This year, I left the assembly until Christmas Day.
After decades of staying up almost all night on Christmas Eve, to stage the best possible surprise, I decided this year was the year we’d do it the adult way – open the package, see what it is, and put it together later. It gave the same delight, perhaps more, because it prolonged the wait to make use of the new art desk.
There was the usual trial and error (oops, bolts are supposed to go on the inside, take the screws out, go the other way, tighten) and the usual cursing and screaming when the bolts wouldn’t tighten enough, or parts were discovered cracked or broken, but in the end I got it put together with a few hours to spare to set up the appetizers for my brother and sister-in-law’s visit Christmas Day. And my handy brother got the untightenable bolts to tighten as they should and I got a beautiful adult-coloring-book page of blue butterflies out of it from my young adult, happily coloring at the new art desk.
And when the day was over and our little two-person Christmas feast cleaned up (last year, our first without Mike, I burned the cranberry sauce for the first time in my life – this year my culinary transgression was less severe, but just as disappointing – I made the gravy too thick, and gravy is usually my specialty. But I aced the mashed potatoes, so there’s that, anyway), I sat “regarding the tree,” after our nightly “candle time” of quiet contemplation and it occurred to me that a new year is coming, and it is time for me not just to figure out what my life is going to be like from now on, but to do something about it.
Each day for the past several weeks, our child has been sighing and saying, “a day without Dad.” And I’ve had to confirm again and again that yes, every day for the rest of our lives in this world will be a day without Dad, but not without his love, because like he said before he died, “Dad’s love never ends.”
Although his love is with us, he is not – not here, physically, to talk to, to joke with, to enjoy music together – and although I do still talk to him all the time (hey, talking to yourself or to your dearly departed is HEALTHY as far as I’m concerned – I may be ridiculous, but I’m not crazy), but I am speaking to a spirit, a memory, a hope that he can hear me on the other side. He’s not here, can’t be here, but I still am. Here. In this world.
So I’m determined not to spend the rest of my life stuck in the absence of his. He wouldn’t want me to. In fact when I do talk to him (HEALTHY, remember, a HEALTHY way to grieve and cope), I ask him to involve himself in helping me move on.
So in 2018, we’re going to put together a new life, a life that will be fully lived, for me and for our child.
Because if I’m trying to learn from loss to live with love and laughter, I probably should find someone to love and laugh with.
Some assembly required. A lot, actually, because I’m not sure where to begin this project of putting together a new life. I know what I want – a meaningful life, fully lived, which means involving myself with other people more, not just sitting at home, or even going out, just to be missing Mike.
That means getting busy doing things I love – singing, improvising, cooking, gardening – and trying new things – yoga class perhaps, maybe one of those wine education seminars at the big beverage depot. That’s the traditional way of meeting someone compatible – do things you enjoy to meet people who enjoy doing the same things you do.
While the traditional way may still have merit, I know the world has moved on from that hit- or- miss approach.
Now, there’s an app for that. Apps, plural. And some fancy algorithms running behind them, mixing and sorting and making a match, finding a find, catching a catch, so to speak.
So yes, yikes – online dating.
OK there I said it. I’m going to try it. I’m afraid to, and I’m going to do it anyway.
I think I’ve got a good few woman years left in me and I’d like to make the most of them.
This holiday season I’ve been humming to myself, “Santa Baby, put a new man under the tree, for me…one who’ll treat me respectfully…”
We will observe certain rules (this rule thing, it’s getting to be a pattern with me, no? (See “Middle Aged Woman Rules” and “Thanksgiving Rules”). As with the others, I reserve the option to add, alter or abandon these rules. I have rules regarding political views, but I promised no politics in this place – so I’ll keep those to myself. I think my other rules will pretty well take care of them anyway. So here goes (advice on this from those with experience, good or ill, welcome):
- Straight male. No confusion there. OK, that’s a start.
- No smokers. Non-negotiable.
- No married men. Ditto.
- No motorcycles. Double ditto.
- I will try not to make instant decisions based solely on physical appearance – swiping right – or is it left? – I’m trying to be a better human, one who shows kindness to others, and I’d like to find someone with the same aspiration – there are a few exceptions (no tattoos, no weird piercings, no man-buns or ponytails, no ungroomed facial hair – hey, wait a sec, since when am I so special, and so young, that man-buns, ink, pony tails and shaggy beards would be a problem? get a grip, ms. ridiculous!)
- All meetings, if any, will occur on neutral turf in public places until further notice.
- No man-splaining. Ejector seat on that one.
- Must be able to recognize Shakespeare, Bach, Mozart and the original BoDeans on first try. OK, maybe the second try.
- Likes the Chicago Blackhawks and the Chicago Cubs. But see rule # 7 above.
- Bonus points: likes, or will at least tolerate, attending the opera and musical theater. And super-spectacular bonus points: has read all of the Patrick O’Brian Aubrey-Maturin series, more than once.
- Thinks I’m funny, charming, attractive and smart, and likes the roundness of me, and won’t shush me when I sing. Likes my singing.
Like Mike did. Mike liked my roundness. My round head, round face, round bottom. And he took delight in my singing, my ability to vocally mimic the piccolo trumpet descending line in the Hallelujah chorus (BAH! Bah ba ba ba baaaaah!) and my ability to burst out in Puccini along with WFMT when it came on.
I’m sensing the need for a twelfth rule –
12. No trying to recreate or recapture what I had with Mike.
That’s gone. There will never be another Mike and I have to try hard not to impose expectations of a past life on a new man, but instead carry that past life with me, forward into a new future.
Starting from scratch. Starting over, starting again, carrying on, moving forward. Perhaps the best person for me will be someone who has been through a loss like I have, and is trying to carry that loss forward into a new and different life.
Someone who “gets it” about being a parent to a young adult with differences, who understands that this nest isn’t empty and isn’t likely to be for many years to come, long past when others are visiting grandchildren and going on cruises. And who is ok with that.
Good luck with that. I’ll have to try to write an honest profile of myself, the ridiculous woman, that won’t send a nice man running for the exits.
That’s going to require some major assembly – and a lot of hope and confidence. Widow goes a-wooing – in which a ridiculous woman attempts to find new love via mechanical matchmakers.
I’ll let you know how it goes – I’m sure there’ll be some cursing and crying along the way – poorly written or misunderstood instructions, or none, bolts and washers misplaced, the assembled result not quite level, but sturdy and beautiful just the same.