By Linda Wallace

Author's thoughts on the Pacific Northwest and beyond.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Widows Vacuuming

The morning after I posted my last blog, I walked to the ocean on Seola Beach Dr. It reminded me of how beautiful the world in general and Seattle in particular can be: sword ferns, snowberry, bigleaf maples, conifers and the sea. My husband and I are sure to have many more lovely days to share. Not that I expect his immediate demise, but you can’t help but think about death when your spouse has cancer, and you’re reading about mortality rates on cancer-related Web sites. My husband asked me to make a will for him, which started a new round of research. The Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Attorney General of Washington has useful information on their "Dealing with Death" page.

Every month or so I have dinner with a group of women I worked with when I was a Instructional Para-Educator for the Highline School District. That’s a fancy name for a teacher’s assistant. I feel very lucky to have been able to stay in touch after we were no longer working together. These are wonderfully supportive friends who laugh with abandon, enjoy good food at many different local restaurants and share important life events. They’ve admired my wedding and grandchildren photos, viewed my Web site,, and bought my books, Wings ePress, Inc.

Awhile ago, before the cancer diagnosis, my school-teaching group and I were having dinner, and I suddenly realized I was surrounded by widows. All of them had very different takes on their husbands’ deaths and their widowhood. One woman said she and her husband had always been "joined at the hip" and she missed him terribly. In fact, she didn’t think she should still be alive now that he was dead, and perhaps, if it weren’t for her children, she might have done something about that. Another woman said that she didn’t realize what she’d had until after it was gone. A third widow, a staunch supporter of getting on with your life, recommended taking a new lover as soon as possible. And finally, there was the friend who had coped by vacuuming. The photo is from treehugger. Yes, she said, vacuuming. Back and forth, back and forth, for days on end. She didn’t have to think, and her house was spotlessly clean.

These conversations were all before I knew my own husband has a life-threatening illness. Now I see, read and hear about cancer everywhere. I’m sure there must be some kind of psychological term for the phenomenon, but I don’t know what it is. When something becomes a part of your life, you see evidence of it everywhere. Like when you’re pregnant, you see ads for baby supplies; pregnant women on TV, in stores and on the street; newspaper articles on pregnancy, often with alarming statistics; novels with pregnant characters, etc., etc. Now I’m sensitive to cancer themes. In last night’s episode of "Gray’s Anatomy,", George’s father is diagnosed with metastasized esophageal cancer. As I watched, tears formed for the fake family even though I’ve shed few, as of yet, for my husband. I’ve been trying not to, though I suspect that’s not the most mentally healthy approach to grief and fear. I feel a surge of throat-tightening, moisture-forming, sob-threatening potential and push it away. For now, at least.

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At 11:53 AM, Blogger EilisFlynn said...

I am so sorry about your husband, Linda, but you are being so brave. We'll keep you in our thoughts and see you soon.

At 9:47 AM, Blogger Linda Wallace said...

Thank you. You don't realize how much you appreciate and need the support of your friends until something really bad looms.


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