I call it God’s compensation. The loss of a spouse is completely overwhelming. In place of that unique relationship, in place of that companionship, surviving spouses receive an enormous measure of freedom and independence. Like many women my age, I went from my parents’ home to my husband’s home. Except for a three-month internship at the Corpus Christi Caller-Times in the summer of 1962, I never lived alone or supported myself.
Now, as a widow, I can do what I want, whenever I want, most of the time. There is nobody to tell me “no.” I can spend my money as I choose. I do not have to ask permission. I no longer have to consider Lev’s tastes. I painted my bedroom green and planted palm trees in the garden, both taboos when I was married. I no longer have to debate which painting to buy, while my choice invariably came in second when I was half a couple.
Saturday, I wrote here about the importance of giving ourselves permission to do things differently than our husbands did them. Whereas Lev spent every Saturday morning taking the cars to the gas station and the car wash, I postpone both activities—and everything else related to cars and repairs—as long as I possibly can. I am not as tidy as Lev was. Sometimes I leave dishes in the sink. But I still have some limits…
Lev haunts me when I go too far. My very dusty car got rained on the day before I went on my last trip, and the dust turned to muddy spots. On my return home, I drove that dirty car for eight days, my conscience pricked every time I saw it in the sunlight. Even Peggy noticed. “Dad wouldn’t be happy…”
Finally, last Saturday I surrendered. I went to the car wash…and the gas station…and the grocery store. I have a clean car and a clear conscience. For the time being.
Adapted from my book in progress: Reclaiming Joy: A Primer for Widows.