A DIFFERENT SHADE OF GRIEF

Here’s the thing: many know that there are stages of grief and that everyone goes through them differently. Many also know that there is no such thing as “getting over” grief; you only slip and slide through it.

But nowhere yet have I encountered any article, any book, telling me there is an other-worldly component to grieving.

*After posting the sad news on social media about my husband’s sudden death, and receiving many prayers, thoughts, and virtual hugs, I woke up at two in the morning barely a week later and posted an important update: I desperately needed coffee NOW. The background I chose was a plethora of smiley faces, all laughing hysterically. (I’m sure many friends were scratching their heads.)

*I walked into the Acme supermarket, stood near the rice and burst into quiet tears. My recently departed spouse hardly ever bought that particular brand of rice. Or any rice. We didn’t even have rice thrown at us at our wedding. It was raining and soggy rice just wouldn’t have cut it.

*I’m humming Christmas songs long after the decorations are put away and we’re segueing towards spring. And there’s no holly jolly in them–“I Wonder as I Wander,” “Silent Night,” “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”

*Just like in pregnancy, I have cravings. Right now I crave dark chocolate; it’s what’s for breakfast (and maybe lunch and dinner). Next week it might be pomegranates, whatever they taste like.

*Even though I am deep into the fun of menopause, I’m stacking sweaters on top of sweaters to ward off an imaginary chill. I wobble instead of walking.

*I cut my finger on the envelope of a sympathy card and, amazed at the red stuff and the knife-like pain, thought, how appropriate. No, my husband did not die of a paper cut. No blood was lost on his part. Probably a reminder that I’m still alive and kicking.

* I shudder when I am referred to as a widow. It conjures up thoughts of ancient women wearing black gauzy veils over their faces and smelling of decaying carnations. Give me my makeup and fragrant tea roses and a glass of chardonnay, and call me “the surviving spouse” instead.

–Anne Skalitza, 2019

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WITH A SAFETY PIN AND A PRAYER

Years ago there was a tongue-in-cheek advice given to girls when going on a date:

“Bring a newspaper and a safety pin. The newspaper is to place on a boy’s lap in case you’re in a crowded room and need to sit on his lap. The pin is to poke him if he tries anything you don’t want.”

Of course we all laughed but I’m sure we all crossed our fingers or said a prayer that we wouldn’t have to fight off a guy who couldn’t take “no” for an answer. Unfortunately this was the norm. This was the expected. This was and still seems to be the mentality of boys will be boys, what do you expect when they’re drunk, you dressed provocatively, you were drunk…and the list goes on and on.

No. Just no. No more. No longer should we females have to pray, scream, kick, or silently cry. Nor should we be laughed at or taunted by the males who feel they need to demonstrate their prowess or their entitlement.

There is one thing, though, that should also be noted: through the years of my dating or just being around males, it was the very few who acted like they could do anything they wanted with no repercussions. Most of the boys in high school and men in college and beyond respected me and I know my girlfriends can say the same. But what we need is for all males to realize that the norm now is not what it was, but rather what it should be. And that we girls and women will no longer tolerate any male who doesn’t accept that.

MY SONS, MY ADVENTURE

Your size ten sneakers grace our front porch,

too caked with dirt to wear inside,

they greet friends and family as they knock on our door.

 

I buy groceries as if feeding a football team,

and you willingly carry the bags inside,

then devour half the contents.

 

Your music blares from your speakers,

announcing to the neighborhood your presence,

as I do my work to its rhythm.

 

All of this I greet as an adventure, relishing the unexpected hugs,

the parent-son talks, knowing that no matter how old,

you are my sons.

 

And I love you.

 

–Anne Skalitza 2018

SUMMER’S OVER (Hear Me Sigh)

The air is crisp,
my walk is brisk,
to lose the weight
from funnel cake.

I breathe in deep,
the climb is steep,
summer’s over,
must get over
chocolate ice cream,
(now a dream),
cannot forget
sweet baguettes.

Boardwalk food–
cannot brood
for greasy fries,
tomato pies.

Must bid adieu
to barbeque,
Margaritas
with fajitas.

The fall
it calls–
pumpkin lattes
mocha lattes.
Cider donuts,
luscious spiced nuts.

Beef stew,
comfort food.
I bid adieu–
my waistline too.

OF ICE AND ZEN

Grass crackles under feet,
hair like hay in this heat.

Wetness pools underarms,
Eau d’ Sweat doesn’t charm.

Rush inside for cooling drink,
central air is on the blink.

Lemonade made with ice,
would be better if it’s spiked.

Freezer has ice cold air,
I think I’ll keep my head in there.

Husband wanders in the room,
laughs out loud–who’s this loon?

Hair and eyebrows frozen stiff,
I dash outside till air is fixed.

Pavement hot, bare feet sizzle,
I dance and jump and do a jiggle.

Race back in and heave a sigh,
day is done, and so am I.

–A.S.

Obituaries Aren’t Us

Death is never humorous. It’s the obituaries that sometimes are.

Years ago when someone died, forms were filled out by the deceased’s loved one at the funeral home, then it was sent to the local newspaper for the obituary editor to compile into a well-written, just-the-facts, notice. Within the last fifteen years or so, our local paper has allowed self-written essays (for a fee, of course. The more words the better) in the obituary section. This has produced the gamut of writing styles and decimation of the English language. It also gives the reader insight into the family’s dynamics, whether the writer intended to or not.

This morning I was sipping my jolt of high-octane coffee when I nearly choked. Not from the hot liquid, but from a 95-year-old woman’s obituary. It ran three half-page columns exhorting her privileged life.

This is the part of the obituary that had me just about spew my coffee:

“Despite recommendations and pressure from bank trust officers to diversify the family’s (stock) portfolio, (deceased person) followed the wishes of her parents and held the (certain company) shares, some of which were purchased more than 100 years ago. The company continued to pay through the Great Depression. It is a quintessential long term investing story of which the family is very proud. The family is grateful for her faith and vision in the benefits (of) long-term stock investing.”

I’m sure the family is very grateful.

And then, about a year ago, another family seemed to have a hard time expressing how bereaved they were. They lamented that the deceased woman’s children and grandchildren now “lost a piece of their minds” over her death.

I am so sorry brains were wasted in the process.

There is also the improper use of grammar that has me become apoplectic. But that, since I wish to remain calm, is for another day.

Lost Among the Gurneys

December 9

7 am–I’m at the hospital, wondering as I wander. My older son needs minor surgery today. As he’s whisked away on a gurney,  I’m told to sit in the waiting room, right around the corner.

Five minutes later and I’ve lost my way. I finally meander into a waiting room but the lights are out and the coffee machine is stone cold. I am in desperate need of caffeine and a map of the place. I wonder if they’ll find me.

7:45 am–After flagging down another lost person, we find our way to the correct waiting area. I settle in but realize that I lost my purse. A wonderful young man who works here probably sees a woman who looks like she’s in the early stages of dementia. He helps by walking me through the hallways to where I first sat, then after retrieving my errant purse, guides me safely back, past patients being wheeled on stretchers and gurneys into the sunrise. At least they know where they’re going.

9:30 am–After three cups of coffee and four bathroom breaks, I see my son being wheeled on a stretcher down the corridor. I rush after them. The transport person eyes me and says, “We looked for you. You must have been in the wrong waiting room.”

December 10

My older son is out and about. I’m on the couch, resting up from yesterday’s ordeal.