February 9th, 2012
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I found this touching and beautifully written story, SWF Seeks Replacement Husband, on Hello Grief (http://www.hellogrief.org/), one of the many blogs I follow.
As I read it, I can sense the author gathering her inner strength as she transitions from widow to a single woman on the dating scene.
It’s not easy out there and I give the author a lot of credit for her honesty.
“Online dating?” I said, trying to keep the sound of horror out of my voice. “Seems impersonal.”
“It’s kind of fun,” my colleague was saying. “You write a profile and post a picture and guys email you if they are interested.” “Wow” I managed, trying not to sound shocked that my demure colleague engaged in such activities.

“Sounds easy enough… Has anyone emailed you?” I queried.

“I was emailing this one guy and then we went on a date,” she said. “But I haven’t heard from him since.” She was trying to sound light hearted, but I could hear her disappointment.

“That must be a problem…” I trailed off.

“You should try it,” she cheered. “You’ll have a million guys writing you.”

After months of prowling the man-site anonymously, I resolved to write a profile about myself. Artistic? Creative? Smart? Insane? Everything I wrote sounded ridiculous. Tall, attractive (?), sexy (?), 9/11widow, mother of two, hasn’t dated in eighteen years, seeks handsome rich prince who loves kids and is not afraid of a ghostly dead husband in the closet…

My choices of photos were limited due to the fact that I was the photographer in the family. There was the coy one, with my baby daughter and my grandmother, both of whom I would have to crop delicately out of the picture. And there was the demure photo, posing smartly for a corporate newsletter in a turtleneck.
But where were all my sexy shots? I sneaked glances at the other women’s profiles, to see what I was up against. Even the 50-year old women looked sexier than I could ever imagine being. I settled on the coy-girl-next-door-with-cropped-out-baby-and-grandma-shot.

I posted my profile and photo to the website and then waited for some kind of response. Almost immediately, I got a few “winks,” one from an elderly looking gentleman claiming to be 44; one from a man showing his nude torso wearing his firemen’s boots and suspenders, and one from an orange-tanned jock with no neck.

Deciding to take matters into my own hands, I browsed the site as though I were in a giant man superstore: Nice eyes, but too pudgy; funny profile, but too short; great in every way but a smoker; tall and handsome, but doesn’t want kids; wonderfully intellectual, but weird bulbous nose; sincere, but can’t spell.

My eyes were beginning to glaze over when one man caught my eye. Widowed architect, loves to garden, lives in Manhattan… I spent two weeks working up the nerve to write him an email. What to say? Hello fellow widow person. Isn’t this a strange club to belong to? I am absolutely terrified of dating, and still love my dead husband, but would you consider going out with me?

Finally, I wrote him: Hi! (Trying to sound upbeat). Loved your profile (Flattering the ego). I like to garden too (Showing common interests). I look forward to hearing from you (positive, yet non-committal). Regards, Abby.

I waited for a response. And waited. And waited. I am still waiting. It was humiliating. I retreated from the man-site to lick my wounds. My worst fears of being “un-datable” were being realized. Now I was the one who was too tall, too widowed, too many kids, too unsexy, too something.

I had to admit that I was lonely for companionship, plus my kids begged me regularly to have a “new” daddy. I think though, that my biggest motivator towards rushing fate was my determination not to waste a moment of my life. If Arron’s death had taught me anything it was that there wasn’t time to sit around waiting for life to happen to me. I resolved to push fate along by making the effort to get myself out into the world by whatever means necessary, no matter how painful it might prove to be.

My palms were sweaty as I maneuvered the car into a space near the coffee shop where I was to meet my … dare I say it … date. I sat and breathed for a few minutes staring at my hands on the wheel, trying not to panic. Oh God! The wedding ring! I had forgotten to remove it. What to do? Stuff it in my purse? My bra? I stared down at my hands admiring the chunky gold band on my left ring finger. It seemed to cling adoringly to my hand. I slid it up my finger and the shiny white skin that was revealed seemed to cower like a snail without its shell. I hesitated. I pulled the ring all the way off and held it in my hand. I had forgotten how heavy it was. I slipped it onto my right hand ring finger, struggling to push it over my knuckle. I held my hands out to survey the effect of this transition. Both hands felt strange and backwards, like they weren’t my hands at all. They seemed sad and alone — the hands of a single woman.

I wiped a tear from my eye. “I’m sorry Fab.” I had betrayed my husband Arron’s (Fabbo to me) love with my bold, impulsive move. I had done it unceremoniously, sitting in a car. No music, no pomp, no kisses, no smiles. Just a cold, grey New Jersey December sky to accompany my small ceremony. I recalled another in-car ring ceremony.

Arron’s wedding ring had been his father’s pinky ring, which though beautiful with his father’s initials embossed into its pink gold, had proved to be problematic as a wedding ring over the years, given that he wore the ring on his left pinky finger.  I had always wanted him to have a regular ring finger wedding ring, but had deferred to his wishes when we were married, knowing the sentimentality he held for his father’s ring since his father’s death when Arron was 17.

Arron and I had sat in this same car on a warm and sunny Saturday with the kids strapped into their car seats in the back. We had waited while Arron dashed out to the jewelers and came back clutching a small blue velvet box. He opened it and held the bright, shiny ring, which we had chosen together up in the sunlight, ready to slip it onto his hand. “Shouldn’t there be a little ceremony, or something?” I had said.

“OK. Here.” He handed me the ring. It was a lovely gold band, strong and simple.

I slid it slowly onto his ring finger, smiling at him and then kissing him gently when it was in place. He held up his hand and we were both pleased with the effect. I loved Arron’s hands – strong, creative, sensitive, loving. The ring was beautiful and I felt proud being bound to him by it.

That simple little ceremony felt like an instant renewal of our love, something secret between just the two of us. I still have his father’s pinky ring, which I will someday give to our son. Arron died wearing his new wedding band.

Now, staring at my own hands, grey in the dim light of the mid-winter morning, I mourned him once more. “It’s just coffee,” I told myself.  I hoped that my first-ever blind date would not notice the glaring whiteness of my loss, wouldn’t see my hand shake as I held my teacup. I hoped my voice wouldn’t crack when I answered the inevitable question,… ”So, how did he die?”

I touched my thumb to my ring once again for reassurance as I opened the coffee shop door.

Special thanks to Abigail Carter, author of  “The Alchemy of Loss: A Young Widow’s Transformation” for sharing this piece with Hello Grief.

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