Widowhood and the Living Is Easy

Shortly after my husband died, a close friend gave me some advice that I think about almost daily. "Meleesa," she said in her rich, Spanish accent, "From now on, everything you do should be easy. Every decision you make, every step you take, every thought you have, make it easy. You hear me, amiga? Eassey!"

I did hear her. Loud and clear. Which is why I use my dishwasher all the time now. Not every day, there's only two of us in the house. But rather then wash every dirty glass, plate, and fork by hand, I put them into the dishwasher. Easy.

This also means a lot of frozen pizza from Trader Joe's. Again, not every day, but often enough that I stock up every time I'm there.... along with the pre-sliced apples, pre-chopped veggies, and ready-made salads. Thank you, TJ's, for helping to make dinner eassey.

When my daughter is offered a ride to or from any event, I say "yes, please!" and "thank you!" I say thank you a lot and I mean it every time.

But sometimes, easy is harder than it looks.

I have a thing about valet parking. I resent it. Why should I pay some stranger to park my car around the block when I can do it myself? Antonio and I were late to one of his friend's birthday parties last weekend. It was in a trendy part of town on a Saturday night. The streets were packed with people. And cars. But rather than do the easy thing and pull up to the valet, I made him drive around for 20 minutes looking for a parking spot until I heard my friend's Spanish accent in my head, "Meleesa, what are you doing, why are you making this so hard?! Park the damn car already!" Hello, valet... good-bye 10 bucks!

I have to say that those first few days when Joel was in the hospital, and certainly beyond, I let people take care of me. I knew I needed the help as I was quickly learning "doctor speak:" non-responsive, MRI, EEG, lumbar puncture, brain angiogram, plasma exchange, steroid infusion... So accepting offers of food, rides and comfort, was easy by comparison.

But that was a year and a half ago, when my husband was still alive, although in a coma for reasons not even the medical specialists could figure out. Just this week, some of the same friends were offering to bring me soup for this cold I can't seem to shake. The easy thing to do would have been to let them. But I didn't. I'm starting to wonder when the statute of limitations ends for widows receiving kindness and care?

In the movie Kramer vs. Kramer, Dustin Hoffman's wife unexpectedly takes off, leaving him to take care of their 6-year-old son completely on his own. At first, he can't manage even the most basic tasks. He burns the french toast, he's late picking up his son from a party, he simply can't deal. But by the end of the movie, they're in a groove. Life becomes easier... I think of this movie a lot.

At first, the thought of getting my daughter to the school bus by 7:00 a.m. every day seemed daunting. And it was. Waking up exhausted, arguing as the sun came up because she didn't print a project the night before, rushing out the door with spilled coffee on my shirt, her scrambling to put on her shoes... That still happens on occasion, but for the most part, it has gotten easier. She only missed the bus once, because we were sitting in the car, talking. So engaged in our conversation, we barely noticed when the bus drove by, her friends waving and pointing at us, wondering what happened. But with the school year almost over, I look back at those early days (literally and figuratively) and think, we made it!

Joel's death was totally unexpected, I am still shocked by it. But like in the movie, I have transitioned from utter chaos and total heartbreak, to an actual life that at times, seems easy. I can imagine Joel smiling, encouraging, "I knew you could do it, hon!"

I will never stop missing him. I will never stop thinking about him. I will try to remember how he smelled like the Irish Spring soap he showered with, how his long toes looked more like fingers, and I will always remember how our time together was filled with lots of laughter and affection.

Losing Joel has been the hardest thing I've ever been through, but loving him? That was easy.