary. We arrived here a bit battered from too many hard years in the city, ready to start a new beginning in the countryside. We had a 9-month old infant and very few belongings to fill the many, many sunny rooms. Over time, and with a lot of paint and sweat we made it our own beautiful nest – a love letter to each other.

Our babies were raised here, among the tomatoes, cucumbers, and watermelons. They learned to walk and swim and play here. They learned to identify various flower types in the rambling gardens I planted, and how to distinguish the weeds from the seedlings.  They helped us plant the birthday roses, mother’s day roses, the flowering shrubs and fruiting trees – so many gifts of love from my husband, too numerous to count. They helped their father hammer and saw and weld things in the beautiful old carriage house that bore the inscriptions of previous owners from a lifetime ago. And we all delighted in the secret places and spaces the house revealed to us. We cooked and ate delicious food here, we made cozy fires in the winter, and swam like fish in the summer. We entertained many, many friends here -- friends that we are so privileged to know, and who took care of us through Andrew’s illness in ways I never could have dreamed of.

We loved each other passionately, talked endlessly, laughed and cried, and rarely ever fought in this house. I helped my beautiful, young husband make his journey to the next life in this house. And as I watched him leave us, I gave a tiny prayer of thanks that his last years here had been so very, very happy.