I never expected to be a widow. I was a working mom and wife. My kids had both gone off to college. My husband and I discussed different retirement scenarios. It was going to be easier now. We could relax a bit. Not work as hard and maybe do some traveling.
It did not work out that way for us.
One week after we dropped our youngest off at college, my husband was gone.
He would not be coming back no matter how unreal and how unfair and wrong this all was. He was gone and I would have to come to grips with that, eventually.
I ran away.
After a few doses of reality around the holidays that first year, I was anxious to avoid the whole thing. I did not take out the holiday decorations that Christmas. Opening the boxes of ornaments and dealing with all those memories was too much for me. Seeing happy families decorating their homes gave me literal pain in my heart. I love baking Christmas cookies and sending out cards but avoided those favorite seasonal activities as well.
Instead, I booked a cruise to the Caribbean Islands with my 2 sons for the last week of 2015.
I stumbled through the first year continuing to avoid holidays as much as I could. Sad moments came anyway but during high trigger occasions for big waves of grief, I planned ahead and made attempts at new memories. New experiences lead to unexpected opportunities and even moments of happiness and joy. That is where I wanted to be. Making new memories became my mantra.
We always were a bit untraditional when it came to Thanksgiving. One year we flew from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas with some friends. That was before kids.
We often went away. There was the year we spent the weekend in New York City and took the boys to the Macy’s Parade, saw them blow up the balloons the night before and ate dinner at the all you can eat Brazilian restaurant. One year we went to Washington D.C. where we did sightseeing, ice skating and again ate at a Brazilian restaurant. Another year in Connecticut and Thanksgiving dinner was at Bobby Flay’s restaurant at Mohegan Sun hotel and casino where we spent a few nights with the kids. We never really liked doing the whole turkey thing but we enjoyed our holidays as a family.
When living my day to day life, I try so hard to appreciate what I have. I walk each morning with my dog and praise God for all the gifts in my life. Once I do that, I am able to embrace the day and find moments that make me smile.
The way my puppy wants to play in the morning. That first taste of hot coffee. Seeing the water at the beach. The first kindergartener who smiles at me and wants to share their stories. Putting my head on a soft pillow at the end of the day in a nice warm house.
I have been super tired lately. But I get up and walk that little dog every morning on the beach near my house. I am so lucky and blessed to live here. I begin to think about all the good in my life. My health. The health of my sons.
And of course I start each day being very grateful for the new love in my life.
I loved being married and did not like being lonely after my husband died. I missed having a significant partner in my life. Someone to share time and meals and to love.
As a Kindergarten school teacher, I honestly don’t have an opportunity to interact with many available bachelors.
Several friends who had tried on line dating, had gone on a few dates and met some nice men. I was told it was fun but also like a full time job. You fill in some blanks and make a profile. Upload a picture or two. It can start out free, but eventually you probably end up spending some money to join for a few months.
So one day, after my husband had been gone for almost 3 years, I thought I would take a look. I never thought I would actually do anything, but I was curious.
I filled in a few blanks and put myself out there – in cyber space.
Not much happened right away. I wasn’t trying very hard, just looking.
Then I heard from a guy who lived nearby. I think we may have given each other the thumbs up.
After typing a few messages back and forth we decided to meet for dinner in a local restaurant. That was my first date in over 30 years. I wore a nice dress and we both ordered hamburgers. I thought he was quite handsome!
He walked me to my car and said he’d like to see me again. I do believe I gave him a kiss. This could be fun!
Date 2 was great and I never felt the need to go back to that dating site. What an awesome invention this on line dating!
The weekend before this Thanksgiving my sons were coming home and my cousin and her family would be here to visit. We were busy making plans, getting food and setting up beds for company.
He asked me if I would like to have dinner in the restaurant where we had our first date. It is local and they have a great happy hour special of oysters for $1 each. That Friday after work I was excited to go out and unwind.
Wasn’t I surprised to find my neighbor and friends at the bar for happy hour! We shared a few stories and some happy hour specials while waiting for our seat in the restaurant. After our raw oyster appetizer we were welcomed to our booth.
This restaurant posts a riddle on the blackboard in the dining area. My fiancé is always curious about the riddle and often can figure it out. This evening, it just so happened that I was facing the riddle so I was prompted to read it…
“What binds two people yet only touches one?”
I could not think of the answer.
Then he placed a small black box on the table.
That was the answer.
An engagement ring
I was and am so excited!
He told me he had asked my sons earlier that day. I cried.
I said “Yes!”
I shared with friends and family immediately. Our people are happy for us and believe that we deserve to be happy. Who doesn’t!!
We will be happy and make a new chapter in our lives. We have both been through a lifetime of memories. Some bad but some really good too. It is strange to start a new life now but funny how it just seems right. When it is time, it is time.
Thinking about the future, I have a lot on my mind. I am thinking about my job, doing some home renovations, consolidating our homes, buying a new home together somewhere, retiring one day, traveling, planning a wedding, a honeymoon, kid’s graduations, and more.
But for today, I got myself back on the stair master for 30 minutes. After sleeping in, we enjoyed a relaxing Sunday with a late breakfast. With no pressing engagements, the idea of putting up some decorations was planted.
We decorated the tree together. We shared a few decorations but mostly we are starting fresh. The Christmas tree has white lights and white ornaments on it. Most of the other decorations are still in the boxes. It was nice to have help decorating this year and interesting to see how many familiar items look a bit different from past years.
I hope that my story is encouraging for people walking in my same widow shoes. I know when I first heard of other widows getting married after loss I thought for sure that would never be me. Moving forward was the way I went and searched for ways to keep me busy and not wallowing in my grief.
I took a risk and am so happy that I did. Whether it be traveling or moving somewhere new, or meeting some new friends, just keep moving forward and focusing on the good things in life.
To read more about my wedding and honeymoon and life after loss –
Read more about my grief journey and finding love again in my novel:
“a memoir and detective story”
“I couldn’t put this book down”
A story of hope and resilience”