It occurs to me that as a sorrowing widower, I’m a lightweight. Readers who have commented on the blog talk of marriages that were twenty, thirty and forty years old before they ended in the death of the spouse. Carolyn and I were together for five years and married for less than four. Relative to time, where do I get off comparing my situation to any of theirs? Seriously, where do I get off?
Couples who’ve been married for most or a large part of their lives tend to morph into one another. Beyond having the same thoughts at the same time and finishing each other’s sentences, in some cases, they even start to look like each other. They’re no longer sharing their lives it seems, but are occupying the same life. If you’ve evolved into a single person, then the death of one is the death of you, too. I have no idea how those people manage to live as widows and widowers. The term can’t mean anything to them.
My sister-in-law once expressed a knowing sympathy for my broken heart. “It’s not broken,” I told her. “It’s missing part of itself.” From the beginning I did not feel my sorrow for Carolyn was over a loss of someone who was no longer here, but over an emptiness that had become very much here. From that perspective, time doesn’t figure in: empty is empty, no matter how long it took to create that emptiness. A black hole is a black hole; it doesn’t matter how wide or deep it is.
A mutual friend of Carolyn and I suggested - as a way of offering a hope for the future - that I might meet someone new in the future. That would be something to look forward to if the emptiness I’m experiencing was due to a loss of a relationship. It is not. It’s due to a loss of Carolyn, no one or nothing else. “Get back on the horse?” I’d once written. “How do you do that when what you’d ridden before was a cream and turquoise-colored unicorn?”
Besides, where I do match up in longevity with long-married spouses would be in the area of dating. It’s been well more than forty years since I went on a true date. So what if I know what tiramisu is, I can’t imagine the terror of being “out there” again, especially with anyone who already knows me. What about a blind date? you ask. Is she legally blind or just partially? would be my response.
I know there are many cases where long married surviving spouses quickly remarry. Maybe it’s this that makes me a lightweight, because I definitely don’t want that. Maybe there is a depth and breadth emptiness that presents itself as profound loneliness. I’m not profoundly or even a little lonely. In widowhood for just under a year, I still show up at the occasional social gathering as I always have: immediately calculating the soonest I can leave in a socially acceptable amount of time. That was the same when Carolyn was alive; I always only wanted to be alone with her. That’s a hell of a message to convey to a date sitting across a dinner table, blind or not.
I’m not sad I’m alone in the world. I’m sad that it’s so empty.