Pearly Whites


When I was a child in upstate New York, my parents and I had occasional ice cube wars, waging battles up and down our hallway.  We tossed ice cubes down each other’s backs, laughing wildly.  It would end when we were winded, grinning ear-to-ear and out of ice.  I don’t know the genesis of these periodic wars, but I suspect they only occurred during hot summer days as our home lacked air-conditioning.

I remember my father smiling at another event about this time – in relief.  I had been sent to an orthodontist to determine whether I needed braces or not.  The issue was that my upper right lateral incisor tucked behind my upper right central incisor just a bit, so the conclusion was reached that braces (and thousands of dollars) were not needed.  Thus the source of my father’s smile.  I still notice the misalignment, but probably no one else does.

Just over a year ago I could not imagine smiling again, but I do.

I have a strip of photographs that line a side of my refrigerator – in every one there are smiles.  It began as a suggestion from a stepdaughter about recognizing my ability to smile again even without her father by my side.  The first is a photo of me smiling with the other stepdaughter and her husband before summer’s end.  Quickly the side filled up, with the top photo taken in late December alongside a college friend.  It brings me pleasure every morning to see these photos of me smiling with friends and family.  Most of the time it gets me into an “I got this” mode for the day.

Rick loved my wide smiles, and of course I loved his grins.  I still chafe at the memory, however, of meeting his good friend and former dentist for the first time.  Rick did not think well of my then-dentist and had me open my mouth wide so his friend could inspect my teeth.  I felt like a horse!

Fortunately I have a good dentist now, who will be replacing a cracked crown soon.  In its omniscience, Facebook this week offered up a tee-shirt for sale that reads,

My Dentist says I need a crown. Crown-Silhouette I was like, I know, right?

but that seemed a bit arrogant for someone without any royal lineage in her family tree – and besides, I won’t need a crown for much longer.

Ending this post with a smile . . . .

Wister Solidarity


(Some use the term “wister” for the widow sisterhood – thus, the origin of this post’s title.)

Some posts ago I spoke about Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant’s Option B:  Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy.  Sandberg’s story is well-known and her chronicle of the pain and challenges resonated with me.  Now I want to plug another wister blogger, Erica Roman.  You may have seen her recent impassioned support of widower and comedian Patton Oswalt, who became engaged fifteen months after his beloved wife passed away.  Here’s my favorite line from her WordPress blog found at :

“How long should a widow sit in isolation before YOU are comfortable enough                      to release them from their solitary confinement?”

A powerful statement.

As her blog went viral, two of my extended family members reached out to me in a supportive way about her opinions.  Roman is very clear, having become a pregnant widow with a toddler at a young age.  In a CBS interview earlier this month ( ) she said,” . . . there’s a difference between being able to watch someone’s [grief] process and the right to speak into the process.”

Where do you stand on a widow or widower dating again, or perhaps even remarrying?

Just as with so many social issues, my views have evolved over time, and there’s nothing like becoming a member of the club to bring things into focus.  When my father began to date after six months of widower-hood, I bit my tongue even though it seemed early to me.  But in reality, he and I were never going to live in the same area, he was lonely and his lady friend offered an opportunity for a robust social life and travel that had faded away as my mother also faded.  (I admit I adhere to the common perception that a man doesn’t do as well on his own without a woman — whereas a woman, such as me, often can handle things competently on her own.)

While I have taken little or no action to initiate dating, I am now starting to think and talk about it.  What are appropriate expectations?  When will I know I am ready?  How do I honor, love and cherish Rick if another man becomes a part of my new version of life?  How will those important to me – family and close friends – react if I take this step?

When a woman loses her partner she often loses some access to social activities which are couple-centered.  Even invitations to dinner are not as frequent and she must rely more on women-only or family events.  I have railed against this seemingly unfair result of my new marital status, and in talking to other widows I find their experiences akin to mine.  We are encouraged to clump together for no good reason other than our spouses are gone – shared interests and activities are irrelevant to some of those outside our club.  No wonder a widow often wants to date again – she wants companionship, friendship, shared interests, intimacy – and she also wants to return to her earlier rhythm of life.

A shift in my view, now based on age and experience:   I cannot sit in judgement of others, nor do I want others to judge me on this issue.




This past weekend I attended a conference in south Florida.  On my way down, I stopped at the cemetery in Fort Lauderdale to pay my respects.  I rounded the corner of the columbarium and there was a ladder just below Rick’s niche and an open space above. For someone raised in the Christian faith, you can only imagine my visceral reaction upon seeing an open vault once sealed!  It simply turned out that another man’s ashes were being inurned above my husband’s.

It is less than a year ago that I, sobbing, handed the urn holding Rick’s cremated remains up to a cemetery worker standing on a ladder with a niche open and ready to seal him up forever.  That was the last time I held him in my arms.

Since becoming a widow, I have thought about the concept of resilience.  Rick had gobs and gobs of resilience.  Years ago when we thought his two knee replacements might be his only health challenges, I admired the way he pushed through the rehab, doing the maximum possible to regain range of motion.  He wanted to return to motorcycling and bicycling as soon as he could and so he had a laser focus on his results.

As I faced my hip replacement surgery this year, I worried I did not have his resilience and might lack the fortitude to push through rehab well by myself.  It turns out I did have enough after all, and am back to bicycling and dragon boating.

Among the many interesting speakers at the conference was a former POW:  Captain Dave Carey, USN, Retired.  He is now a motivational speaker and draws parallels between his ability to endure imprisonment and beatings with how we civilians handle our own challenges.  He indicated about 75% of Vietnam-Era POW’s have fared well.  Studies have shown, according to Captain Carey, that certain traits portend better resilience.  They include being reasonably optimistic, not a loner, somewhat gregarious, a problem-solver and having faith.  While those qualities may seem logical, what caught my attention was that he believes they are teachable, not just innate.  During my long drive back home I pondered this.  I do not think they can be “taught” but maybe emulation of others can help get us through difficult times.  If I had not had Rick as a role model in joint replacement recovery, perhaps I would have struggled more in my own.

I close this post with a quote from Elizabeth Edwards, who lost her own cancer battle in 2010.  She wrote, “Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before.  You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.”

An INTJ stressed into an ISTJ


I am an introvert – really!  I mask it well most of the time as I learned to speak out early in my career and developed more social confidence as I moved into senior management.  I try to emulate Rick, an extrovert who was always interested in others.  He was very well-liked because of that and other wonderful traits — I try to go for respect as I feel that’s a more attainable goal for me than being liked.

In fact, I’m an INTJ in Myers-Briggs terminology.  The second letter stands for intuition, which I have not used for what seems like forever.  As I have taken the test multiple times, I’ve discovered that when I am stressed the “N” changes to “S” for sensing.  I have not been able to trust my instincts for a protracted period of time; these days, I have to touch and feel things to be sure of them.

A perfect example of my current state of mind happened at a recent social event for singles in my neighborhood.  I thought it was about time to:  1) perhaps meet some other single women, and 2) try introducing myself to one or two single men.  I scored on both.  One man talked to me exclusively (except for the frequent interruptions of other women who wanted him on the dance floor) and asked me out.  I have contemplated dating someone, down the road, and have developed a list of qualities and shared interests which would be important to me.  This man, while very pleasant, had none – none – of the qualities on my list.

So I did what many women in my situation would do – I accepted his invitation.

Yep, no “N” for intuition in that decision!

The next morning I reviewed the evening in my mind, berating myself for being too eager to go on my first date since becoming a widow more than a year ago.  I used my “S” sensing skills and ranked this very nice man against my very firm list of attributes and once again saw no correlation.

So I did what this woman should have done the first time – I turned his invitation down after all.