June 25, 2011
This headline would hardly raise eyebrows or make the news. Six women meeting on a Friday evening at an upscale Scottsdale café should have been filmed for a documentary or at least portrayed on a reality show. These women are real people who are often misunderstood by others who haven’t experienced the aftermath of widowhood.
The dinner was scheduled for 6:30 p.m. I don’t usually partake in these types of events. I’d rather hide from them, as one would dodge any pain that hurts like hell and brings back memories of what was and what might have been. Though the daily discomfort of grief isn’t completely visible in one’s psyche, it’s always underlying somewhere; in a photo, in a memory, on a piece of paper, in the feel of a pair of shorts, or in the lyrics of a song.
These thoughts are the aftermath of an insightful dinner with women drawn to each other because of a common bond — a tragic ending to their marriage. Of the six, two of us lost our husbands to esophageal cancer, one to lung cancer, another from a surgical mishap, one to an aneurysm, and one lives with the haunting memory of finding her husband body after he put a barrel of a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
We take turns sharing stories about the man we loved. Stories about the cruelness of others, like the friend that said, “Your husband must have been so unhappy in his marriage that he ended it by shooting himself.”
We talk about our children having to lead their lives and not stay in a cesspool of grief gasping for air alongside their mothers. We discuss how most of them were beginning their lives; having babies and looking forward to the future.
One of the women turned to another and said, “I heard you were dating.”
“Yes, I’ve been dating men for a couple of months,” she replied. “It’s nice to go to dinner or the theater. My husband would want me to go out and have fun,” she said as if having to defend her opinion.
“I could never date,” two of the women chimed in as if they were singing a duet. Another woman said, “I think my husband would be offended if I saw other men. He would think I didn’t care about him any longer.”
“What did it feel like when you went on your first date,” another woman asked.
“What about the first kiss?” another chimed in. “What was that like?”
The dating woman smiled and said, “It was awkward at first. Holding hands felt odd and was difficult for me. But the first time I kissed another man it was magical, like when I was a teenager. As time went on, I became comfortable with men that understood my grief; the patient ones, the ones who weren’t bitter about their own divorce or jealous of a dead man.”
“I suppose,” she continued slowly and paused for a moment. She looked across the table at five pairs of eyes awaiting her response. She needed to phrase her answer with a great deal of thought. “I am not the same person I was when I was married. Like all of you, we are now struggling to comprehend a life absent of the partnership that had sustained and defined us for years. Dating allows me to find out about my new self, who I am now and what I need in the future.”
The six women held their utensils in their hand as if frozen with thought. Their mouths were no longer chewing food. They looked pensive as though they were thinking about men, sex, intimacy and their lost loves. They finished the meal by sharing their anguish of loss, their nightmares of “death duty” and the solace of their friendships with each other.
As they stood outside saying their “goodbyes” they paired up for hugs, as women tend to do, but they also allowed their tears to escape as they blotted the damp skin around their eyes with their fingertips. They weren’t embarrassed to cry in front of one another — they had done this many times before.
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