Just another Statistic


This past weekend I was in a historical museum in a little town nearby, doing research for another writing project. While making my way to the main exhibition area, I was drawn to a small display of black crepe clothing – widow’s weeds, to be exact. The case description enumerated society’s expectations for widows during the Victorian period. (I don’t know why we Americans felt obligated to adopt Queen Victoria’s practices upon the death of her husband, but we did.)

The display listed three consecutive types of mourning garb: 1) a black dress with full crepe for twelve months plus one day following the death of a husband, 2) some black crepe over a black dress for nine more months, followed by just a black dress for three months, and 3) subdued color dresses for the remaining mourning period of six months. So for two and half years a widow’s clothing revealed the change in her marital status – and even after that, she was expected to never wear bright colors again.

The above rules, by necessity, could only have applied to women who had the means to afford the proper dress and to adorn their homes with even more black crepe as directed by societal norms.

I wore a black dress and jacket to my husband’s memorial service, and others in the immediate family tended to wear black as well. Beforehand I tried jackets with white or another neutral color, and they just didn’t seem right. I felt I was representing Rick by my choices and that I needed to be traditional and respectful. (Does the choice of all black label me somewhat of a Victorian, too?) In the first months of widowhood, I found myself drawn to black and white clothing, feeling as if I wore something bright it would suggest I wasn’t properly grieving the loss of my beloved. Over time I became more confident that my clothing choices were not an outward representation of my internal feelings, and now I wear whatever I choose.

The 2000 U.S. Census indicated half of women over 65 are widowed, and 70% of them live alone. I haven’t reached that age, but those figures just amaze me. Where are they? We all know some widows, of course – but when I look across my mostly senior community, I don’t perceive that a third of the homes are inhabited by widows. We widows seem to just disappear from the scene, which seems populated more with intact couples. As a married woman I met recently said to me, “You’re widowed; get over it” – with the implication that the rest of my life was now constrained because I no longer had a husband.

Clumps of widowed, divorced and single women are seen, but that is not yet for me. I go to the movies alone and dine in restaurants by myself. I take trips, even overseas, without a traveling partner. (I socialize with women, too, but just a few women at a time.) Despite the aforementioned woman’s mean-spirited or simply ignorant comment, my life is not constrained — just different. My current endeavors, while they may be a bit uncommon within my immediate community, bring me confidence and pleasure.

Sunday = Solitude


My great-aunt Alice never married, and only one of her two siblings had a child – my father. So my father was spoiled by his mother’s side of the family and had the opportunity to visit his aunt Alice at her Bronx apartment numerous times. He recalled that she hummed to herself, which he thought was odd.

I wonder what Dad would think of my asking Amazon’s Alexa to play Bruno Mars and dancing through the house. I haven’t started humming, but there have been occasional self-directed comments  Every night I still pat Rick’s pillow and tell him, “I love you.” Are my behaviors peculiar as well?

Usually the Monday through Friday workweek is chockfull of appointments, exercise and social outings. Even Saturdays I either bicycle or dragon boat paddle — and now that Rick’s beloved Florida Gators have begun their football season there’s games to be watched!

When Sunday finally rolls around, it frequently is a quiet day of solitude. I often don’t talk to anyone the entire day, although there’s the usual typed communications on social media. I may sleep a bit later, do laundry, read the paper and putter around the house. I now have three writing gigs (including this blog) so it is also a nice time to put my fingers to the keyboard.

Yet I feel trapped by the busyness of my new life — and I’m the one who created this craziness! It is time for a reset. I need to determine what activities I want to keep, what ought to go and what else I might add.  A few solitary Sundays should bring clarity.



Well, I’ve now been “blooded” by a hurricane – I guess that makes me a real Floridian now. I, along with many others, became more frenzied by the day as the weathermen and women made their predictions and hyped the destruction inevitably headed our way. Since Rick died, I haven’t been watching much TV, even the news, but I found myself glued to The Weather Channel and a Tampa station hour after hour.

I keep this prayer from the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer taped to my computer screen, and I read it each day as Irma approached:

This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth,
But make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be.
If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely.
If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly.
If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently.
And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly.
Make these words more than words,
And give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.

This prayer brought me comfort when Rick was still with me, too.

I make lists. For years I drove Rick crazy with my endless to-do lists and now I have one for hurricanes. What to pack, what to store safely within the house, what to have loaded in the car for evacuations – it’s all typed up in excruciating detail. I had a full gas tank, food and water; however, I did not anticipate guests. Friends of mine live on the Gulf coast and faced mandatory evacuation, so they came to my house for a night. Fortunately I had a big container of frozen homemade soup I could defrost – so that’s a lesson for me to have more food on hand for the next hurricane. I have quite a few bottles of wine, too, but it didn’t seem wise to imbibe while the winds howled.

News flash: I have fallen in love with Bob – waterBOB to be exact. One of my friends recommended these tub liner bags as a way to not only store up water, but potable water. I ordered a couple from Amazon.com before Irma began to affect deliveries. A Florida lady can’t have too many BOBs in her life!

As I write this post, it seems so poignant that today is September 11. Just sixteen years ago we watched in horror as the World Trade Center towers fell, the Pentagon was attacked and a plane was brought down in Shanksville, counting our blessings that we and our family were safe. Today I am safe, my house held up well in the storm and the power remained on, but I cannot reach some of my other Florida friends and I know their day(s) are not as pleasant.

This is another day, O Lord.



I have been wracking my brain to come up with something positive and upbeat for this week’s post, but I’m just not feeling it.

Several people in my life have lost loved ones this past week – everyone from a father, nephew, husbands and daughter. It hurts them to have to let go of someone they’ve loved for decades and didn’t want to lose – as if anyone is ever ready. It hurts me to know they’re in pain. I sit here at my computer, wondering about their upcoming journeys and the resilience each will need to bring order to his or her disrupted life and build a new existence. There are family and friends who can advise on the house, the paperwork and the innumerable chores related to death. There’s no one, no one, who can prescribe what has to happen emotionally, or how the survivor fills his or her time.

I have written before about family and friends who unexpectedly and generously cared for me after Rick passed away. New friends emerged as well.  Some couples seemed to drop me from their social circles, relegating me to women-only events.  Other couples reached out to schedule time with me – providing stimulating conversation, mirth and warm connections. Girlfriends have enticed me to attend events that I would have skipped, giving us time to laugh, share confidences and even dance.  In speaking with other widows I understand these relationship changes are common.

There’s a cycle to life and there’s often a cycle to friendships. As I have rebuilt my life, expanding my activities and developing my writing skills, I recognize that I am a different woman from a year ago.  Transforming my life means some friendships just end, or at very least, diminish.  That happened this past week, and it hurts – a lot. While I intellectually understand why these things happen, the little girl in me weeps.

As time goes by, I find my upward emotional trajectories usually exceed my downward spirals. Just over a week ago I was with family, feeling cherished and on a high.  This past week, however, I’ve swung lower than expected.  Stasis will return.