and at sea? Does travelling as a widow change your perspective? I’m on a cruise with my sister and brother-in-law, and as much as I love them, it’s my first vacation without my husband. My sweet Rex died a year and a half ago and I am still trying to navigate the seas… pun intended.
A pretty blonde on Deck 5 leans across the bistro table and smiles at her husband. She notices that his coffee is darker than usual and whispers, “Do you need more milk for your coffee?” He smiles back and looks deeply into her eyes. “Thanks babe, that would be great!” They are in their 20’s and obviously in love. The gentle way they speak to each other reminds me of the sweetness that defined my marriage. Rex never raised his voice to me and always made sure I had everything I needed.
Two tables over, a 40 something couple in bright red tee shirts engage in an animated conversation. A teen-aged girl with a thick brown pony tail runs over to their table. Another girl, her sister maybe, joins her and together they begin their appeal. “Mom, can we pleeeeese have money for ice cream?” After some playful banter and a lot of laughing, the girls run off to purchase their treats.
I have two grown children, so the days of them begging for ice cream money are long gone. Fortunately, my kids are self-supporting with jobs, homes, and families of their own. I’m proud of them and love my six beautiful grandchildren. As I watch this family, I long for the day when my kids needed me that way. I’m fine on my own, but how nice it would be to put extra milk in my husband’s coffee.
As I start feeling sorry for myself, an older man passes by, pushing his wife in a wheelchair. Just then my focus shifts to a 50ish year old woman as she grabs her husband’s hand on the steps so she doesn’t lose her footing. Yes, cruising is for couples, and I’m grateful for the chance to be spending quality time with my sister and brother-in-law. And yet, as I watch all the couples stroll by, I am once again hit with the reality of being a widow. I’m trying to have a good time, when suddenly the tears come uninvited.
I’ve been a couple for so long, that it feels like I’m missing a limb. I know the “rules” for being married, I just don’t know how to behave as a widow. Will I just get used to being alone? Or will I tag along with married friends and relatives on their vacations? Maybe I’ll find girlfriends to travel with. Or would it be easier to just stay home to avoid the discomfort? I decide to call it a day and go to my cabin to indulge in a little pity party.
Fortunately, by the next morning my attitude has improved. I drag myself out of bed and go for coffee on the Promenade Deck. To my right I hear a 70ish year old woman with died orange hair berating her husband. Her voice is loud and shrill. “Didn’t you go to the bathroom?” she scolds. “I told you to go before we left the room. You’ll never find a clean toilet in port! Why don’t you ever listen to me?” He doesn’t look embarrassed, he’s apparently used to this, so I simply look away.
We get off the ship in Aruba and an overweight man in his 60’s shouts across the gangway to his wife. “It’s too slippery, I can’t do these steps,” he yells. “That’s not my fault,” she retorts, “If you lost weight like you’re supposed to, it wouldn’t be a problem!” She eventually goes over to him and helps him down to steps. “I knew this cruise wasn’t a good idea,” I hear her complain under her breath.
Marriage isn’t perfect, I understand that first hand. Rex and I certainly had our share of problems. My first year as a widow I was angry all the time, (in between bouts of depression). Now I’m remembering the good times, and probably idealizing them in the process. I long for his company when I have something on my mind that I’m burning to share. Talking things through with him always helped me make better sense of my feelings. I miss the easy way we could talk about our day, books we’d read, politics, theatre, and especially the people we loved. We had such fun going places at home or away, and I miss his company, his companionship, his loving eyes.
And yet, there are days when I’m almost comfortable being a widow. I can walk at my own pace and make my own decisions. I can stay up as late as I want and not tiptoe around the house when he’s napping. Don’t get me wrong, I miss him terribly, and would give anything in the world to have him by my side.
I am grateful that we had a loving marriage that thrived both on land and at sea. I will always love you, Rex, nothing could ever change that. I’m just starting to hear my own voice and walk my own path. And with that comes a new freedom that I’m actually starting to enjoy. Thank you, Rex, for giving me courage to enter this next phase of my life alone.