Dance Class

The first Valentines Day without my husband was torture. Everything that existed in the universe felt like a personal attack. The cheap-looking bears holding heart-shaped balloons on a stick at CVS, the conversation heart candies, the kissing and giggling couples around every corner. It all felt like one, giant personal attack on me and my loss.

The second Valentines Day was a little bit softer, but not much. I tried to busy myself and pretend the day wasn’t happening, but that didn’t work, because last year I had to work on that day, and I teach at a college. So it seemed as if everywhere I turned, guys were presenting their girlfriends with flowers and gifts and hugs and love; as the sad widow professor darkened the hallways with her every heavy step. I wanted to sit in my car and sob, which I did, after my last class finally ended.

This year, we are stuck in yet another major snowstorm in NY, so I didn’t have to work, and here I sit, alone in the cacoon of my apartment, safe from the world of other humans, hiding behind my keyboard. The comedian in me was planning on filming a funny Valentines Day – themed video for my You Tube channel today, in order to help combat depression with humor – but the stupid weather may stop that from happening. So here I am. Should I venture out into the land of people? I don’t know. Part of me wants to rebel against my own sadness, but the other part just doesn’t much feel like having other people’s love shoved in my face in the form of red velvet cupcakes and Whittmann’s chocolates.

Grief changes all the time. But the changes don’t always feel easier, especially when you are inside of them. Just because the pain gets different, doesn’t mean the pain gets better. It just gets different. And the longer you have been dealing with the loss of “your person”, the more familiar you become with all of the many changes. So instead of “what the hell is THIS that I’m feeling?”, it becomes “Oh, right. THIS again? I remember this. I know this. Let me sit inside of this for awhile, until it becomes something else.”

This year, Valentines Day carries a pain with it, but it’s a familiar pain. I know this dance. I’ve done these steps. My legs are tired and my feet burn from doing them, because nobody asked me if I liked this choreography or even if I wanted to dance at all. So I do the steps like a robot, phoning them in and getting them over with. I know how this one goes. I hate this song and dance, but I know it, and I know that I have no choice but to listen to it, until it stops. Is this the extended remix version? Why won’t it stop???

It won’t stop, because for us, it never stops. There is always something. Always. The emotions of grief lurk in every single corner. The extreme sadness of Valentines Day, isn’t even about Valentines Day. Not really. Not entirely. It matters not whether you celebrated the day with your person. What matters is that you had a person, and with that person, you had rhythms and music and steps. Days like Valentines Day are brutal mirrors into what is no longer there. The music has stopped, and now you hear new music. Or no music. Maybe you hear nothing at all. But none of that matters. Nobody cares what you hear or don’t hear. Nobody cares that you don’t like the steps and you hate this song and you don’t want to do this anymore. Nobody cares that you signed up for this dance class by mistake, or didn’t sign up for it at all. Nobody cares that you can’t walk and you need to sit down, as they walk on by with their love roses and candy hearts and comforting cards. They don’t care, or they don’t notice, because they are in love and therefore, in the midst of their own sweet dance.

People are dancing all around you, and love is in the air. But your person is gone, and they can no longer dance with you, yet you are forced to dance anyway, not knowing or wanting to know the steps to this horrible song. Keep dancing, they say. Let the pain in your heart and your feet and your eyelids, carry you forward into that next step – until the music finally changes, and that next step becomes something else.

How To Annoy People In Love On Valentine’s Day (from a bitter Widow)

Ever since losing my husband to a sudden heart attack on July 13, 2011, I have had hard days; and really hard days. There are days that I wake up after only 2 or 3 hours of sleep, and I think to myself: I might be okay today. And then I might be for a few hours. And then I’m suddenly not. Okay. On other mornings I get out of bed, go to work, or do whatever else needs to be done that day, and the whole time I’m thinking to myself: I can’t wait to get back home again and just sit in my bed and cry. It is a pretty sad state of affairs when you actually can’t wait to get home and cry.

My kitties have their moods too. Some days they randomly decide they don’t want to eat anything that I give them, even though they loved that same food the day before. Other days they eat too much, way too fast, and they decide to start throwing up all over the apartment. The best, though, is when they sleep all day long; and then choose the minute I go to bed to start acting like lunatics. Autumn will stare at the ceiling and meow nonstop. Don and I used to say that she sees dead people up there. Now I think maybe she sees Don, and I’m jealous of her because I can’t see him or feel him, so I beg my cat like a crazy person to please tell my husband I love him. Sammy was Don’s sweet boy. Sammy loved Don and followed him everywhere, all of the time. When Don would sleep, Sammy would sleep on Don’s head. On his HEAD! He would wake Don up at insane hours like 4am, by pawing and clawing and giving him love-bites and purring loudly into his ear, banging his head up against Don’s face. He would not stop until Don got out of bed and fed him. Even if you had fed him 4 hours before that, it didn’t matter. If he still had food in his dish, it didn’t matter. This cat would bug the shit out of my poor husband until he got up and fed him. I used to laugh, then roll over and go back to sleep. Well, I’m an asshole, because now I’m the one getting up at 4am to put “fresh” dry food into this cat’s bowl so he will go the hell away and let me sleep.

This morning was different though. On this morning, our sweet Sammy decided to grieve extra hard for Don, by leaping up onto my chest at 5am, when I was finally fast asleep. He scared the shit out of me. I screamed. My arm flung across my chest and flung him off me, and he jumped, his back paw and very large, sharp claw hitting my right eye and underneath it. My cat scratched my cornea, and underneath my eye looked like I had been molested by a tiger. That is how this morning began. Generally, if you have one of those days where you get up, and within minutes, you are thinking: I should never leave the house today and just go back to bed – it is probably a good idea to never leave the house and just go back to bed.

That is what I should have done. Instead; I had things to do. I had to go to the store and pick up some food, cards, detergent … why am I telling you what I bought? You don’t give a shit.  Let’s just say I had to buy stuff. I walked into the grocery store, and the entire store was red and pink. Plastic, tacky heart decorations and large teddy bears holding cheap chocolates permeated the aisles. Love and Hallmark were in the air. Only 3 more days until Valentine’s Day. It will be my first one as a widow, my first one without my husband. I walk by a row of cards, and one says: “Marriage Means Growing Old Together.” Another one shows an older couple and reads: “I Want to Grow Old With You.” My one good eye starts welling up with tears, and I start crying in the middle of the stupid grocery store. There is a bandage over my other eye, so I look like a sad pirate perusing and sobbing over loving cards. People in the store must be extremely confused by my presence. I want to scream out: “ARRRRR!!!!”, but I’m not in the mood to be funny.

When I get to the register, there is a couple in their 70’s or 80’s in front of me paying for their things. The husband is lightly teasing the wife; they are bantering and joking around. It is very sweet, and I am so angry and jealous of them and their time together. As he puts all the heavy items onto the counter for her, she looks at me and says: “My husband is so good at that! He always makes sure I don’t have to use my muscles.” She laughs. I smile with my lips, and cry through my one open eyeball. She looks in fear at my pirate eye and they leave, leaning on one another, literally.

This has turned into one of those days where I should have stayed home, and where I couldn’t wait to sit in my bed and cry. Just about anything and everything can cause it, but on this day, it is the thought that I will never grow old with my husband; and that I could possibly grow old and BE old all alone. There won’t be anyone holding onto me as we go up the ramp to the Golden Corrall for the Early Bird 4pm Fish Fry Dinner. My fears about death and getting old and sick make me instantly hate that couple. My memories of the dinners and the beautiful roses and the lovely, thoughtful cards, and the “I love you, Boo” and those gorgeous blue eyes looking into mine make me hate anyone who gets to have a Valentine’s Day with someone they love. I have grown tired of crying, and grieving. It is so damn exhausting. It is time now to get pissed. Since there is nobody in particular to be pissed at, I will just be pissed at earth and life and humans. As Valentine’s Day quickly approaches, I have decided to make a wish list of all the things I would LOVE to do on that day, but cannot, because I would be arrested. Here are my Top 11 Ways to Annoy Those in Love on Valentine’s Day: (Most Lists are top ten lists, but as always, in the spirit of my husband’s favorite movie This Is Spinal Tap and Nigel, “these go to eleven.”


1. Go into Walgreen’s, CVS, and other drugstores that sell cheap-ass, stale candy like “Whitmann’s” – and wait for men to pick it up to purchase. Whenever a guy picks up a box, just look at him and say: “Really? This is what you’re going with? Seriously? If I were you, I wouldn’t even bother with the red tacky heart shaped balloon on a stick. Now you’re just being insulting.”

2. Stand at the Port Authority bus terminal, or the grocery store, where men go to buy last-minute bouquets of flowers. I would stand in front of the display and just yell out, as if I’m the one selling them: “Get your discounted, nonpersonal, I don’t give a shit about you at all, flower arrangements right here! These flowers are guaranteed to live for your entire car ride home – up to 10 miles. Tell your girl to ignore the weird, musty smell coming from inside the bouquet. We don’t know what it is either. Please don’t ask. She can water these, but it won’t help. These flowers WILL die, suddenly and without warning. Just like my husband!”

3. This next one was my friend Elayne Boosler’s idea, and I love it. Stand outside in the middle of NYC somewhere, maybe in Central Park, where lots of couples would be walking by. As loving pairs stroll by, make rude comments about them under my breath, judging their relationship out loud: “Oh yeah, THAT will last!”, or “Oh, like she isn’t using him for his huge bank account. Please!” or “How original. Your hand inside her jeans back pocket. Lame!” This would make me giddy.

4. Go to a restaurant, put my name on the reservations list with the last name “Widow”, so they will have to call out: “Widow – Party of One. Widow – Party of One???” Get a table in the center, alone, and wait for all the many couples to show up together, celebrating Valentine’s Day. Once the place is filled with happy couples; start loudly talking and giggling to myself as if there is another person there with me. Act extra giddy. Laugh loudly, pull out a rose from under the table, present it to myself, and say: “Oh baby! You SHOULDN’T have! For meeeee?” Bat my eyes. Unbutton the top two buttons on my blouse, look across the table and say: “Oooh! Here? Right now? You naughty, naughty boy!” Then get up, holding hands with my imaginary lover, and exiting the place, leaving them all completely confused and wondering.

5. Start my own line of “Widow Anti – Valentines Day Conversation Hearts”, and replace all the normal ones in stores with mine. They would have messages like:  “Everyone Will Die”, “Love Ends When One of You Dies”, “I Am Completely Alone”, “This Heart Was Made With Real Tears”, “Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m Dead!”, “Will You Be My Valentine … Cat?”, “Be Mine – Until I Die Unexpectedly”, “All We Are Is Dust In the Wind”, “You Might Choke on this Heart and Die”, “There’s a Good Chance One of Us Will Get Cancer Someday”, “Nobody is Promised Tomorrow”, “Enjoy this Sugary Treat Knowing that My Husband Had a Heart Attack!”, “Text Me! No Wait – Never Mind. My phone Is Disconnected Cuz I’m Dead.” Okay, most of these most likely wouldn’t fit onto a tiny little candy heart, but this is a fantasy, so let’s just pretend it does.

6. Get a hold of every single romantic comedy ever made in the history of time, go through and at the very beginning, add a shot of me saying into the camera: “SPOILER ALERT! None of this matters! Everybody Dies!” Then, each movie ends the exact same way, with text across the screen reading: “Two weeks later, they were both tragically killed.”

7. Go through every card aisle of every Hallmark store on earth with magic marker and put sad faces and giant penis drawings on all of the Valentine’s Day cards. Hide behind display and laugh.

8. Pre-chew all of the Valentine’s Day chocolates and then put them back into their little wrappers. Replace identification signs like “Vanilla Cream” and “Rasberry Filling” with signs that say things like: “This tastes like Ass”, or, “Unidentifiable Orange Disaster”, or, “Smells of Poop.”

9. Be the person in charge of the messages that get attached to all of the flower deliveries, and mix them all up so they go to inappropriate people. Send a dozen roses with the message: “I can’t wait to be alone with you tonight. You make me so hot!” to some dude’s mom. Creepy.

10. Crash a wedding. Wait for the priest to say “If anyone here does not approve of this marriage, speak now or forever hold your piece…” (Okay. Nobody actually says that in weddings. Ever. I have never once heard it in my entire life and I’ve been to a lot of weddings. But again … this is a fantasy, so let’s pretend.) When he says that, yell from the back of the church:  “I DO NOT CONDONE THIS UNION!!!” Then drop your pants and blast the Benny Hill theme song over the loudspeakers. When it ends, leave slowly and awkwardly; sans pants.

11. Bring my husband’s death certificate all over the place, and keep presenting it at stores as if it’s a gift card or discount card. “Excuse me, do you offer a Widow Discount? But I have this death certificate …. ” “Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day, and my husband died. I’d like to buy myself some flowers and chocolates. What is your policy on Widow Discounts? Here is the death certificate … ” “Can I just get HALF of a banana split? I have nobody to split it with, since my husband is dead and all. Please give me the Widow Price. Here’s the certificate…”

In reality, I will most likely just sit home on Valentine’s Day and stare at the wall. Or have dinner with our kitty cats and then watch them throw up. But I’m not bitter or anything.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Love is in the air. And then you’re dead.