I am no Joan Didion. That’s why I am preparing to be a widow. Since my husband is healthy, reasonably happy, and at sixty-two has newly defined biceps, why, you might ask am I a widow in-training. The answer revolves around statistics. Over 700,000 women in the United States lose their husbands each year. Sooner or later, it’s a probability.
For several years, I have taken myself away—alone—to practice as to how I might fare. Traveling to Scotland with the final destination a writer’s retreat, I spent one day before the retreat and two days afterwards, alone. Hardly an arduous examination of my survival skills. But I did have to dine alone in a foreign city and more importantly, fall asleep without the comfort of a gentle man beside me.
My husband and I have been married for over thirty-five years. We have raised three children—all of whom we both talk to regularly even though none live in the same state. We love them. They love us. Problems arise. We listen. It’s what most parents do. Although I understand baby boomers holding on to lost youth through their children by insisting they come home on Sundays for pesto chicken and whole wheat fettuccine, I am not pining for such a meal. Hunger hits me in different ways. This is why I am writing today on a ten year old laptop I borrowed from my husband. It sits on a small table nestled in between two windows in an ocean front room at a B&B in Spring Lake, New Jersey, where I have slipped away alone for a personal retreat.
When I said good-bye to my husband, the last words he said to me were, “Just chill.” Of course, we said, “I love you” and hugged. “Chillin” is not what I do best. Use your imagination and make me petite with a cropped head of silver and a mind that takes an idea to Mars and back again and you’re close enough.
My training involves walking alone, thinking alone, and eating alone in a restaurant. This is the toughest. The eating alone in public. Lunch is a breeze. Anyone can do it. When I feel particularly vulnerable, I sit at the counter. But eating dinner on a stool does not promote healthy digestion. After all, “dining” infers leisure, comfort, grace. So last night, I tried something new as part of my training program. I ordered a split of champagne with my red snapper entrée and rehearsed sipping from a flute like Katherine Hepburn.
The young hostess had seated me outdoors on the patio at a table on the end. Perfect, I thought. Next to me was a couple in their early fifties. I concluded they were not married by the man’s tone of voice and the woman’s body language. He was informing; she was listening. If they were married, she would have interjected something… I hope. Most of the time, he was on his cell phone. Apparently, he had a contracting business and was lining things up for the next day.