Everybody Talks

I wear a lot of shirts with the name of my company NoMessageHere!!! and I can see people’s faces as they try and figure out what it says before I scurry by them. The other day my 9 year old niece finally figured it out and she told me: 

“Your shirt says No Message Here.”

I said she was absolutely correct and then went right back to what I was doing. She sat there for a few moments and then she said what a lot of folks have thought but never mentioned in the 10 years or so that I have been wearing the shirts. She scrunched up her beautiful little face and she asked in a child’s quiet squeaky voice:

“Isn’t that a message?”

I told her that indeed it was and that next year I was going to run for the “King of Irony.” She decided that it was best if she let it drop there and I got her a peanut butter cookie and milk. I don’t know why but a peanut butter cookie and milk makes a lot of stuff right again, and that’s enough message for me.

The Memorial Service and the Lie

Today’s Topic? The Memorial service.
Again, female spouse, still? Ruler of the house, still breathing?
Welcome to that express train through your newly widowed psyche, called “Widower 101.”
Voltaire once said:
“One owes respect to the living: To the dead one owes only the truth.”
My cousin Arnold, one of the kindest, wisest, most incredible men I personally know said this:
“Your wife will not care what sort of funeral she has. The ceremony is for those of us still living.”
Amazingly good advice tendered hundreds of years apart.
And there you go.
When it comes to the memorial service, if you loved your dead wife, it’s really your last chance, now isn’t it, new widower? It’s probably the only chance you will be able to speak to a group about how much she meant to you. So plan the memorial service with care, new widower.
Not for yourself either.
I mean your reason for existing is dead and you are basically dying every day in three-quarter time,  so plan that ceremony carefully, because there are people out there who need that sucker. Think of the mother, father, brothers and sisters, loved ones, and what they might be feeling.
 
They may not want you to put that plastic box in a paper bag, shove it into the closet, and then go drink yourself to death. Those people are going to need “closure,” whatever that might be, and so do you new widower.
 
So. Do. You.
 
Because the missis, died 2 days before Thanksgiving of 2013, the families decided we would wait out the holidays and have Ruth’s memorial service on Valentine’s Day of 2014. When I say family, I mean Ruth’s sister Esther; Ruth’s little sister, her only sibling.
 
She and I decided together, as a family.
 
I spent the holidays giving away toys to charity, donating Krispy Kremes on KVTA AM1590 in Ruth’s memory, making memorial collages, and losing my mind. I also began to prepare for the greatest performance I would ever give in my very limited acting career.
 
I worked on my routine for Valentine’s Day like a Swiss man making a clock. All the parts of the memorial service have to work precisely and somehow on that day, it all came together. 3 months of work really paid off. And it was all real, done with real love, except for one small lie.
 
To all budding theologists out there who believe there is no small or big lie, only small or big sinners, I say this: When your wife of over 2 decades dies on you, you will say or do anything to protect her memory. Lying even, if necessary.
 
Most folks, who actually know me, know I have been in plays and such, starting when I was 9 years old. In my lifetime I have been in the play, “A Christmas Carol,” twice. Once as Tiny Tim, the other time, as his father Bob Cratchit. I was quite the dickens as a child, I must say.
 
Also, I always put the script away first.
So when my better half stopped drawing breath, I immediately decided I needed to memorialize that relationship between my wife and her little sister, Esther. I knew the way instantly, and I picked up the book and read, re-read, and remembered that ultimate tale of faith. I wrote the words down, in big letters, on a piece of paper, I carried with me. I taped the words on the computer monitor.
 
I began to live and breathe those words.
 
And I took a picture of them, in my mind, just like with all the scripts I had read in the past. So on the day of Ruth’s memorial service, I talked about her sister, and she. I called them “Tom and Jerry” and “Frick and Frack.” They were really best friends forever, sisters, for real.

During my little talk up to this time, I had been holding a clipboard, wearing reading glasses, checking my notes, but when the moment I had been planning since Ruth died had finally arrived, with a lie, I was ready.
I stopped for a moment, laid down the clipboard, took off my glasses, and touched my nose like E.G. Marshall did in “12 Angry Men,” after he realized she did wear glasses. Then I just opened my mouth and lied until the cows came home. 
 
I said:“It was that ultimate statement of faith, said by Ruth in her own book, but what was it?”
 
I seemingly could not recall. I closed my eyes tighter, and squeezed my eyelids tightly shut. Then I said: “Oh yes, I think I remember.” Like I was actually just recalling it at that moment off the top of my head. 

Then after waiting again, just long enough to make everyone in the room really believe, that I could not remember, I opened my mouth, and lied with these words, just like a good Catholic schoolboy.
 
“I think Ruth said. Intreat me not to leave thee, or return from following after thee: for wither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God;
 
Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: The Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.” Book of Ruth, Chapter 1, verses 16-17. 
 
Since I had been memorizing it for almost 90 days, it rolled out of my mouth like sunbeams with crying attached.

But I did not cry.
 
I almost got thrown off for a moment, when I blinked and saw that the whole room was weeping, including Ruth’s mother, who had named them Ruth and Esther, as she mouthed the words she knew so well. Weeping for her own Ruth, now gone.
 
I shut my eyes again quickly, and finished.
 
So all you people who were there on 2-14-2014, I did not remember Book of Ruth, Chapter 1, verse 16 and 17 off the top of my head;
 
I was lying.

I did it for the mother and the little sister, that’s why I lied, and I would do it again tomorrow. I just wanted people to understand how much I loved her and why. It was my last chance to say how much, to the whole world if possible, that I loved her, and what her life was about.
 
She lived like her namesake from the bible.
 
That’s why I lied too, and I am not sorry really, and I never will be.
 
Because if there is one thing that I learned from my late wife is that not only will goodness and mercy follow you, it will wait patiently for you. Until that day you figure it out and head down the road, you should already be traveling on; no matter if you are Pastafarian, Frisbeetarian, or even American Baptist, as was Ruth.
 
It was the only road that Ruth knew and she is still travelling on it right now. I think she would understand that I did it because I love her. And she would forgive me. 
 
I mean, I know she will, when I see my heart’s companion again.
Because that’s just how she was.

Try

During the 93 days I spent on Facebook, I saw a lot of stuff. Mostly, I enjoyed the videos of cats, and the messages of one old friend who was always optimistic. Those two things were nice.

The Sorrow Gauge

Along the way you are going to start wondering where you are on your widower journey. You wonder if there is some sort of way to gauge how sad you really are and how much farther you may need to travel on your personal sadness trail. Yes there is.

It’s called music.

Music meant a lot to you when your wife was alive. There was the music that was playing when you first caught sight of her and your heart jumped into your throat. There is the music from the first time you danced together after she said “I do,” and changed your life forever. There is her favorite song, and your favorite song that you always cringed to when she decided to sing along.

Music is all around you. It really is. Even if your whole life has been like “Till There Was You,” from “The Music Man,” up to this point, music can still gauge how well you are doing or how far you still have to go. Usually, I use my wife’s favorite song but for this experiment I will be using the song “Part of You, Part of Me,” by Glenn Frey, formerly and currently, of the Los Angeles California band, Eagles.

1. Get a recording of the song.

2. Get the lyrics, and have them close at hand. For those who can’t figure out where to find stuff on this Internet, here is a copy:

“I felt it when the sun came up this morning
I knew I could not wait another day
Darling, there is something I must tell you
A distant voice is calling me away
Until we find a bridge across forever
Until this grand illusion brings us home
You and I will always be together
From this day on you`ll never walk alone
You`re a part of me, I`m a part of you
Wherever we may travel
Whatever we go through
Whatever time may take away
It cannot change the way we feel today
So hold me close and say you feel it too
You`re a part of me, and I`m a part of you
I can hear it when I stand beside the river
I can see it when I look up in the sky
I can feel it when I hear that lonesome highway
So many miles to go before I die
We can never know about tomorrow
Still we have to choose which way to go
You and I are standing at the crossroads
Darling, there is one thing you should know….
You`re a part of me, I`m a part of you
Wherever we may travel
Whatever we go through
Whatever time may take away
It cannot change the way we feel today
So hold me close and say you feel it too
You`re part of me, and I`m a part of you
I look at you your whole life stands before you I look at me and I`m running out of time
Time has brought us here to share these moments To look for something we may never find 
Until we find a bridge across forever
Until this grand illusion brings us home
You and I will always be together From this day on you`ll never walk alone
You`re a part of me, I`m a part of you
Wherever we may travel
Whatever we go through
Whatever time may take away
It cannot change the way we feel today
So hold me close and say you feel it too
You`re a part of me, and I`m a part of you”
 
3. Listen to the song. Follow along with the lyric sheet. 
 
4. You can determine just how deep your sorrow might be depending on where you break down during the playing of the song. If you start sobbing before the singing begins you still have a ways to go, and the further you can go without crying is the real test. Remember, and this is the most important thing, never listen to this song and then “Desperado,” back to back. It may cause an emotional setback from which you may never recover. 

So listen to music. Listen to your favorite music. Listen to your late wife’s favorite music. Listen to the music you loved together, even if it hurts. The hurt will fade and the love will remain, I promise. Listen to the music that she loved and see if you can find out why she loved it. This may be as difficult as determining why she loved you, but try. Also, for those keeping score, this song played over the closing credits for the movie “Thelma and Louise.”

Love What She Loved

Ruth loved music. The Sound of Music, the Island of the Blue Dolphin. She spoke French and knew Morse Code. She played the violin and lived for her cats. Remember the things your late wife loved and see if you can love them too.

Those Touching Deathbed Moments

If you and your soon to be dead spouse have the opportunity to discuss her death, just listen for the most part, that’s all she really needs. You are just as afraid as she is but you will have the rest of your life to work it out while your wife is bereft of such opportunity.

However, when you have been a couple for 23 years and married 21 of those years, you fall back into old patterns. My late wife Ruth and I always corrected each other, no matter how awkward, or the time and place of the correction. We just wanted to be smarter than the other one every once in a while. It was a game we played all the time throughout our 23 years together.

About 60 days from her death we talked about my life and how it was going to change if she died. The thing is that all the way up to the last 5 days before she died, Ruth believed she was going to survive. She always said she was not afraid of dying but that she wanted to stay because she had so many things left to do.

So we are sitting together on my late wife’s literal deathbed and she spoke of how she wanted me to be happy, and find someone, and share my life with them, like I shared my life with her. She said she wanted me to be the merry widow, and think of her now and then, and the times we had together.

I knew she got that phrase “merry widow” from reading the book “Love Story,” and I think that she knew I would be unable to stop myself from correcting her. I think it was a test she was doing so she could see if I was going to be OK alone, after she was gone. I listened to my dying wife, while she was dying, I really did, but you would not think so because of what I did next.

I listened to my sweet wife of 21 years, who had lost her hair, been radiated and medicated to within a literal inch of her life, and generally felt like death on a soda cracker most days, and then I pounced. I just told  her it would be impossible for me to do any of the things she suggested. 

It was not because I loved her too much to go on. I do, but I also must go on. It was not because I would be broken in two. Which I am. It was not because she ruined women for me because there will never be another like her in my heart and soul. It was not because she was my love eternal. 

I explained that it would be impossible to be the “merry widow” as only women can be widows and men can only be widowers. She laid back on her pillows and fell asleep with a strange little smile on her face. I guess I passed the test.

Ruth Decker-Tabarez

Some days I don’t think I can handle anything but the thought of my late wife being disappointed in me is also more than I can take. So keep on fellow widowers, keep on.

Nomenclature

I think that I will begin this group of writing by discussing nomenclature. A widower is “a man who has lost his wife to death and who has not remarried.” If this happened to you then you are a widower and are in the right place.

 
To the new widower I can offer this insight. It seems like the world has gone crazy. Yes it has. You feel like you are going crazy. Yes you are. How could you not be going crazy? You just lost your wife and you have no idea of what to do at this point.
 
Well, as I said before the world is crazy and so are you, and after a long, long while you will not be able to tell where the insanity of being on earth ends and your own insanity begins. Revel in this mix of emotions and feelings because it’s better to have them than not feel anything at all.
 
Do something crazy, as long as you don’t injure yourself or injure someone else. But remember this, you are really not crazy. You are just sad. Sadder that you have ever been in your life. Be sad. It’s OK to be sad. Just don’t do anything stupid no matter how sad you get. It’s not going to help anyone, least of all yourself.
 
 

Why This Topic?

When I was on Facebook I wrote about my wife’s death. My dear sister-in-law gave me a book written by a woman who had lost her husband at a young age and how it affected her life and actions. I liked the book but it was distinctly written by a woman, for women.

 
That was problematic for me.
 
So I decided to write a page regarding my wife and her death and how it changed me for both good and bad. I called it “Widower 101, or How to Lose Your Wife Without Killing Yourself.” 
 
It was sad and funny, and a man who I don’t know and who I have never met, sent me a message that said that he had not cried nor laughed, in the 5 years since his wife had died suddenly, and that reading what I had written helped him somehow.
 
I never wrote back to him and we did not become friends. He never “liked” me and I did not seek his friendship or approval. I just know that he felt what I had felt or was feeling and that brought us together for a moment.
 
Because that’s really what life is. A whole bunch of random moments that fly at you like a jet plane sometimes. I don’t know why but telling these stories makes me better, so I have decided to retell a few. Thanks for your indulgence and I love you Ruth. 

Ruth Decker-Tabarez, Wedding Day, 1992

93 Days on Facebook

Before my wife died in November of 2013, she made me promise her that I would be cheerful, try not to wallow in grief, and just be happy. She had cancer and after spending 23 years of my life with her, she died. I don’t really know how to explain it, but part of me died when she went. But I had the extra guilt and grief that invades your mind late at night when you start wondering…….

What if?

What if I had her see another doctor, or maybe we should have used a holistic treatment, or medical marijuana, or whatever poison it is that they hand out when your own cells turn against you and start attacking your body instead of protecting it? I never wanted to be a doctor until my wife got cancer. I cursed the hours that I had wasted on Dickens, Shelley, and Keats, and instead started learning about large cell carcinomas and what you can do to kill them.

But none of that matters anymore because she is gone. 

So on March 3, 2015, I signed onto Facebook, and started showing my face again to the world, after many years away. A world that my late wife had shielded me from throughout our marriage. After I got out of the Army I was angry and hurt, and then I met my late wife and she cured me of all that hurt and anger. During the 23 years we were married we had no “social media,” accounts because we had each other and that was all we needed. We laughed, joked, read, watched television, alone, by ourselves, and we loved it so much, we did not need Facebook and neither of us was on it.

Then she died

So here I am by myself and I thought that reaching out to old friends and relations would bring me some peace, some closure, some sense of being in the world. But it just did not work out. Like much of my life, it’s just very difficult for me to process what others are doing and explain myself in a manner that makes sense to anyone but myself. You know me, I am the person who has made a life out of telling jokes only they get, and then laughing to themselves in the corner. Alone.

I don’t know what I expected to find on Facebook, but what I found alternately horrified me and moved me to tears. But seeing everything that spewed out of that Facebook fire hose made me not want to get splashed. I want to get out of the stream and try and make sense of things, of others, of situations. On Facebook people just want to see who can get the biggest laugh or outrage. I don’t want to live in a world that is only either one or the other.

I don’t want to see people hurt or see people who think they have to hurt someone in order to make themselves feel better. I have never done this and I will not do it in the future. I must say it was wonderful seeing all those faces I had not seen for 35 or 40 years but it also made me miss my late wife. So much sometimes, that I could not even work on the pages I created, so I have quit.

I’m not quitting on life I am just quitting trying to convince people of anything. People are going to believe what they wish and they are going to discard everything that does not fit into their scheme. I just don’t get that. I mean, I understand hatred, that’s what they teach you in the army. It’s what you do to survive, to get through the day. I just don’t understand hatred for hatred’s sake. Cruelty is not cool or fun.

When did that change? I admit that while my wife was a municipal government employee, I basically sat around and put bits of ink on paper thinking it could somehow change the world. She thought that too. She always told me to write, and then gave me all the tools I needed to be able to be free and write. And now she’s dead, and I am here trying to live.

So I am driving on that highway where there are no lights, no signs, no nothing to remind you of who you are and what you might have been once upon a time. But when you are a writer and all your stories end in your own living room with you holding your wife’s hand as she dies, well that pretty much kills off all your motivation and resolve.

But anyone who has ever known me, and few really have, have always known I go my own way, and my own way does not include Facebook or feedback. I know this road so well. My late wife had kept me from it but here I am again, and I know those faces, and places, but I still need to go my own way, wherever that might be. 

So I will see you all in my heart and dreams but I can’t give anymore of myself because I feel like I just don’t have much to give anymore without my late wife, and I know those who had me in their hearts for all those years can now put me back into the file of “he’s alive and OK,” and they can continue to love the memories of me, just like I love the memories of them.

And really, isn’t that all what we all really want?

Ruth Decker-Tabarez, Wedding Day



She Is Gone

My sweet wife of 22 years died on 11-26-2013. She was everything to me and I miss her more than I can say. Hold your loved ones close this holiday season, and tell them you love them a million times. Merry Christmas to all.

My dear wife

I miss her desperately but at least she is not suffering anymore.