Monday, July 8, 2013

Creative Widowhood 4: When Things Break

My husband’s broken body. My broken heart. My shattered world.

            When Gene died, it seemed that everything in the universe had broken or was about to break. I walked on eggshells, expecting the ground to shatter beneath my feet and the sky to finish falling. I drove gingerly to keep the car from flying to pieces. At the supermarket, I handled my shopping cart as if it were made of glass.

            I had good reason: things around me broke with remarkable frequency in the first weeks and months after my husband’s death. Right away, his theretofore reliable CTS would not start. With almost his dying breath, Gene had told me to renew the AAA membership. Prescient? Having renewed, I called for a tow. The repair bill came to $800.

            Almost simultaneously, my computer would not boot. I spent $100 on parts trying to fix it myself. Failing in that, I paid another $100 to have the hard drive wiped and the operating system reinstalled.

            Then the phone went dead. Getting a technician to repair it cost me nothing, but almost a week passed before the landline was back in service.

            Soon after that, the garage-door opener failed. Gene had prepared me to address this problem on my own. Years ago, the other one had quit in the same way, and I remembered how he had gone about repairing it. He’d bought a replacement gear from the Sears parts house, and all the related paperwork was carefully tucked inside the owner’s manual, giving me full details of which part to buy and how to replace it. The entire operation went so smoothly, I felt Gene there in the garage with me, guiding my hands on the nut driver and socket wrench.

            Other things have broken in the year since his death, but nothing so far has been unfixable. When the lawnmower wouldn’t start, my next-door neighbor gave the carburetor a sharp tap with the handle of a screwdriver and got it going again. When a tire developed a slow leak, I went to the local Discount Tire store and found they had Gene in their computer. Unbeknownst to me, he’d bought many tires there. They fixed my flat for free.

            His 1987 Toyota Supra Turbo project car was in need of major repairs, including a blown head gasket. That got fixed too, as a direct consequence of him advising me to renew the AAA. My membership includes a magazine, “Texas Journey.” In the first issue after Gene’s death was an ad for a local repair shop where I could get the oil changed in his CTS. (Gene had always done that himself.) Talking cars with the guys there, I mentioned Gene’s Supra. Soon, one of the mechanics brought a Toyota specialist to see the car. He loved it, bought it, repaired it, and is restoring it to a like-new standard that even my perfectionist husband must admire.

            I have no doubt that Gene’s intervention put his beloved Supra into the hands of exactly the right new owner. He guided those events toward the outcome he wanted.

July 8, One Year Later …

            I am no longer walking on eggshells. I am not driving gingerly. Two weeks ago I got a speeding ticket—my first in years. I wear it as a badge of honor.

            Inevitably, more things will break. Texas summers murder air conditioners; I keep an ear tuned to detect any change in the busy humming of my A/C. I check the oil frequently in the car and lawnmower and inflate the tires, doing what I can to forestall the next round of repairs. But now when things break, I don’t feel as though the world is shattering. Things can be fixed.

            Only my husband’s death is irreparable. My life continues, but can never be the same.

“Nature repairs her ravages, but not all. The uptorn trees are not rooted again; the parted hills are left scarred; if there is a new growth, the trees are not the same as the old, and the hills underneath their green vesture bear the marks of the past rending. To the eyes that have dwelt on the past, there is no thorough repair.” —George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (1860)

Creative Widowhood

I believe this post will conclude my “Creative Widowhood” series of personal essays.

  • The first one, Climbing Out of the Pit, has done good. I’ve heard from other widows who found that it helped them process their feelings.
  • The second one, Adapting, I view as personally important in recording an episode that has special significance for me.
  • The third one, Looking for Meaning, is a bit whiny, but I allow myself the occasional bout of self-pity.
  • This fourth one, When Things Break, represents a milestone in my life.

             After this, I plan to return to book-related subjects. It’s time I scheduled another blog tour. My first tour ended about two weeks before my husband’s sudden and unexpected death. I know he would want me to go on getting the word out about my WATERSPELL trilogy. Gene knew better than anyone the years of effort and craft I put into producing the best writing of which I am capable. The books are getting highly favorable reviews, and many more fantasy fans will enjoy and value them if I can help readers to discover them.

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