We never saw 13 as an unlucky number. It was the date of our relationship anniversary. In his poem, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” Wallace Stevens writes, “I was of three minds / Like a tree.” I have never liked singular or static interpretations of people or events. Grief shatters you. These are 13 ways of looking at the experience of widowhood, as I try to reassemble myself. Continue reading “13 Ways to Be One”
I’ve changed the name of this blog from What Would the Wertis Say? to The Other Side.
The Wertis was the nickname for one of the cats Jim and I had after college. We had developed his personality (snobbish, neurotic, urbane, high maintenance, needy) and over the years this name became a term of endearment as well as a reproach. But so much has changed in 10 years and so, too, here.Continue reading “The Other Side”
There was a time when my mother-in-law, a psychiatrist, assumed that I was afraid to fly because I kept coming to Chicago by train.
In college or graduate school, my time was cheap and the train was romantic. One could get a little cabin and drink whiskey and have thoughts while listening to “A Love Supreme” and watching the fields, the specter of nuclear power cooling towers, silvery in the moonlight.
Here lies Rebecca. She was really good with the dogs.
Here lies Jim. He did not want to speak to me about the memorial service.
It’s very much like using a Ouija Board. You have three choices for each word so you can steer the boat all the while waiting for some truth to materialize.
Here lies Rebecca. She has to be a better person.
The first weeks of reentering life after all the time in the hospital were like my own rehab. Even though I had ideas as to who we were as a family we were really just like Wile E Coyote running through the air before he realized there was no longer a road beneath him. We thought we were still us but we actually have no idea who we are.
The Scottish Widows ads baffled us. It was 1995, which in the UK of yore was still like the ’80s, pre-New Labor, with post-war vestiges and the occasional luxury of a deep bath. And there was a lot we didn’t understand. Scotland, north of us, would be colder and more damp. Being a widow there might be more sad, especially if you could not afford to heat your castle.
At the beginning of his hospital stay, I had a sense of urgency that things at home needed to be put right because as soon as he was out there would be no time to attend to anything. Our lives would be falling apart in the rearview mirror as we embarked on the road to recovery, maybe even in another city. I would need to leave behind a manual for all of it.
I’m sitting in the hospital room, scrolling through your news. There are the sounds, the wheeze of the motion-triggered hand-sanitizer dispenser and all the different alarms that routinely go off when an IV bag is empty. The snap of the gloves. And there is the silence. There is a lot of time to sit. His eyes are closed.
And so I start to read his book, the book he had been reading at night. This is the book I stuffed into the bag because how do you pack a bag for the emergency room? Will you be home the next morning or in a week or never? The idea of reading his book to him seems both the most natural and the most forced thing to do.
We are in bed, not yet asleep, and my husband turns on the light. He is sitting up and reaching for something on the nightstand, but when I ask him what’s the matter he just looks at me and doesn’t speak.
The dispatcher tells me to lock up the dogs, to bring any medications to the hospital.
According to the state of Alabama, the Younger Daughter is now officially allowed to drive to Kale Smoothie Palace and Bendy Yogastore all by herself. And if you need anyone to go the grocery store, I’m yer man, she informs me.