Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Single Woman Sees A SINGLE MAN

Yesterday I went to see the Tom Ford movie, A Single Man. It’s based on the 1964 novel by Christopher Isherwood and stars Colin Firth. The action takes place on a single day in 1963 as George Falconer, an English professor whose lover’s death in a car accident a year before, has left him stricken with grief he cannot express openly. Over the course of this day we watch George meticulously plan his suicide.

Perhaps this was an odd choice of a movie for me to see – but I’m glad I went. At the risk of spoiling the movie for those who haven’t seen it, I took away some insights and some comfort about my fresh grief.

In particular, I understand better now how life compels us survivors as inexorably as the tide that catches George and Kenny during their midnight swim. Most newly-bereaved people experience the disjointed feeling when the rest of the world wags on as our world has changed profoundly and irrevocably. But tragically and magically, our path has now taken a different fork from that of our loved-one. Resist it as we may, we must follow the fork before us.

A couple weeks ago I signed up for an on-line mail list for widows and widowers, and it isn’t for me. The members range in distance from their spouse’s death from a week to over a decade. But they all seem to have the same story: Their spouse was their perfect soul-mate; they are paralyzed with grief; life no longer has meaning and purpose; life is over. They cannot imagine how life can go on without their spouse; they cannot even imagine that it CAN go on.
I am sad that Frank is gone; I’m shocked; it’s unfair; he was too young. My life will be very different than the life we planned together.

I need to forge this new path, but forge it I will. My life will, indeed, go on . . . because that’s what life does.

Note: Yes, I did see the end of the movie. But the beauty of art is that we may take from it what we need.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Stove, A Fridge and a Dishwasher, Oh My!

The number of items one must choose for a new home is astounding. Right now it's time to pick kitchen appliances. I need a stove, a refrigerator and a dishwasher.

And I'm really at a loss. I mean, I like to cook. And when I have guests, eating out won't be a good option. So I need a stove that will, well, cook food. And I need a fridge that will, well, keep food cold. And I'd like a dishwasher that will, well, clean the dishes.

I don't need a Bosch dishwasher or a Sub-Zero fridge or a Wolf range -- at least I don't think I do. And, in frankness, my powers of concentration and my interest in kitchen appliances aren't really firing on all cylinders today.

You see, the house was really Frank's project. He would have had me select the stuff I'm working on now, but up to this point he'd been in the driver's seat. And without him, part of me is whispering, "What's the point?"

But that's only a part of me. The realistic, practical, managerial, control-freak part of me is saying, "It's your LIFE. Pull yourself together and GET ON WITH IT."

The choices will get made -- as will the choices of floor covering, and paint colors, and all the rest. Because as much as I'd like to hit my life's PAUSE button for awhile, life has an odd and annoying way of rolling merrily along.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

On Being Homeless

Let me be clear: I know most certainly that my situation is very different from someone who literally has no roof over his head. But I have no home of my own right now. And this experience is giving me a good opportunity to reflect on what home is and how important it is.

I went away to college at age 17 and have had my own home since. Yes, I've had a couple roommates and a couple husbands. But I had a home -- it was mine or ours.

Now, I don't. In October Frank and I decided it was time to give up the apartment in Houston preparatory to our final move to South Carolina. So I packed up our stuff and called the movers. We also had a bunch of stuff in storage -- 1000 cubic feet of paraphernalia that had been in storage since we'd arrived in Houston in early 2007. The movers transported everything to storage in South Carolina. All I kept was clothes, my laptop and a few things, and all of it fit into my car.

I then moved into a room offered to me by a kind acquaintance in Houston. John and his dogs, Quincy and Nikon, were gracious hosts. I had a room, a bathroom and access to the U-Verse and broadband. It was affordable; my hosts were tolerant, kind and funny.

A week or so after Frank's death my in-laws and I decided I should find somewhere to live while I finished work on the house. I needed to be closer to the house, and I think they found me a constant reminder of the son they'd lost. I will never forget how kind and generous they were to me in the weeks after we lost Frank -- and they continue to treat me the same way.

Now, Newberry, South Carolina is not a metropolis with unlimited housing opportunities. I went on Craig's List and found a single possibility -- a room for rent in a house. I came to visit and took the place on the spot. It's in a quiet neighborhood, the woman who owns the house isn't here much, it's affordable, it has DSL -- really it's just what I need right now.

But it's not mine. Being here is forcing me to plan ahead to the time when I can move in to the new house. Remember, I have stuff that's been in storage for 3 years, all of Frank's stuff -- as I unpack I'll be getting rid of lots. I think I'll be pretty darned careful about what I have in the house (Is it useful? Is it beautiful?).

And I know that my few months of "homelessness" will make me very, very grateful when I'm back in my own home.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Building a House. And a Life

I'm surprised to see that it's been two years since my last post to my blog. It's time to re-activate it.

Most of you know that my husband Frank died unexpectedly on January 22. I had planned to retire on January 29 and join him in South Carolina. Our house was about half-way done. 

With Frank's death my first task has been to  re-commence work on the house. This past Friday, the contractor and I signed a supplemental contract and work has already begun. You can see from this photo that we began painting the exterior that very day. The paint is a little less green and a little more blue than I expected, but I think it will be fine. My goal is a house that will blend in with its surroundings -- it's low and unobtrusive in its setting.

The contract calls for the construction to be complete within 90 days. In the meantime I'm living in a rented room in Newberry, the county seat of Newberry county. I'm about 12 miles from the house.

I see that building and organizing the house will be a metaphor for building and organizing my life without Frank. We had plans . . .and you know what they say: Making plans is a good way to make God laugh.