By Marge McMillen
My husband and I were no strangers to lunch out at McDonald’s, Wendy’s or Burger King, but it usually took a special occasion to entice us to visit an upscale restaurant for dinner. And it was a very special occasion, indeed, when we savored a delicious meal at Salvatore’s on Oct. 18, 2015. Bob and I smiled as we toasted each other as a means of celebrating 63 years of marriage; another happy moment to relish and remember in our long life together.
Sadly, it was but a month later that I couldn’t arouse my husband from what proved to be his eternal sleep. Suddenly, just like that, I had lost the title of wife, and now wore the mantle of widow. I was alone, adrift in a sea of strange confusion.
He had been the one who supervised our money investments, the one who took care of the invading mice, the one who installed the doorbell, the one who plowed our snow-filled sidewalks … and too many others to enumerate. And he had been the one who would kiss me every night and say, “See you in the morning.” Now he was gone.
What was I to do? Drown in a sea of tears? Yes, I did that very well. Sink into the depths of despair? I was a champ.
But wait. There was my son and daughter, both of whom had lost their father, but were strong enough to be there when I needed someone to lean on. What would I have done without them?
And my brother, Thom, who wrote a beautiful eulogy, and my sister, who drove into town with her family to be there at the funeral. And my cousin, who sings for a living and who offered her voice at the funeral service, gratis.
And friends, thank God for friends, some of whom were from my teen years, and some of whom I had met later in life. They rallied around, and their cards and letters and phone calls were all bright beacons in this unfamiliar sea of blackness.
Almost two months had gone by when I received word that I was sorely missed by my dance teachers and fellow classmates at the Clarence Senior Center. (Yes, I was still dancing, well into my 80s.) “Come back,” they implored. “We miss you.” And how I missed them, and the fun I had enjoyed on Mondays and Wednesdays, learning new steps to new dances, and laughing at our sometimes failed efforts to conquer them. But how could I dance? Dancing is such a joyous pleasure. Surely a new widow is not entitled to that.
Gentle persuasion won me over, but it wasn’t easy. The hugs and kisses and tears of my friends, all of whom expressed their sorrow at my loss, only exaggerated the sorrow I was feeling. This wasn’t working. Why had I come? “It will be easier as time goes by,” they promised.
Would it? Could it? What else could I do but give it a try? I went the second week, and it was easier. No more hugs and kisses and expressions of sorrow, only smiles of welcome and laughter (yes, laughter!) as we struggled to learn new steps.
Next I tried it with my bridge groups. And that, too, proved difficult at first, but became easier as time slipped by.
And now I’m coming up on a brand new anniversary, this one being the one-year mark since I lost the love of my life. Has it been easy? No. Is it getting easier? Yes.
I still miss him, oh, so much, and I still shed tears now and then, but it is getting easier.
Marge McMillen, who lives in East Amherst, is slowly adjusting to life without her beloved husband of 63 years.