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And one morning, when I left the hospice to feed our cats and make some calls, Frank died.
A chaplain led me by the hand to her office, and I sank to the floor, crying, deeply sad--and guilt-ridden--that I had not been with him at the very end.
Maybe it's because so many guys have called me "courageous," but as soon as I utter the word "widow," I sense I'm being seen as a living saint and that my marriage was flawless, which of course isn't true.
"You must have really loved him," a few men have said in awe.
However, there always seems to be a barrier between us, and it's often Frank. Not only can I seem frustratingly ambivalent about what exactly I want from a relationship--I'm still trying to figure that out--but before I became a widow, I held my own judgments about these women.
Recalling my days as an English major, I recall depictions of tragic, desexualized widows--from Naomi in the Bible; Widow Douglas, the stern and pious caregiver to Huck Finn; Widow Quin in Synge's play .
I'd assumed that our mutual friends had told him I'd lost my husband.One date was texting me regularly to make plans and tell me jokes, only to downgrade his correspondence to Facebook the more he learned about my past, then fade out completely.He never conveyed the reason he bailed, but it was clear he wanted someone breezy and uncomplicated. In hindsight, I admit that wearing my wedding ring and discussing Frank may have signaled that I wasn't ready to move on.But it seems as though Frank's death smoothed all the rough edges off our relationship, leaving behind something ideal, untouchable, and intimidating to men.Some guys have even turned my widowhood into a weird power struggle, a game of "Whose life is harder?When his cancer briefly disappeared, I rejoiced with him; when it reappeared, we despaired together.I rode beside him in ambulances to emergency rooms late at night.But I felt torn between feeling very attached to his memory and also taking tentative steps toward a future without him.Widowhood also has had a strange sanctifying effect on how men perceive me." One recent date loved to vent about his everyday stresses--the grueling hours he logged as a music producer, the intensely competitive nature of his work--but would stop himself by saying, "I know this is nothing compared to what you've been through." Maybe he was trying to be sympathetic, but it seemed as though, in some bizarre way, he resented my situation, that in terms of our life experience, the playing field wasn't even and his problems couldn't possibly bear any weight.Part of me wanted to shake him when he complained of routine problems, to make him put things in perspective.