My Years as a Widow-in-Waiting

This woman's days were filled with uncertainty when her husband’s health began its steady decline, but she clawed her way back

by Nancy K. Schlossberg • Next Avenue
sad woman image

I was introduced to Steve the week of the Cuban missile crisis. One month later we were engaged and six months later we were married. I loved his principles — to work for social good rather than money. I also loved the fact that in 1963 he was a feminist.

After we were married, I told him I would stop working to take care of the children. Steve knew how much I was committed to my field (adult transitions and career development) and wouldn’t hear of it. “We will figure this out and share responsibilities,” he said.

(MORE: Don’t Become a ‘Shoebox Widow’)

He has made my life wonderful.

The Beginning of the End
Six years ago, I received a call to come to the George Washington University Hospital emergency room, in Washington, D.C., because Steve had fallen down a 188-foot subway escalator. It took the doctors more than five hours to stitch him up.

That was the beginning of Steve’s gradual six-year decline. It was also the start of my time as a widow-in-waiting, when my life revolved around him, his health and his care.

First, Steve used a cane, then a walker and finally a wheelchair. He had numerous surgeries, including a pacemaker insertion, a hip replacement, a knee replacement and a heart bypass.

When he had a major fever, our children came immediately because the doctors did not expect him to survive. (He was saved by massive doses of antibiotics.) A month later, Steve had emergency surgery on an incarcerated hernia. Once again, the children came for his anticipated death.

After that hospitalization, his doctors suggested Steve have no more surgery and he began a period of hospice at home with round-the-clock-care. Though not actively dying, he was very frail, with dementia and a diminished quality of life.

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Next: Amy Yasbeck on John Ritter's Death and Being a Widow

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Photo courtesy of wrangler/

First Published Thu, 2013-06-13 11:12

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