Thanks for asking

I’m still standing

For months now people have been asking me how I’m doing. I’m OK. Before my wife got sick and died, if anybody casually asked how I was I’d say, “Fine.” I wouldn’t think much about it, if at all. I’d just say, “Fine.”

“Fine” wasn’t based on any detailed examination of my states of mind and body. I’d just do my usual scan: No exploding metal falling from the sky? No suppurating wounds or unsightly growths? No imminent starvation? No intractable pain? Then I’m fine. I could be fine even in those situations, and so without them I’m definitely in good shape.

Then people would ask how I was because they knew something about caregiving. I’d sometimes say, “I don’t see a good place to fall so I’m still standing,” which was fairly accurate. Caregiving was tiring, stressful, all-new, and chock-full of opportunities to judge myself, but I had nothing to compare me to so I just did my best and did better when I could.

I’ve heard that somebody has divided grieving into numbered stages, which is usually a silly, simple-minded thing to do and very popular. I don’t know what stage I’m in. Although a lifelong bookworm, I didn’t think to bone up for grieving. I’ve known for a long time that Janice was likely to die soon, but I was king of denial, and now I’m too busy grieving to read about it. My official position is that I’m doing all right and in the proper stage for my age and vocabulary.

About a month after Janice left me to my own devices I began to notice changes in my emotions. Waves of sadness still took me over, but not so often, maybe a couple of times a day. Then a week ago I had a string of days of no tears. I’d choke up, moist eyes, no tears. I felt guilty, which I see now was quite an achievement, and suitably short-lived.

Recently I was going home after some death-related administrative chore with my widower briefcase when the Godzilla of Grief got me in my car outside the Humboldt Has Beans. I spent the next several minutes sobbing uncontrollably, which phrase I now know as more than just a figure of speech, while I waited for a tow truck because my car wouldn’t start. The Godzilla of Grief is a cold-blooded mother.

A friend distributed Janice’s clothes, so I have only her notes and files and books and art and supplies and equipment to deal with. Piece of cake next to Godzilla.