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The Structure of Widowhood

Where has the Lawnchair Feminist been? She’s propped her feet on the lawnchairs of other people: besties, aunties, grammies, her brother.

Though I haven’t been pouring my deepest emotions into the pot of public narrative, I have ruminated in ink enough to fill two journals since May — a record for me. An old journal (salvaged from a box in my deceased husband’s apartment) fast forwards from adventurous newlywed to novice mother with the swipe of a single page: a four-year gap that can only be reconstructed with memories as fuzzy as the photos.

I remember both girls in that journal. The first, twenty years-old, in awe of both her lieutenant groom and the Alaskan landscape. The second girl, barely twenty-four, handed a small, red-headed HUMAN at the hospital and thinking, “He’s mine? What do I do?”

And so, page after page was filled, some bleary years skipped entirely. I have a small bookcase filled with the chronicles of my life. With the death of the kids’ father, life has suddenly sprung forward, as if someone hit the wrong button on the remote.

The funeral is now a bittersweet chapter in my journal, the ink smudged in places by tears.

One step is over; but now I face the work of carrying on.

I am left with pieces of my life, dumped onto the floor like a barrel of tinkertoys. The strange re-assembly has begun. I now have a mother-in-law and a sister-in-law in the mix; those pieces long neglected are mended and fixed into the structure of this new life, though the visible cracks still bring a pang to my heart.

During this unusual process of grieving a man who was both the person I most trusted and most feared, I came to realize that when he left three years ago, I had defaulted into survival mode. My life was a desperate scramble for self-preservation during the day; a heart-pounding wakefulness during the night. During those years, I had moments of extremes — adrenaline-pumped highs and gut-wrenching lows, imprisoned within impenetrable walls.

Every bottle of wine I drank alone; every +001 call I failed to dial — most everything I did was from a warped sort of self-defense.

But now, with the children’s father at peace, my life is like that forgotten journal —I wet my thumb, flip the page, and skip three years.

I see myself in a narrative that doesn’t seem to belong to me. I haunt the halls of another woman’s story.

The characters. The plot. The dialogue. It is a foreign text. A poor translation. Yet, it has my name on the title page. This is home. That is home. Do I like beer? Soccer? Marathons? It’s a convoluted time-travel story.

I’m trying to figure out which parts still fit.

So, I sit on the living room floor and pull twisted pieces from the carpet. I pluck the fuzz and dog hair from the splintered spokes and sort the parts into piles by shape and color.

When you don’t know where to begin, it is best to organize.

Writing novels; getting a PhD; trekking the Himalayas. I add them to the piles. No one looks over my shoulder to tell me I’m silly, or crazy or wrong.

I tape the broken parts and gently put other pieces back into the barrel.

There is nothing quite like a death to make you evaluate the framework of your life.

It is new. Nostalgic. Depressing. Exciting. A confluence of emotions that shouldn’t go together but somehow do.

I don’t know if there will ever be a time I sit back and say, “Oh, yes! There it is! Look at what I’ve done!”

I can’t imagine what my final creation will look like. I am at the start. Sorting. Analyzing. Over-thinking.

Putting things together, however the hell I want.

Written by

American expat in Germany, formerly conservative homeschool mom now navigating widowhood; runner, writer, Crossfitter, trying to figure **it out

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