When I was just a girl, I loved to make a little game out of pulling petals off a daisy while reciting, “He loves me, he loves me not…”
My version of the game always ended in “He loves me!”
Yes, I was a hopeless romantic even at the tender age of 10. So of course, on the day I married Mr. Tess at age 19, the tables in the wedding reception hall were full of daisies freshly picked from the Tess family’s farm fields.
Somehow over the years, I’ve lost a bit of that sense of innocence and trusting that had come so naturally when I was young. I attribute that loss to life throwing me more than my fair share of curve balls over the last decade.
You see, after being happily married to my sweet farm boy for nearly 30 years, God whispered in my husband’s ear that it was time to come home to heaven. And so you might say Steven left me for greener pastures.
Not that I can blame him.
It’s just that starting over at the age of 48 was a really tough row to hoe for me.
Of course life goes on and four years after becoming a widow, I met the most charming widower from CatholicMatch, whom I refer to as “Mr. Right,” because of course, he is…right for me, that is.
Perhaps the only way I can describe Mr. Right to you is to say he’s my soul mate. From the moment I met him, we were like two long lost friends on a date.
Just imagine being in love with someone who is also your best friend. We laugh together and cry together, have similar interests, and of course the hugs and kisses are out of this world fantastic!
He is the air that I breathe.
We both agree that our best dates are sitting at home doing nothing more than snuggling on the couch while watching an old movie with a great glass of wine and a fire in the fireplace.
Now as some of you may know, widows and widowers bring baggage when they embark on a relationship – especially if they’ve been married as long as Mr. Right and I had been to our late spouses.
We each have children, some of whom are grown and some of whom are still at home and in school. We also have our own homes in different cities three hours apart, which makes life very interesting for us.
A difficult reality
But of all our challenges, perhaps the most difficult to adjust to is the fact that each of us was madly, passionately in love with our late spouses on the day they died. We both agree that for the rest of our lives they will hold a very special place in our hearts.
No one in either of our marriages ever asked for a separation or a divorce. Now I realize that both of those situations are very painful, especially for a spouse that does not want a split and who makes every effort to repair the relationship. Grieving takes place anytime a relationship ends, but usually in a separation or divorce the parties split up the household and go their own way.
That is not the case when death occurs.
For instance, Mr. Right and I each had the challenge of what to do with the late spouse’s clothing and personal effects and we each have an abundance of family pictures around our houses.
Since my husband died in our home, I wanted to move and did so within six months of his death. That meant I was forced to confront the closet and personal belongings head on.
By nature, I am an organizer and I always have been, so my solution was to have one of Steven’s sisters go through his belongings with my sons and I. The result was that I now have only a few of his personal belongings. Most went to charity or to our sons to pass on to their children.
I will openly admit here that in my new closet I have about five articles of Steven’s clothing, and five years after his death, I am ready to box them up and store them in the basement just in case I ever feel the need to revisit my past for a few minutes.
Family pictures are still very much present in my home and also in Mr. Right’s home. My feeling is that this is just a given since we both have families. We are not going to obliterate our memories just because we’re dating. Children need a history and we are going to honor that.
I attended grief counseling for two years and during that time, my counselor did stress that everyone grieves differently and the timeline of one person is never the same as another.
Such is the difference between Mr. Right and me.
Mr. Right still has most of his wife’s personal effects. He is healing along a different timeline than I am and I need to respect that difference.
A wussy text message
Now you just know that I’m going to throw a monkey wrench in here somewhere.
A while back, I began to read a blog called “Widower Wednesdays” by Abel Keogh. The blog is full of many interesting tidbits that are intended to help women dating widowers.
Abel lists red flags for anyone dating a widower. One of those flags is if the widower still has his wife’s clothes in the closet. Another is if the widower still displays pictures of himself and his wife as a couple. The list goes on and on, but you get the gist.
Being the best of friends, Mr. Right and I do talk about our spouses’ personal effects from time to time and he has expressed an interest in working on the closet, but none of his relatives care to help with the task, so everything remains as status quo for the time being.
This has been in the back of my mind, but again, I learned that everyone grieves differently so I let sleeping dogs lie and enjoy my fantastic man in the meantime.
Two weeks ago, while I was in Mr. Right’s hometown, he breezed by my hotel to pick me up for one of our hot dates. As I got into his van, the first thing I spied was a lovely picture of Mr. & Mrs. Right staring right up at me. For the first time since I had met him, the picture began to gnaw at me. I began to wonder why he would set that right in front of me on a date.
I ignored the picture until we were on our way home, when curiosity finally killed the cat and I asked him if he was missing his late wife. He indicated yes, the anniversary of her death was approaching and that made him think about her.
To make a long story short, Mr. Right brought me back to the hotel, gave me a sweet good-night kiss and said that he’d call me for breakfast before I headed home in the morning.
About 4:30 a.m., I woke up and decided that Mr. Right must not have room in his heart for me if he was still mooning over his late wife with that picture and all, so I got up and drove home.
I was thinking, “He loves me not!” as I drove all 125 of those pre-dawn miles.
Here’s the really disgusting part…I texted him to please call me at home. After almost a year of dating, I didn’t even have the brains to meet with him in person.
When Mr. Right called me to find out why I was at home, I dropped the bomb and informed him that he didn’t have room in his heart for me, which took him by complete surprise. You get the picture…I broke up with the only man in the world who was perfect for me!
Fortunately, later that same day, Mr. Right called me to find out what in the world I was thinking when I broke up with him that morning. I explained that since he still had his late wife’s clothes in the closet and a picture in front of my seat in the van, that that led me to believe he didn’t love me anymore. (Remember, I was going by Abel Keogh’s blog advice and I didn’t divulge this information to Mr. Right.)
Rule No. 1
Ladies and gentlemen, I didn’t listen to the most important rule my grief counselor had imparted on me! As similar as Mr. Right and I are, we are two separate people who have lived two separate lives. God designed us all differently and that is how we grieve…on different timelines.
When Mr. Right is good and ready he will clean out his closet – and not a moment before.
And just for the record, one of Mr. Right’s kids had found that picture in the car before I sat in the passenger seat that day, and of course he put the picture of his mom and dad in a place of honor where he could see it, which just so happened to be the seat I was riding in.
As for Abel Keogh and his words of wisdom, I have great respect for him; however, he lost his wife when he was 26. Mr. Right lost his wife when he was 50.
Get the picture?
There will always be different periods of grief for different situations.
Now, I want to leave you with this food for thought: Making up is a very sweet business when you’re dating a guy named Mr. Right!
And Mr. Right, if you happen to be reading this, I’m stoking up the fireplace, chilling the wine, and putting in our favorite movie because it really is “A Wonderful Life” when you have room for two in your heart.
Oh and by the way, break out those daisies because, “He loves me!”