My youngest son's best friend's dad died of cancer a year before my husband. The friend's situation is a little different. He had an older brother and sister high school age - now they are out of college. And his family owned a restaurant in Chicago. Just different family dynamics and circumstances.
My oldest son's girlfriend lost her mom a year ago, also to cancer. Her dad has started to date and she is upset that the new girlfriend who used to be their babysitter is only 35. In a perfect world wouldn't it have been nice and easier if her dad and I had felt some attraction and fallen in love!
Somehow, I don't think these friendships and connections with my sons are arbitrary or coincidental.
This recent spring break my youngest spent a lot of time with his friend and mentioned concerns about his friend's mom. She apparently lost her cool and yelled at a group of the kids when they stopped in the house, demanding that they get out. I replied that I could understand a mom getting frustrated with a bunch of teen boys barging into the house. My son's reply was that I never would have made a scene and yelled like this woman did even if I had been upset.
He also related that his friend thinks his mom has "gone crazy." She no longer works in the restaurant and has leased it out to another family running it. But she is apparently working doing some kind of rehab on houses. My son further revealed that his friend is very worried about his mother - her actions are erratic and she has thrown the friend out of the house on a number of occasions - overnight! I'm not sure how to reply to that because that is endangering a poor 15 year old kid who had to go to a friend's house to spend the night. But I also don't know all the details except that this kid is very nice and mild mannered - not a trouble maker at all.
My son further observed that his friend's mom does appear crazy and out of control when he is over at his friend's house. He added that she looks haggard and much older than her age. I think I said something like, "Well, widowhood will do that to you" and he came back with the fact that I don't look as bad as she.
Poor woman. Over the years I've had fleeting thoughts of wanting to get in touch with her but of course time has always been at such a premium. I didn't really know her - she wasn't in my circle of super-involved PTA moms that I hung with. But as it turns out, all those "friends" fell by the wayside in my life as I became less and less able to volunteer and be active outside my own home.
I don't know all the details of this woman's life in the past seven years. From what my son has said every once in awhile, I knew she had a boyfriend living in her home for a couple years, although they are no longer together. I've heard talk of her wanting to sell the home because the oldest were in college. Just bits and pieces of another widowed mom's life while I was desperately trying to keep my own together.
But I do get the craziness - I do get that this curse of widowhood can lead to it. I am beginning to think that I may be going crazy too! There is only so much stress, pain, disappointment and hardship that some people can take. Maybe she has reached her limit. Maybe I am close to reaching mine.
Hearing about this woman had a profound impact on me - it was like a shot of reality hitting me. Sobering and scary. Real and honest. I am getting sick of making such an effort to be hopeful and optimistic. For some of us, widowhood just plain and simply sucks and I don't want to sugarcoat this anymore. My life has certainly remained pretty difficult and it is a draining challenge to continue to face the days, let alone the future.
I have come to believe that widowhood can make you crazy.
I dropped my oldest off at school and went by a house in our old neighborhood where a widowed woman lived before she moved a couple years ago. She was a fanatical gardener and when I took walks I used to stop to chat with her as I went by. She revealed that widowhood had made her terribly lonely and she gardened to fill the gap. She laughed as she showed me the little pond she'd added, admitting that she might be getting a bit "crazy" with her obsession. Now, as I look back to what I know about her I feel sad and somewhat frightened about my future too.
All those negative portrayals that exist about widows - you know, the women who own too many cats or the ones always threatening the kids who run across their grass. It makes sense to me - how the loneliness and heartache can make someone bitter and cross. I have even found that my social skills have gone down because I have lost opportunities to converse on a daily basis with an adult. No wonder an older widow might become scared and reclusive.
For whatever reasons I think it is easier for men to pick themselves back up, dust themselves off and start dating women 15-20 years younger as seen by my son's girlfriend's own father ! I have read that men can more readily distract themselves from hardship and difficulties. Be that as it may. I saw a woman about age 60 go into Pizza Hut with a book in her hand when I was there picking up a $10.00 pizza for the boys. I had to give her credit for dining in, at a Pizza Hut no less. If I were on my own I would have taken it home and eaten in front of the t.v. This also bothered me a little. I told my close girlfriend about it and joked that if we are still single in 10 years we'll move into a luxury townhouse or condo together.
But I don't want to be alone. Yet at the same time, right now I don't possess the energy or optimism to date or get out there. There has been too much pain and it is still there, too close to my heart and spirit.
I think about the woman gardening. If I had been in her shoes with two grown-up sons, which she had, what would I have done? Probably done some volunteering in the community in lieu of the solitary gardening. I suppose I would have eventually made efforts to meet a gentleman - maybe taken some cruises or trips. But I shouldn't be talking because right now I can't even muster the energy to try and create more social options in my life be they with men or women! This widowhood has the strength to rob us of opportunities and desires - to leave us heartbroken and broken in spirit. And the supreme power to make us crazy, hopefully only temporarily.