Sunday, October 29, 2006

NOW

Fear is all around me. Friends and family watched Jimmy disappear within a month. How could they not be frightened?

"What are we waiting for?" they say, "Let's take that trip to Italy NOW." The NOW, of course, is 'before some horrible disease creeps into our bodies and puts an end to us.'

My husband's influence on people throughout his life was big. NOW, it's huge. Jimmy and I spent lots of time making fun of all the people we knew. We made a hobby of it. Some couples play golf and some play bridge. We would sit around and pick apart our loved ones.

"He doesn't reach into his pocket for spit. They just can't be embarrassed" we'd nod and giggle.

I wish Jimmy could see them NOW. NOW, they not only spend more on themselves. They buy me dinner. They offer to take me to a Broadway show. Who are these people? I always loved them, but NOW they're actually lovable.

The same people who are proud that "I never go to a doctor" are NOW makeing appointments for body scans. A freckle that was always there NOW looks suspicious.

Those of us married more than 25 years buy new towels for the newlyweds and joke about needing a bridal shower of our own. NOW, we throw out the old and restock the linen closet. Who's more important than us?

The other day even my 88 year old mother-in-law, known for 'stealing' Sweet and Low from restaurants broke down and bought a box.

My friends who were on a continual diet NOW suggest going out for ice-cream. My world, my small circle, feel a little like many did the months following September 11th. We NOW know we're fragile and we're scared. In some ways, it's not a bad way to live, if only it didn't hurt so much.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Bereavement Group 101

I've never had much patience or tolerance for old people. Society tells us to expect age to bring wisdom and a clear perspective on life, but most people approach the end of their lives fearful and bitter.

My friends and I spend lots of time promising each other that we "won't get that way" and if we do "please kill me." We laugh a nervous laugh knowing there's a good chance we won't even remember those conversations.

On Tuesday afternoons from 2:15 to 4:15, though, I sit in my bereavement group, younger by at least 20 years, yet I'm 'one of them' in a sense - a widow struggling to reframe my life.

Within the group I'm a an insider, a contemporary hearing about their troubles. Outside the group I'm their trouble making daughter. Life sure does spin us around.

I'm amazed to witness their powerful determination to hold on to themselves and not allow their 'well meaning' children to control them and become their parent. I'm touched by the love they carry for the wrinkled man they shared a half a century with. As they reminese about their husbands we are all the same age.

Now that the old people and me are beginning to mesh I'm thinking maybe next week when the group ends at 4:15 we can all go out for an Early Bird Vodka. Grey Goose?

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Right Place At The Wrong Age

As I thought about returning to my new and improved bereavement group something very odd happened. I noticed I'm sort of kind of looking forward to it.

It's not the kind of eagerness I feel when my little granddaughter Skylar is on her way over or when I open the freezer and realize "Wow. I forgot I bought vanilla fudge ice-cream!"

But, something safe and close to belonging is waiting for me there and even my resilient self can't deny that I'm needy for others who can genuinely know what I'm going through. Not to be overly dramatic, they know my pain. They're experiencing so much of the same.

Afternoon groups attract the elderly. I knew that. Somehow, I wasn't prepared for my fellow group members to be 150 years old. Still, as I said in my last post we're all the same age in grieving years.

Sitting among women and men who could easily be my parents made me uneasy in a situation where it's not the most comfortable to begin with. I stood out. I have one (okay, one and a half) chins, not seven. For the first fifteen minutes waiting for Linda, the leader to come into the room and begin the group I talked to myself:

1. "What am I doing here? It's like I got on a bus to Atlantic City by
mistake."

2. "Why do these people need a bereavement group? What did they expect,
that their spouse would live forever?"

3. "At least I'm young for something."

4. "If Jimmy is watching he's shaking his head and trying to send me a signal
to get out of here fast."

5. "If I had died Jimmy wouldn't be caught dead here."

6. "Yeah, caught dead...very funny. I'm never going to believe he's gone."

7. "Six months. How could it be six months? And, I'm still stuck in
denial."

8. I hate these stupid stages. Denial, anger - sounds like a textbook. No
body knows anything."

9. "Oh, God...I think I'm going to cry - nothing even started yet...those
stupid tissue boxes around the room..."

10. "This is going to be horrible."

11. "All of a sudden I'm antisocial. That lady smiled at me. I'm not even
sure I smiled back."

12. "Who cares?"

13. "They're all talking to each other. This seat is good. I don't have to
deal with them."

14. "I should spit out my gum. Jackie says I chew like a cow."

15. "Two men. Why are men alone so pathetic? But, they both look neat and
clean and the men in the other group did too."

16. "Why am I surprised? Maybe, their wives were sick for a long time. They
got used to fending for themselves."

17. "I guess, without me Jimmy would go to the cleaners, he'd do his laundry.
Then he'd realize it's no big deal. He'd see I didn't take such good care
of him. Yes, I did. I did. I could have been more nuturing..."

18. "When he got pissy I just didn't want to please him. That's normal. It
is."

19. "This is good. Old men. They're well into their seventies. No chance at
all they'll misinterpet a friendly smile. The other group was tricky
like that. Especially the one with the beard. The dork. Oh, God. Kill me
now."

20. "That lady is kind of shakey. No one really looks too good here."

21. "Well, I guess it didn't matter what I wore."

Linda appeared to cut off my thoughts. The group began. One woman's husband was 90 when he died. She seemed shocked. I repressed a laugh. Was it a nervous laugh or a mean laugh? I'm not sure. Probably a little bit of both.

They were married over 60 years, longer than I'm alive. I hear her now. She expected him to always be there, live forever.

Damn. I'm becoming so empathetic. What's happening to me?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Another Day, Another Bereavement Group

I went and did it. I joined another bereavement group. I know. I know. After reading my previous post "I Hated Everyone In My Bereavement Group" even a really dumb person would figure I was done with group grieving and my plan was to go back to feeling sorry for myself in private.

This was true until I got a call from Linda my future new group leader. Someone had given her my name and apparently that someone had failed to mention that I was an immature trouble maker who will make fun of everyone in the group and then write about it on my blog.

Linda voice sounded so soothing over the phone and I was practically sucking my thumb as I told her it's approaching six months since Jimmy's gone and that I'm over whelmed by loneliness and paperwork and some days I'm not sure which comes first.

She told me I was a 'perfect candidate' for a 'group experience' and I guess
I was so flattered to be thought of as 'perfect' for anything I found myself saying "Yes! Yes! Sign me up!" like I was volunteering to bring cupcakes to a bake sale.

So, this past Tuesday afternoon was my first group. I got stuck joining an afternoon group from 2:15-4:15 because I had tickets to see Barbra Streisand the first Monday night of Linda's evening group. By the way, yes, as reported, Barbra did tell a heckler to "Shut the f%#k up." That was my favorite part, actually.

Linda warned me that afternoon groups are generally older people since they are retired and don't drive at night. She said the important thing is that we are all going through the same time period of grief - anywhere from 3 months to a year. Apparently, Jimmy died right on time.

More about THE GROUP when I return...must go babysit for Skylar, my little granddaughter. Isn't she beautiful? All I have to do is look at her and I feel blessed.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

File Cabinets Aren't Used To File Your Nails

I needed a place to put all the files and papers and bills. For thirteen years Rae, Jimmy's assistant had a fine tuned system. His office hummed (and it wasn't from one of those fluorescent fixtures) In cracker jack time Rae could put her hands on correspondence from 1994.

Jimmy would have been lost without her and Rae was content to carry on for me, too but in a manic moment after listening to "I Will Survive" I made a unwavering decision to take control of my own life and turn my dining room table into one huge pile of papers. One look and you know a crazy person lives here.

I knew I needed either a file cabinet or a hefty bag and yet for weeks I circled the heap too panicked and overwhelmed to do anything but yell up at Jimmy,

"How could you leave me with this mess?"

No answer. Finally, Rae came to the rescue. She came by to dive in and give me back my dining room table. She made files and piles and now I look like an organized crazy person.

And, yesterday I made a purchase that I never thought I'd make - two file cabinets. Now I have four new drawers and I'm thinking

"Oh, good, now I have extra room for sweaters."

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sex & Jewelry

It's late and I'd like to get to sleep, but I can't. I can't because this evening I wore that stupid bracelet that's impossible to take off by myself. Damn. Why didn't I remember that? Jimmy used to bargain with me,

"Okay. Hold still. I'll get it off, but how much is it worth to you?"

Some wives have sex to get jewelry. I had sex to get the jewelry off.