Better Widow Than a Wife

Fridays with Robynn – a funny and poignant piece on imagination and marriage.

I have a very active imagination.

A couple of weekends ago my husband Lowell went out kayaking. He left our place on Sunday afternoon around 6 pm. I asked him if he’d be back before dark. He thought he would.

At 8:00 he called to say he’d gone too far down stream and was slowly making his way back up-stream to where he had put in to the water. But he didn’t think he’d be back before dark. He would keep me posted.

Around 9:00 pm he called again and said he was fine but it would be awhile yet. He was having a great time but it was slow going.

At 10:00pm I called him. He didn’t answer. That struck me as odd. I called again. Still no response.

Immediately my imagination kicked into high gear!

I imagined him dead. Something had happened to him. Maybe he had a seizure in the boat. Maybe he had a heart attack. Maybe an evil doer knocked him out and stolen his boat.

He was dead. I was sure of it and I was horrified. And I was so full of grief. In my imagination, I called our Pastor and the two of us travelled out to tell Lowell’s parents. I called our immediate circle of close friends. I notified others via email. In my imagination I was composed. I was brave. I grieved graciously.

I calmly planned the  funeral. During the service I delivered a very moving eulogy. All of our friends were amazed at how I held it together.

In my imagination I helped the children process the shock and horror of it. We banded together, widowed and fatherless. I communicated with their respective schools. Teachers and classmates were kind and supportive.

We were surrounded by community who brought meals and encouraged us along the way. I had to make the impossibly difficult decision whether we should move back to Canada, the country of my passport, or if we should stay here in Kansas where we were settled. I decided, for the sake of the children, of course, that we should certainly stay.

I was a lovely widow. I suffered stoically, beautifully.

And then my phone rang!! It was Lowell. He was not dead! I was furious. Why hadn’t he answered? I had completely forgotten that the phone was in the hold of the kayak to prevent it from getting wet. He hadn’t been able to answer it. He was nearly to shore. He was having a great adventure. He was so very happy.

I went to bed fuming!

When he returned home it was 10:54pm! He came into our room to tell me he was home. I coldly asked him if he had a good time. He had. In fact he had a grand adventure! It was one of the highlights of his summer! After a curt good night I rolled over, away from him, and pretended to go to sleep.

The next morning as we talked I realized how angry I had been. I was so worried. I really had no idea where he was and what I should do. Those few minutes of waiting for him to call fueled my fear and aroused my panic. When he did call, my relief wore my angry mask. I hardly recognized myself. Even I couldn’t understand why I was so angry. Why did my emotions do a double flip? Why did I respond with such venom?

It struck me: I was a far better widow in my imagination than I was a wife in real life!

I was holier in the face of mock suffering than I was in middle of a mild moment of anxiety. 

And I suspect that pretend holiness doesn’t count for much. It’s the real day-to-day responses that matter. It’s the way I greet Lowell, it’s the grace I extend to him, it’s the joy I share at his enthusiasm.

I’m working on becoming a better wife! Even after 18 years there’s still a lot to learn….

Blogger’s Note: Communicating Across Boundaries Readers – I am delighted to tell you that So.Many.Stories has launched out of Communicating Across Boundaries. This is a site that I hope will have many authors and even more stories. Take a look and if you want to participate fill out the contact form on the site!