As I sat at dinner the other night with a friend, I began to put into words what I will call the other side of widowhood.
We were discussing relationships, yes, the male/female kind, and how often times there could be misconceptions of perfection.
My journey is so different from many of the widows I know, or some with whom I have an acquaintance. However, I would bet that my journey mirrors many, but we don’t talk about it.
Let’s step back a bit. My teen/high school years sucked. No other way to say that. However, I fell head over heels with a guy I met in a parking lot. That is not a joke. On Friday nights, a handful of us ‘smarter than the rest’ would head to a local mall, as it was car night. Car night can give some girls all the right feels – and I’m one of them.
He was older than me, went to a different high school, heck, he even lived in another state. That being said, the parking lot sat just about on the border of my state and his. Nobody I hung out with knew him, and I was so good with that. Like I said, high school sucked.
I was 16 going on 17; he was 19 going on 20. He was 100% in. 100%. We fell in love, and I don’t say that lightly. We made plans. He had eyes for no one else, I had eyes for no one else. We were young, in love and OH SO immature. Gosh, hindsight can just be a beautiful thing sometimes.
He joined the Army, and after boot camp, went to Germany. Okay – he came home for Christmas, and we looked at rings. Life was beautiful. This was my reality. I was 100% in, he was 100% in. Then, he told me that his brother in law had pulled some strings, and his assignment was going to be different. ~ screech ~ wait, just a second, you just totally changed our reality. Or, so it seemed. Remember, the entire 16 part? I remember crawling into my dad’s lap (the only time I ever remember being able to do that) and just. Crying. Anyhow, he left for the new assignment. I fled. Because, well, running away fixes everything.
None of the next several months are relevant. We talked on the phone, I begged him to change his mind, duh, you cannot do that in the Army. My actions deeply hurt him.
I went home, and wrote him a very long letter. I never heard back. I was broken. I knew I’d made a stupid, dumb, (by then) 17-year-old decision.
A few months later, I met Ted. Here’s where you can read all about the rainbows and unicorns. But. The reality is, our life was far from rainbows and unicorns.
Now, here’s the tricky part. Ted is gone, and there is no way, not one little chance that in a public setting, which this blog is, will I discuss, nor divulge the ‘ugly’ parts of our marriage. I sat at lunch one day with a guy I met at church, and he asked me a legitimate question about Ted, and my answer was – ‘we had some pretty okay middle years’. Or, as my oldest son once said, he was ‘40% a good husband’. I can stand by that. Now, let me say, that there is NOT ONE DAY that goes by that I ‘regret’ anything. Could I have done things differently, sure. Who can’t say that? Remember the rainbows and unicorns. I choose to do so.
Now, yup – we were married 35+ years. Yup. We had six children. Sounds pretty close to perfect doesn’t it? When you meet me, you think – wow. A successful marriage. Okay, sure. If you choose to see it that way.
But, here’s the meat of this blog post. It wasn’t. It was broken, it was hard, it was painful, it was bone crushing at times. It was separation, it was a stand-off reconciliation, followed by illness and death.
His death was, in many ways, relief. That is a sad state of affairs, when, upon the death of your spouse, you feel a sense of relief. Was there grief? Oh. Let me tell you. 100%, yes. Grief for the ‘should have been’ Grief for, well. The should have been.
I remember attending a grief support group, and at the end, we’d all hold hands, we’d say our loved ones’ name, and say I miss you. One meeting, I thought, hmm, well, I don’t. That gave me the courage to begin to see my widowhood in a different light.
You see, I don’t have to say his name. Along with that, I don’t have to feel guilty for NOT saying his name. I don’t have to hold someone to his standard, or compare A to B. Do I see him every day? Of course. I have six of his children. Does that mean I still grieve over the ‘should have been’? Actually no.
I am not the 17-year-old girl who ran away from a dream. I am not 53-year-old woman who became a widow. I’ll even go on record and say there are many, many days Ted doesn’t even cross my mind. You may think that is horrid, but from my side of the story, it isn’t.
I’m not even the 55-year old woman who walked into this relationship. The beautiful, hard, mysterious things I learned through, and from that, have shaped me to who I am today.
Perhaps you, too, see life from the other side of widowhood, please, my friend, don’t feel guilty. Don’t be sad that yours ‘looks’ different than theirs. Our journeys shape and mold us. We can choose to learn and grow, or, well. Not.
If someone crashes into your world, and you believe it could be ‘good’, then go in with a pair of 2’s, even if you don’t have an ace kicker, even if you lose. If you risk nothing, you lose it all anyhow. We ALL have junk. Anyone that says they don’t, they are 100% wrong. However, life is a beautiful mess, find that person that will give you 100%. I used to refer to that as chapter 2. I don’t anymore – for me, when that person shows up who can take my 100%, and give me his 100%, it will be an entirely new story, because I’m not who I was, neither are you.
Go write your story, my beautiful friend. As I like to say, no retreat, no surrender.
Oh, and before I forget. I never saw ‘him’ again. My high school sweetheart. However, he did go to my house one day. I wasn’t home. My mom, she told him I was seeing someone else.
My story isn’t over. I will continue, step by step, with Grace.