Thursday, February 4, 2010

Presents With Ribbons And Bows

It was such a pleasant fair weather day yesterday. I felt good and more in control as I drove to a neighboring town to fill out a job application. The sun was out. The snow on the ground was fresh and pretty. It wasn't frigidly cold. I stopped into a bakery cafe for a quick restroom stop. Instead of feeling down that I couldn't pick up a pastry, I admired the mini cupcakes they had featured for Valentine's Day and the gas fireplace that was lit. I love fireplaces and told myself that I'll revisit this cafe with a book in the future. I'll treat myself to a hot tea and pastry while sitting in the little alcove around the fireplace.

It is productive for me to get out and about. Having been a stay-at-home widowed mom for much of my widowhood, I know firsthand how easy it is to feel isolated very quickly. Seeing the people having lunch at the cafe made me feel connected to the larger world. Everyone seemed to have a spring in their weary winter steps because of the break in the weather. I felt energized just being in the hustle and bustle of the world. That will be a very positive aspect of going back to work for me - to have more involvement with the outside world. To interact again with people on a broader scale.

But those reactions were only part of my story yesterday. There was the part that felt connected and energized - the outside part of me. And then the inner, private part. As I made the half hour drive to the other town, I observed all the nice winter scenery shining in the sunlight while an inner dialogue was going on. For some reason my inner train of thought centered on the topic of presents and gifts. I'm not sure why or how I was focused on this. But my thoughts included feeling sad that in my widowhood I haven't received many gifts. Gifts wrapped in a box with paper and a bow on top. Gifts someone took the time to choose and then present specifically to me in honor of a special occasion.

In those first days, weeks and months of widowhood you never think of the little losses that will come up in the future. Who would ever imagine that there would be a sense of missing something because as the years go by, unless you buy something for yourself, no one presents you with a gift. When you have younger children, you can't expect them to go out and get you gifts. Your spouse was the one who took the kids to the store to choose Mother's Day or birthday gifts for you.

I know in the grand scheme of life this is trivial. But it is still one of those factors of widowhood that has impacted me, even in a small way. And yesterday I was just missing the whole gift giving aspect of life. I suppose it is one of those simple pleasures we take for granted until it just doesn't happen for us anymore. We miss it because it is no longer there, we can no longer count on it, nor do we even expect it. Is it essential for our ultimate happiness? No. But it is sure nice to receive a heartfelt gift presented to us in love. I personally miss that simple pleasure. This may not be as big a deal to others out there but it is one of smaller losses borne out of the death of my husband that has touched me.

Reflecting on all of this makes me even more cognizant of just how complicated and far-reaching widowhood impacts us. I would never have understood this in my early days of widowhood. It is only since the years have passed by that I can see how the loss of a spouse has affected me and my life on so many levels, in such a multitude of ways, many unexpected and surprising. I walk this walk with such respect and admiration for those who join me in my journey. And I am so grateful for those who read these posts and truly understand where I am coming from. Unless you have lived this, it is very hard to imagine how the loss of a spouse permeates almost every aspect of our days. Unless you haven't received gifts, it is hard to imagine how much you would miss them when they are absent. It is hard to imagine how all of these little losses pile up until they look and feel like that small mountain of dirty snow at the back of parking lot at the grocery store.

Anyway, this whole gift/present theme was playing out in my head as I drove around. I kept seeing pictures of prettily wrapped gifts in my head. And then I kind of imagined my whole grief stricken life as a present. Inside the box are my grief issues: childhood/family hardships; death of my husband; death of my Mom; divorce from second husband; loss of home and even most recently the out-of-state move of the man I've been involved with. To top off those issues is a big, bright and shiny bow representing the financial difficulties we are currently facing. This is the box I carry around with me everyday.

On a more positive note, I stopped by a local antique shop for a browse after completing the job application. It was on the route home anyway and I felt the need for a pick-me-up. As I left, the owner requested that I fill out a raffle ticket for a drawing they are having at the end of the month. In January, the winner received a cute tea cup and saucer. This month's prize is a crystal pitcher vase. I wasn't smitten with the vase - crystal isn't my thing and I was going to decline. But then I changed my mind. If I won the raffle it would be like receiving a gift, and an unexpected one besides. I can see the pitcher right now filled with some fresh cut flowers!

Today I am grateful:

1. For the HUGE flock of geese I saw on the lake at the forest preserve.
2. For fireplaces.
3. For yesterday's fair winter weather.
4. For the antique shops that have managed to remain open - so many have had to close.
5. For all the presents I've received in the past. You better believe that any I receive in the future will be truly appreciated and I'll try not to complain. In other words, I'll be grateful for any presents coming into my life, even if the color/design isn't one I'd have chosen.


  1. *o~

    A gift for you.
    I too have gone many occasions
    without a receiving a gift. When
    Michael came along that changed.
    Now I have to get used to going
    without again.

    Inside the gift you will find an unlimited supply of encouragement, positve energy and a willing listner.

    Love. Dan

  2. Maybe this will be a little gift. I came across this website that offers help with food. In my time of need it has been a Godsend. Perhaps you are already aware of it.

  3. Melaka, we have angelfood here in FL as well. It is an incredible deal!! It can really help stretch a budget.

    No gifts is definitely one of those things you didn't think about in the early days. Now, it stings. It's like a bee bite just to remind you that things are not as they should be. Little gifts to ourselves just aren't the same, even when we can afford them.

    Today I did receive a little gift from my husband. I put on one of his old dress shirts. Obviously it hadnt been worn in a very long time. It was still pressed. But in the pocket was a little slip of paper with something he had written on it. Nothing of importance, just a reminder that it was his. It's like he left it behind just waiting for me to find it at the right time to brighten my day. For that I am every grateful.

  4. Dan - I loved your gift and the kindness behind it!

    Melaka - Thank you for passing on this site. I hope it reaches others from here.

    Kelly - I agree that buying ourselves something isn't the same thing. We want to feel nurtured and cared for as we did when we were with our partners.

    Whenever I come across a scrap of paper with a note my husband wrote or something similar, I also feel as though I've received a little gift.