Monday, June 08, 2009

My Widow Advice #21 Charles in Charge

Not Charles - Didn't Have a Photo of a Great Dane
Dear Carol,

I read with interest your answer to Ann, the one whose kids gave her a puppy for Christmas. I had the same situation last year. I was missing my husband.

My son gave me a Great Dane puppy. Charles has grown into a huge boy of 187 pounds. He is as gentle as he is big. He is kind and loving. And, like you and your Tony we sleep together.

I used to be on Not anymore. Charles is a lap dog in the true sense.

Satisfied Widow,


Dear Satisfied Widow Angela,
I have always been suspicious of women with really big male dogs. UGH! Am I judging?

The sub-title of this blog and my book is "Finding the New Normal." It seems you have found the new ABnormal.

I guess from now on I'd better clarify when I say I'm a dog lover.


Sunday, June 07, 2009

My Widow Man - Tony

My Widow Advice #20 Puppy Love

Dear Carol,

My grown kids surprised me with a puppy last night on Christmas Eve. He’s a cute little thing, (a beagle mix) but I was up all night with him and here it is Christmas Day and I’m exhausted.

They told me they didn’t want me to wake up alone this morning, my first holiday without my husband. I am not happy about this because I have told them repeatedly not to get me a dog.

They used to complain that their father didn’t want a dog in the house, but the truth is I was content to blame him when the kids were young and begged us for one. I’d theatrically throw up my hands in a ‘You know your Dad’ phony gesture.

My husband has been gone for 8 months and of course I am lonely, but I am planning some trips this winter and now I will be busy paper training and worrying about what to do with Buster (I named him Buster because of the shoe store Buster Brown and he is mostly brown) when I am away.

The kids knew I wasn’t happy, but they just laughed and said soon I would fall in love with him and thank them.

What should I do?

Suddenly a Dog Owner,

Dear Suddenly a Dog Owner, Ann,

First of all, congratulations on getting away with putting the blame on your husband all those years. It seemed to have worked, although maybe the kids were on to you and Buster is payback time.

Or, could it be that your husband had a deathbed request, “Promise me, kids, you’ll get your mother a puppy next Christmas.” Wouldn’t that be a kick in the head? (not literally) What a clever way for your husband to get even with you for letting him take the rap!

I am familiar with this particular pathology because my husband and I used to let other parents be the bad guys. We’d say yes to everything (trip with friends to Puerto Rico when our daughter was fifteen, sky diving and I believe I remember a no curfew policy at thirteen.)

Ann, you’re talking to the wrong person here. I love dogs. I didn’t have one when the kids were young because my husband was allergic. In those days there weren’t that many non-allergic breeds.

After my husband was gone a little over a year my gardener GAVE me Tony, a year old Morky (Yorkie & Maltese combo) I resisted, too at first because I wanted to come and go as I pleased. A dog would tie me down.

My friend Sheri nudged me to take him. She said she’d either be a hero or I’d hate her.

I didn’t fall in love immediately. It took 12 hours. Tony slept with me and that was it. (Am I a slut?) Now, I can’t imagine how I came home to an empty house that first year. Without a doubt, he is the best thing I have done.

My kids love him and my little granddaughter adores him and I have tons of friends who are happy to watch him when I go away. Sheri is a hero.

Give Buster a chance. He will bring life back into your house when you’re alone and your family will re-focus their love and begin to make new memories and traditions with Buster. He was a perfect holiday surprise. Let your kids be heros.


Friday, June 05, 2009

My Widow Advice #19 Poor Widow Her

Dear Carol,

My mother-in-law is mad at me – AGAIN. Her husband has been dead for 9 years. Last week was the day. I didn’t call her. I thought of it early in the day and then I got busy. So, shoot me!

My husband, (obviously, her son) stopped by her house (she lives 3 blocks
away) that morning to have coffee with her. She told him that doesn’t count
because they meet up every Tuesday.

Also, he doesn’t represent me, she said. How long are we supposed to acknowledge a death day?

Frustrated in Pennsylvania,

Dear Frustrated in Pennsylvania Joyce,

Are you kidding me? You haven’t figured out yet that you’re expected to
acknowledge your father-in-law’s death day until your mother-in-law dies? You
don’t mention how old she is, but if she lives another 20 years you’ll be
acknowledging his death day 29.

Sounds ridiculous? Well, that’s because it is. Still, from what you tell me she
can never be satisfied. It’s obvious that this is not your only issue with her.

Come on, though. It’s one day. It’s not like she’s expecting you to remember
the day he was diagnosed, then the first round of chemo or when they brought

the wheelchair home – you get my drift?

Personally, I was acutely aware that my widow perks would taper off at the end
of the first year. Sure enough, as the anniversary issue hit the stands, I was
expected to help out in the kitchen again and clear my own plate.

No more, “Oh, you sit. We’ll take care of it.”

This snap out of it attitude by friends and family helped me to heal, though.
I noticed that the amount of concern and outreach from friends were fairly in

line with my “recovery” (for lack of a better word I’ve made myself sound like a drug

When people surround us with long soulful hugs and teary eyes it’s nearly
impossible to resist snuggling up to them and purring like a kitten. Our
emotional growth is stilted when we’re surrounded by so much sympathy.

Some widows regress to sucking their thumbs while others continuously sigh.

We, the recent husbandless, are forever apologizing for waking up with our head
resting in our co-worker’s lap.

As much as I like a good foot massage and a pass from buttering my own toast

it’s a relief to me to finally hear, “Get your ass off the couch and help out!”

Your mother-in-law is not of that ilk. She doesn’t want to lose her “widow
status.” It doesn’t matter why. It’s sad. She needs the attention. Give it to her.


Thursday, June 04, 2009

My Widow Advice # 18 Praise Ourselves For Living Well

Dear Carol,

I’m here to tell you and your readers that today is my four year anniversary and I am indeed enjoying my life now. Don’t get me wrong. I loved my husband, but these days I look fifteen years younger than the day he died.

Taking care of him for 16 months took a toll on me. I miss the man I who was my husband before he got sick. During his illness his whole personality changed and except for small moments I felt as though I was taking care of a stranger. Our dynamic was gone.

This is something I never could have said out loud or even to myself for the first two years.

Tell your readers that on the anniversary of their spouse's death instead of being melancholy they should praise themselves for living well.

A Proud Widow,

Dear A Proud Widow, Shelly,

Thank you. I couldn't have said it better myself. Although, not for nothing, I would have been funnier.


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

My Widow Advice #17 A Widow Confused

Hi Folks...this is out of season, like mittens because it's from the Dealing with Holidays & Anniversaries chapter of my book.
Dear Carol,

My kids are upset. There is a daughter, 30 and a daughter, 32. The older one is divorced with a four year old boy. They were brought up with a Christmas tree and all the dinner trimmings because my husband, Jim was Italian (I’m Jewish, but not practicing)

Their father passed away suddenly a year ago and now, I am dating a Jewish fellow. I like Steve, but he is not my whole world, not yet anyways.

Back to why my kids are mad at me. I told them that Steve will come to Christmas dinner at my house, but not if I have a Christmas tree. They really want the tree up. I didn't put the tree up last Christmas because it was so close (November 20th) to when Steve died. I didn’t have the heart to see all the old decorations and all.

This year I am ready. I want to continue the traditions. I think it’s good for our family. Now I have this development, though. Steve won’t come. Should I tell my kids I still can’t face trimming the tree memories? This way Steve will come. Unfortunately, I already spilled the beans about Steve not wanting a tree in my house.

Thank you for your advice. I will follow what you say because you always tell it like it is.

Merry Christmas,

Judy, A Confused Widow

Dear Judy, A Confused Widow,

What the %$*&# is wrong with you? Kick Steve to the curb immediately. And, while you’re at it you may want to sit curbside with him until you figure out what should be your priority this holiday season.

You say you want to continue the traditions, yet you are inviting a Christmas tree hating man to sit at your table. Why don’t you make sure Steve sits in Jim’s chair to make sure that everyone is completely crazed?

I don’t care how open minded your daughters are and whether or not they encourage you to date. I’m not judging that. What I am judging is that you are putting your needs ahead of your daughter’s and your grandson.

Put up your tree. Tell Steve that the kids are accustomed to this and it’s way to early in the game to throw them a curve ball. You are actually lucky that good ‘ol Steve objected to the tree because it showed how insensitive he is to your fragile family. Most importantly, a point you seem to miss, is that a new man should not be at your house celebrating the holidays this year tree or no tree.

Steve sounds like a control freak. Lots of Jews don't want a tree in their own house, but are thrilled to visit and help decorate trees in friend's homes. This brings to mind my little theory about Jews and crosses. Jewish people are not fans of the cross. Crosses make Jews uncomfortable. My old friend Jeanne used to wear a huge one around her neck and she wasn't a rock star. Anyway, my Aunt Hannah would refer to her as "the one with the cross."

This brings me to St. Francis Hospital, a renowned heart hospital. According to me, and only me the reason St. Francis has such an amazing rate of recovery for patients is because when Ira Shapiro is wheeled into his room and sees a cross over his bed he leaps up and declares, "I'm cured!" Anything to avoid sleeping in a bed with a cross hovering over you.

Judy, you are the matriarch now. Stop acting like a selfish 15 year old with a crush and show your children some grace. Get your little grandson to sit in your husband’s chair. Tell him even though he weighs 35 pounds he’s the only man who can fill Grandpa’s seat. (I know - the expression is shoes.)