Wednesday, July 22, 2009

150 Poor Widow Meeees

I've been home from San Diego since Sunday but I needed to digest the Widow Conference before I wrote about it. Okay, also, I'm lazy. I had to unpack, do a little laundry, visit Skylar, my cutie pie granddaughter, pick up my perfect dog, Tony and spend time with Mickey, the man I'm seeing who I tell everyone "you can't not like him."

(Is that a double negative, Vera?) Vera is my great friend from Junior HS who is now a retired English teacher. If she could mark up my monitor screen with red ink she would.

Last night Mickey and I went to CitiField to the Paul McCartney conference. I mean, concert. See? I am thinking about the conference.

By the way, Paul was fantastic. He's still my favorite Beatle, although, of course, now we only have 50% of the Beatles left. This is similar to the 0% of the husbands at the conference. You didn't think I could tie it in, did ya? HA!

I had a bit of a bounce in my step arriving at the Marriott in San Diego because I had come from two days at the Bellagio in Vegas and I WON. Yes, this was the second time in my life I walked with a "winners strut." Jimmy would have been flabbergasted. He always called me his "anchor" and he didn't mean it in a good way.

Traveling alone feels fairly comfortable these days. It quickly turns uncomfortable again, though, as I get caught up grieving about not grieving. As my friend Jade says, "Everything comes with an "oy." My new widow friends can attest to that, for sure.

I woke up early on Friday eager to begin the seminars that the founder of Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation, Michele Heff Hernandez promised would be amazing. Unfortunately, each unmarked door I opened revealed a lonely pedestal and rows of empty chairs. Where was everyone? I did find the "Speaker's luncheon", but that turned out to be for the speakers. Who knew?

At last, someone pointed out to me that Saturday was the main day for the sessions. In an environment of only widows I couldn't play the widow card to mask my stupidity. There I was Queen for a Day and everyone was wearing a crown. Damn.

Not to bog this blog (say that 3X fast) Bog this blog - Bog this blog - Bog this blog - with too many details I must spout out the highlights and headlines. A surprise was that there were 8 widows from Singapore. (Doesn't that sound like a title?) "Eight Widows From Singapore" available in bookstores everywhere.

Anyway, they came just for this conference and they didn't even stop in Vegas. (I know. I asked.) Please check out their blog http://www.wicare.org.sg/. I also met a widow from Kenya named Hilda Orimba Agola who founded Widows and Orphans Welfare Society of Kenya. After this introduction I felt myself literally shrink.

Dr. Rajaa Al Kuzai, a trained Ob-Gyn traveled from Baghdad and as we shook hands I became indistinguishable from the speck of dust that clung to my Capri pants. Her website is http://www.iraquiwidows.org/. You'd think with this accomplished bunch I'd have no one to play with, but I sought my own level.

Enter Sandi from Anaheim, CA, my buddy. A smart, fun lady who lost her husband George about three years ago. Ellen, Linda, Debbie, Carol, Eileen, Cathy, Cary and Sharon were only some of the women I talked with and laughed with and bonded with.

We connected instantly by way of loss and like prisoners in jail who ask, "How long are you in for?" we began our greetings with "How long has it been?"

For most of us it was two, three, four years. We didn't dwell on how it happened as much as what has happened to us in the aftermath. We all shook our heads acknowleding that unfocused and foggy first year. Friends and family - gratitude and disappointment, mostly gratitude. Children and grandchildren, all that he is missing. Balancing our checkbook, reading a whole book? No way.

For Cathy it was 13 months. She was visibly more fragile than the rest of us. For Cary it was 10 months. She was still in the phase that she made plans only to fold into herself and wonder what she must have been thinking. On Saturday morning she told me she was staying until Monday before traveling back to New Jersey.

"I think I'll rent a car and drive up the coast" she said enthusiastically. "I'll stop wherever I stop, maybe in a bed and breakfast place. I've never done that." To an outsider she seemed reved up by her new adventure.

A handful of hours later I told the gang, "Guess what Cary's going to do..."
"Oh, I'm not doing that" she said emphatically like it had never been a thought.

Non-widows may have prodded her with a "Come on. It will make you feel good." But, not us. We knew that at that stage, that first year, year and a half we can not make plans. We might accept an invitation for dinner an hour before if we felt up to it...but on Monday to plan for Wednesday? Impossible.

Just some other people you may want to know: Marian Fontana (http://www.marianfontana.com/ )
who wrote "A Widow's Walk" about her firefighter husband, killed September 11th - believe me, she is one of the funniest widows you ever want to know. Now, she's writing a book about dating. That got my attention.

Mie Elmhirst, MBA - http://www.widowsbreathe.com/ told how she divided up her husband's ashes to split evenly between her mother-in-law and brother-in-law. It was a "don't try this at home" message literally in a bottle.

Anne Marie Ginella, founder of http://www.widow-speak.org/ raised my global awareness of the widow's plight although I still have more enthusiasm for my new favorite show "Nurse Jackie" on Showtime with Edie Falco. This may be why I'm "Poor Widow Me" and not "Poor Widow Everyone" - we are the world...

A soft spoken yet dynamic speaker, Dr. Leslie Beth Wish, Ed.D, MSS (wanted us to call her LB) is at http://www.lovevictory.com/ She "confessed" to not being a widow, but she qualified herself because her mother died when she was fairly young and her good looking doctor father was pounced on immediately with casseroles and cleavage. It worked. He remarried, she died, remarried, she died and remarried and she died. LB saw widowhood many many many many times.

It may be a cop out to say, "You had to be there" because isn't it my job to give you the flavor of the weekend? Did I? I hope I did. The bottom line is we all fit into each others shoes. That was the magic.

The heartiest laugh? Those of us dating imagine our husbands are saying, "Sex? NOW, you're interested?"