Widowhood

Last week, I zoomed with my grandson on his birthday, and I asked him how he felt about being 20. “Nanna,” he replied, “I don’t know if I’m ready to take on all the aspects of being an adult—things like paying taxes and all that.” He swooped his hand through the abundant locks of hair that fell over his forehead, as if to rid himself of such thoughts.

“Well, Galileo,” I responded, “the good news is that you aren’t a teenager any more, but adulthood in most ways begins at 21, so you aren’t an adult yet either. Maybe you could think of this as a grace year, a year to be neither.” He seemed to like that idea. 

I have been called upon many times in my life to reinvent myself. My friend Gerri says I have more iterations than anyone else that she knows. I don’t have a way to judge, but I’m sure we all in one way or another, willingly or unwillingly, suddenly or gradually, have changed identities, more or less aware of what is transpiring.

I have started new careers three times, ended long term relationships, married, divorced, become a mother, and came out to the world as loving a woman. A few years ago, I even started this blog and adopted a new name as a way to make manifest changes that were brought on by aging. I had lost my mother, completed my doctorate, retired, and given up my beloved Maine home that we were no longer able to care for properly. I found myself living with Rosemary in a condo on the Connecticut shore, feeling a little bewildered about who I had become.

But this latest reinvention feels more difficult, more forced upon me than earlier identities. Roseemary’s death did not result from anything I did or didn’t do; nevertheless, it has required adjustments on my part.

I have had Rosemary’s wedding ring resized and I wear it above my own. I have notified State retirement and Social Security to stop sending her money every month—tasks far more difficult than they should have been, perhaps because of COVID, but also just because organizations seem to have sunk more deeply into bureaucratic behavior than ten years ago when I did these tasks for my mother.

With difficulty, I have refrained from telling the first stranger I encountered after Rosemary’s death—a lovely young woman who chatted with me in line at the eye glass store—that my wife had just died.

I have cried at night, alone in my room.

I have fought with the credit card company when, unannounced, they closed the joint credit card we both used, because I was just a card holder and not a joint member as I had believed.

I have written about half of the thank you notes I want to write to generous and kind folks who remembered Rosemary in various ways. (Another friend who recently lost her wife, tells me I have six months to accomplish this task, and, given the number of people who honored Rosemary and supported us in so many ways, it may take that.)

And I have for the first time written Widow next to marital status on a form. I wasn’t at all prepared. My breath caught and the world went silent.

I am still too submerged in grief to know who this widow person is, too stunned by Rosemary’s death to look further ahead than the next week, and too troubled trying to sort out where to live to give thought to who I am now.

Every so often, however, in the middle of some innocuous action—making an appointment to get the car serviced or putting a piece into the jigsaw puzzles that I work on every night on my sister’s coffee table—I catch a momentary glimpse of the future, not of where I will live, nor what I might do, but an inkling of the person I am becoming. Perhaps, like Galileo, I could use a grace year, a year between wife and widow. A year to just be curious.

8 thoughts on “Widowhood

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  1. Brynna, I am trusting that the credit card company did the right thing by you. Taking your time sounds self-loving. Some things don’t need immediate answers. Sending you love and care, and gratitude for how you share yourself with us.

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    1. Cheri, Thanks for all your sweet comments. I was really stuck because I had no where to move the automatic payments I had set up to come out of that credit card. I had another card, but it was back in Brooklyn, where I had left it when, at Thanksgiving, we unexpectedly left for far longer than we planned. And you can’t, I discovered, add new cresit cards unless you have the code on the back. (Family and friends stepped in to help, thank goodness.) The best the credit card company could do was declare my other card in Brooklyn and send me a new card for that account to my sister’s house in Connecticut, where I was staying. They said I should have it by Monday or Tuesday. Since both our supposedly “joint” account and my account with the card in Brooklyn were both with Chase Bank, I had hoped they would just reopen the “joint” card in my name.

      Here is another even more frustrating story with Chase. Rosemary and I started refinancing our mortgage with Chase in September and in January, they finally had the closing on a Friday afternoon (by this time I had asked our attorney to get POAs and attend the closing in our stead, since it was clear Rosemary wasn’t going to be able to be there and I was too busy caring for her). The only reason that they even had it then was that I had contacted Jamie Dimon’s office (The CEO of J P Morgan) and complained.

      So, after five months, on a Friday afternoon, the bank still didn’t have the right paperwork at the closing. Rosemary died the next day and I had to start all over with the refinancing. I am still waiting. It is March.

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  2. I think it’s a good idea to take a ‘time out’ and just relax and don’t do anything. Get yourself back on balance whatever time that takes. Then make decisions. Things will come to you In time what to do about your next decision. Don’t rush it. I’ll be thinking and praying for your health and healing.
    Grief, is difficult and painful. Just take one day at a time.
    Love t you,
    Veryl

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  3. Thanks as always for your writings. This was an especially hard one as it related to Rosemary’s death and your new status as a widow! Even the credit card/mortgage dealings are hard!! But there are many sweet remembrances as well including your wearing Rosemary’s ring! We hope that you are doing ok – grief goes in cycles. Keep us updated on your feelings/decisions. Sending lots of love you, Carolyn – and Leslie

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  4. Brynna – As always your insights are helpful, particularly in planning for the future. Of course I can’t plan for pain – but perhaps I can make the future easier because of your experiences.

    I am married now – to my long time friend Diane – and we are in our 80s. We’re in fair health right now but we’ve drafted our obituaries, written our wills and living wills – every thing we know to do to prepare for death except grief.

    I feel buoyed by your glimpse of an unknown future – and I know that your creativity as well as your curiousity will see you through. Pat

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