Dr. Ruth’s Observations About Her “Widow’s Austerity Budget”
I gave some attention in my book FINDING HUMOR IN GRIEF to the fact that, once my husband, Waverly died, my household income was significantly diminished. I remained the lady of the house, but became the housekeeper, groundskeeper, pool boy, and head chef. Yes, I cried the fist time I fell into the pool trying to clean it the way the pool service had done. Through audible, tearful mumblings, I told God, “I liked Waverly’s World better.
What have I learned these two and a half years? To begin with, I now know the precise locations of the lights in both the refrigerator and the freezer because neither is packed so full of foodstuffs that the light is obscured. I no longer have tupperware tubs filled with unidentifiable items that sprouted multi-colored mold while waiting to be eaten. No, no, that tupperware is filled with easily identifiable items I call tomorrow night’s dinner!
I’ve become a math whiz in my mind. For example, while traveling to work three days before payday, I can concentrate on traffic patterns around me, while calculating the number of miles between work and home, multiplied by the number of gallons of gas I have available. In an instant, I know whether to rub my brow in silence or find a happy radio station. The other day, I filled my large gas tank to the brim, and when I returned the pump handle to its cradle, I thought I heard a burp! More than once I’ve threatened my vehicle by saying it could be replaced by a horse and a bucket of feed! Still, the words flashing across the screen next to my steering column continue to say, “Please refuel — right now!”
With joy in my heart and a humble spirit, I’ve learned to enjoy “Ruth’s Reality” a-l-m-o-s-t as much as I loved “Waverly’s World.”
My husband, Waverly Lee Baskerville, Jr. died on March 13, 2012. We had been married for almost forty-five years, which meant that I had not just lost the company of my one true love, but I was also lost! We were each other’s best friends for our entire adult lives. Whatever one of us thought to do was filtered through the lens of what we knew about the other’s desires.
I thought it impossible to survive without him because there were too many tasks, decisions, plans that he alone managed. Dividing responsibilities is typical in long-term relationships, and couples are supposed to view each other as if the union will remain “awhile longer,” if not “forever.”
As I shared with family and close friends my struggle to accomplish a myriad of left-brain tasks previously foreign to me, they laughed heartily. They called my stories “hilarious,” though my retort was, “I don’t see what’s so funny!”
I saw that grief did have a funny side, and the title of my book came to me: FINDING HUMOR IN GRIEF.
Each segment tells a different aspect of my journey to successfully function without Waverly. I reveal my intimate thoughts and actions in a stream-of-conscience writing style, rather than to tell my story in chronological order. I don’t think anyone will be confused.
Most experiences I recount are highly amusing to all readers, but for those times when I found no humor, I created a chapter called “Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This.” Writing this book was cathartic for me, but I also wanted to connect with readers who are mourning like I am. Humor is excellent medicine for the ailing mind, body and soul.
I apologized to a dear friend for naively thinking that grieving over the loss of her husband was something that diminished in time. I foolishly likened her grief to a wound that looked awfully painful at first, but got better each day until only a tiny scar remained. I now know that these distinct scars will never disappear, and that coping with grief is the only way to find a measure of happiness again. It’s called a “new normal.”
I’ve learned that grief is like a roller coaster, where the ride never ends, and the goal is to find the courage to let go your grip of the safety bar and raise your arms high in the air, as you “free fall” with confidence that you’ll land safely, in your right mind.
The day before what would have been my forty-fifth wedding anniversary was the second most tear-filled day since Waverly died. I awoke that morning, kneeling for my usual prayer thanking God for another day. But before I could utter a word, I started sobbing and shouting, “So what’s next? What happens now? What is it that you want me to do alone that I couldn’t do with Waverly, God What do you want of me? WHAT?!!”
I know we’re not supposed to talk to God like that, but the “one day-one blessing at a time” thing wasn’t working for me. Wasn’t I able to fulfill my divine purpose in life while standing next to Waverly? I went from my parents’ home to my husband’s home, so God must have known I wasn’t meant to be alone! What was He thinking?
I never thanked Him for my daily blessings, and I never prayed for anyone else that day. I must have shown the minimum respect by saying“Amen,” but cried getting dressed and walking Lucky. I cried because I couldn’t find the Staples coupon for the ink cartridge I needed, and then because I couldn’t find one sneaker. I made it a point to keep busy with a number of tasks, but wiped away the steady stream of tears while doing them all. I got angry with myself because I made my eyes puffy, and then I cried about that.
I involuntarily knelt down by the living room coffee table sometime before dinner, loudly asking God questions in rapid succession. “Did you take Waverly because his work was done, or because you had something for me to do that I would never see until he was gone from me? Couldn’t you have given me a sign, despite the HOLY BIBLE saying ‘we know not the hour of our death,’ or something like that? I wasn’t ready! If You never make mistakes, God, then help me to make sense of this. I need Waverly, I want to hold him and kiss him – just one more time, OK? I want to say goodbye to my ‘Darling Forever’ until we meet again.”
By late evening, I felt terrible about the way I had behaved all day. God could have sent me a stern message, borrowing a line in the movie,Taxi Driver: “You talkin’ ta ME?” I owed Him a more gracious prayer that night, and I knew I had better pray for someone besides my sorry self! Tomorrow would be better.
I knelt down and bowed my head, thanking God especially for this day that tested my faith, understanding and patience. I thanked Him for the profusion of love from my family and friends, and for allowing me almost forty-five years with my true love. I thanked God for taking Waverly so quickly and painlessly, without his lingering or experiencing discomfort or losing his dignity.
“Because my husband and I were heavy for years before he died, I pledged to lose weight for both of us. I joined a gym, where I was the oldest and biggest person in the Total Body Workout class. My fourth day of exercise in three decades would have been horrifying, if I had not passed the age of being horrified. We were standing on the stepper, and the order was given to grab the right ankle and pull the right leg back until our sneaker touched our butt. At the same time, we were to extend the opposing arm and lean forward slightly.
I lacked the balance to even remain on the stepper, but I was determined to keep trying to do the task. I grabbed the little ankle sock that peeked out from the sneaker, figuring that if I could pull the sock behind me, the foot would follow.
My exercise Instructor Felix appeared in front of me, shouting, “Give me more!” Much like the release of a rock from a slingshot, the sock gave way, I lost my grip and my balance, and fell into the arms of Felix – literally!! His body broke my inevitable fall, nose first, onto the front of the stepper. Only because he had such upper body strength and balance did we not both hit the gym floor with me on top of him.
Every person in the class held their poised, balanced positions while staring at their instructor and infamous classmate. Felix composed himself and moved away from me without a word. Sure my face was red, but the upside was likely that Felix would never again stand close to me saying, “Give me more!” I believe I gave him ALL.”
FINDING HUMOR IN GRIEF will be available in time for the holidays, at a cost of $14.95. It appeals to those grieving, like me, and to those who want to comfort persons who’ve lost loved ones. When we find the humor in grief, no matter how fleeting, we replace a moment of sadness with laughter, usually at ourselves! It’s the best therapy on the road to healing our broken hearts.
For more information, contact Dr. Ruth L. Baskerville at 407-656-1092, email@example.com, or www.facebook.com/ruth.baskerville.3.