Saturday, November 14, 2009

Taking the Long Way

Some of my intent in posting is to convey to others (especially those who haven't experienced significant grief) exactly how much it impacts you - to your inner core and being. You are never the same in significant and minor ways.

For instance, after my husband died I drove differently. I was deeply aware of the responsibility I faced as being the sole driver for youngsters. I was also worried about getting stranded on the side of the road and having no one to "rescue" me. And worried about getting into a car crash, even a minor fender bender. Nor did I want a ticket because that meant rising insurance rates and the whole nine yards. Hence, I became somewhat of a little old lady driver. I'd always been a cautious driver, but after my husband died I became more so. I also was very worried about drinking and driving and for a long time never even allowed myself the luxury of a single glass of wine if I was out and about driving. I think this is similar to willing yourself not to get sick because you just can't, which is another mindset I've had to practice.

There was a part of me too that resented having to be the sole driver all the time. My husband had preferred driving and through the years I'd had no problem being in the passenger seat. I could knit and sight see. But driving takes on another meaning when you're the only one doing it and also having to handle all the maintenance and gas pumping too! I won't even mention the scraping and snow shoveling in winter...

Back to driving - if you live in the greater Chicago area you have to deal with the intricate and confusing maze of highways. But I became leery of fast four lane roads. So with the boys in travel baseball, resorted to finding alternate routes whenever possible. While their teammates raced along on highways (with dads in the driver seats), I took the local route - a two-lane highway instead of four or six. One with stop signs and stop lights instead of tolls. And generally I'd get to the same destination only 15 or 30 minutes later. That added padding of time gave me security and peace of mind.

I became proficient at reading maps and better with my sense of direction than I'd ever been. And so it has continued up to today. My oldest is at a volleyball tournament and I have to go to work in the evening. We used Mapquest and found another way to go on a less busy highway. And I have a greater measure of peace as he is out today. I wish it was me driving and I wish I could see my son play. These are sacrifices most intact families don't have to face. Even if I'd had to work, if my husband was still alive he'd have been able to attend the tournament.


  1. It's interesting, isn't it, how driving becomes such a focus during early widowhood? It was for me, too. I bought a GPS last year. I highly recommend them. They get you places and you feel you have company on the way.

  2. Great recommendation! Thank you for the idea. About why driving becomes such a focus, I started thinking about all the related analogies - having to navigate alone into the future without a partner by one's side... It doesn't get any more sobering than when you get into the driver's side formally occupied by your deceased partner and turn the key the first time.

  3. It was a little different for me because I had always done the bulk of the driving - especially in the last few years of my husband's life, when he was tired and in pain a lot - so not much changed in that area. But I really missed having him in the passenger seat, and I was happy this year when my daughter got tall and heavy enough to ride up front with me.

    Interestingly, I find I get a little bit territorial when any other man rides in that passenger seat. I have a couple of good male friends, and on occasions when I've given them a ride someplace, I've felt almost resentful of them sitting in "his" seat. Maybe because it's also his car - I sold mine and kept his when he died.