It is inevitable, and I never know how or what to say. I am in between lives. If I am single, I am to have an ex. If I am a widow, it is some tragic life event in one form or another. I can’t lie about the ex part, I can’t be truthful about the widow part.
It is rare to not be asked. Given my conservative appearance, most men assume I came about two children in a marriage, not out-of-wedlock. They ask about my ex-husband. I take no offense because I want to know how they relate to their ex-wife, so it is a fair subject. I call it the baggage check. Of course, I have no ex-husband, so I disclose my husband died. There is something that seems tragic to have a husband die at my age, clearly not of old age. The question comes. I never feel it is asked to be nosy, but rather to reconcile the disconnect between age and death.
Recently though, I had a rather introspective date simply say he avoided widows because he assumed he’d never compare to a dead man. I suggested I do not compare as it is incomparable, which is entirely true. I thought him so naïve to think the relationship was perfect simply because there was not a divorce involved. Then he asked, was he a great guy?
Something so bizarre happened. I started laughing. Out loud. Spontaneous laughing. It was like my knee flying up when the doctor checks reflexes, only the question did not strike me as funny at all. I don’t know what happened, but I do know I didn’t know how to answer him at the time. No answer seemed appropriate.
On another first date, the ‘how do you and your ex get along’ question came, and I stated he had died. He hesitated a long time, and then asked. Exasperated at once again having to figure out what and how much to tell, I just blurted out, matter of factly in two sentences, what happened. He considered it all a minute, said sincerely how sorry he was to hear it and how it must be very difficult. The conversation moved on, then some time later he came back, clearly having it bouncing around his head, he noted ‘but you seem so normal’. To which I explained that was because he didn’t know me very well and we laughed. As he walked me to the car he light-heartedly said he could definitely say it was a first.
Though I found the tension to have been dispelled, I doubt I could share the truth and reveal the real pain, the nightmares, the dark mornings just waiting for the sun to rise with either. There will continue to be that barrier, that distance between me and anyone else, and at times I wonder if the whole effort isn’t futile.
I suppose it is the hope to experience what I wrote ‘the night before’ that keeps me out there, accepting the answer to the question is as much a part of me now as my eyes and limbs.
“Hope is a lot like faith. It does not rest on logical proof. It is a choice to be blind to evidence it shouldn’t exist.” Lisette Johnson