Wednesday, December 3, 2008

On being a widow

In books on becoming a widow, there is always quite a bit of attention paid to when to/whether to stop wearing your rings. Let me start by telling you that I loved to wear my wedding ring. Joe never took his off, literally, except one time when he was making meatballs with the kids (which I playfully made into a big deal and said it was a red flag, etc etc). Anyway, I often took mine off in the house and often couldn't find them (in the house) but never left the house without them on my finger. Us wearing our rings signified something to me, I know it's not important to a lot of people, but to us it was something. Wearing mine said "I belong to him" and him wearing his said "I belong to her" and that to us was special.

So I wore my rings for a while after Joe died. You may remember from an earlier post that I never had an actual wedding band, just an engagement ring and a wrap that I wore. When I was coming home for our anniversary last summer one thing I was going to do was buy a wedding band. Obviously I never did. Instead I wore Joe's wedding band for a while after the accident. It still breaks my heart to think of he irony in it.

Many times I looked at those rings and wondered, how am I going to stop wearing these? How can I do that? There were honestly times when I simply just did not think I had it in me to take them off. But it was not comforting to me to look at them either. It hurt deeply to think that the rings symbolized something that was gone. Not that the love was gone, but the commitment to each other ends with death. It's the 'til death do us part in the wedding vows. Death parted us. As a widow, something most of you have not experienced, I will tell you that it is not possible to maintain the love that lies within a marriage. I love Joe and I always always always will. I love him in a deep, personal, loving way that I truly cannot describe. But the "in-love-ness" goes away because being in love in its best form, as we were, is truly a two-way street. When one person is gone, the feelings go away too.

It is so sad that it makes me cry. I try now to remember how he loved me and it is becoming a memory now instead of a feeling.

So back to the ring topic. I stopped wearing my rings sometime last Spring. There became a point where I wanted to stop wearing them because I kept getting comments from people about "my husband". At the dump- "why isn't your husband doing this for you honey?";....from the electric meter guy when he saw me mowing the lawn on a 90 degree humid day "Your husband must LOVE you!";...from my doctor "why doesn't your husband shovel the snow?".....etc etc. I have a million of them. Every time I was faced with these comments I just wanted to shrink away into nothingness. A few times I wanted to yell at the people and tell them to go f themselves (sorry m & d). But ultimately I thought that if I took the rings off people would know I was not married and the comments would stop.

I was wrong about that.

It seems that society wants or at least assumes a woman of my age with small children to be married. It is weird for me to be thinking of these things. I look at the whole world differently now. I am unmarried. I am a single mother. Both of those things are huge concepts for me to wrap my mind around. I was thrust into the situation in such a sudden way. There was no deterioration of my relationship with Joe. There was no warning. There was no downward slope. It was just... gone in an instant.

As I said, taking the rings off did not stop the husband comments. Just a few weeks ago I had a fence put up in my yard to contain my beastly dog. I called the guy that installed it, I met with him to plan the project, he gave me the estimate, we scheduled it, he dealt with ME. And when it was all done he turned to me and said "Does your husband like it?". Yes, the world assumes I am married. It's just something I have to get used to. I know it's not meant to be mean by anyone, but it hurts sometimes just the same.

I still find that my thumb reaches to my ring finger every now and then and I have a flash of "where's my ring?" and then I quickly come back to reality. I suppose that will decrease as time goes on. I still look at my hand sometimes with a sadness that seems kind of silly, but really the sadness comes from what the ring symbolized that is no longer there.

However I can honestly say now that the sight of my bare finger also gives me other feelings these days. On occasion it does not make me feel sad at all to see no ring, it makes me feel like I have perservered; that I am getting somewhere and I am not living in the past. Sometimes instead of focusing on just the one finger I look at my whole hand and think of what I have done in the past year in terms of taking care of the things that Joe would have if he were here. I think that THESE bare hands pushed the lawn mower all summer, THESE bare hands shoveled all winter long in the snowiest winter in 100 years, THESE bare hands take care of all that my children need me to take care of. And that is the best part for me. It is not what I would choose for my kids lives, but they are seeing the world from a different perspective and there is some good in that. Especially for Alyssa. I want her to know and feel like she can handle her whole life and everything in it for herself, without a ring on her finger.


Katie said...

wow robin.
that was awesome.

Anonymous said...

I always find inspiration in your experiences and thoughts. This one is particularly fantastic. YOU are doing it, through the struggle, and being an incredible model for your kids.

Anonymous said...

Everytime I read your post I have this great feeling of hope, a good feeling. I too am a single mom of two doing everything on my own for my children. You give me strenght.

Thank you!

Elaine Williams said...

Wonderful post. And it is true, we grow and learn and find ourselves to be someone we might never have expected to be. And our children learn too by watching us in this growth. Best of luck to you.