And Then There Was One

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Ida brought a single cup of coffee to the table and sat down, trying to ignore the chair across from her, now unoccupied. She had started to make his toast again this morning but this time caught she herself in time and put the slices back into the wrapper. She wished they sold bread in half loaves so she didn’t have to freeze half of it. The store had half-dozen of eggs and small cans of vegetables, why not half loaves of bread … for one.

It amazed her how many adjustments were required of a widow. People seemed to think once the funeral was over and a decent amount of time had passed, the surviving spouse should get about their life and complete the healing process. But how could you when you are affronted daily with reminders of being a couple?

Even her vocabulary had to change from we, to, I. That was one of the hardest thoughts she had to process, the singularity of it all. “My home.” She forced herself to say it out loud. But saying it, didn’t make it so. It was, indeed, her house now, but certainly not a home. It was a home when children ran in and out, slamming the screen door no matter how many times they were told not to. It was a home when the children left and it was just she and her husband at the breakfast table, sharing morning coffee and plans for the day.

“Guess I’ll go over to the post office and check the mail.” He’d announce, every Monday through Friday, save holidays, as if it was some impetus idea. Every Wednesday, unless there was a blizzard or a tornado warning he’d declare, “Guess I’ll go out and take a look at what they’re selling at the auction barn tonight.”

She felt a stab of guilt for all of the times she silently mimicked him, wishing for once he’d be spontaneous. He was a rock, a steady, sober life mate, the Ying to her Yang. Well he’d finally done one thing unexpectedly. He up and died on her! Healthy as a horse is what the doctor had said not a month before he dropped dead of a heart attack.

It had been hard on him, retiring. It had been an adjustment for her too, having him under foot all day and it had taken them a full year to learn the new dance. Thank God he came home one evening with every woodworking tool in the universe, that he’d bought at the auction, and that he’d set up a shop out in the old garage. When she’d come home from a trip to town she knew exactly where he’d be unless he had to make a trip into the house for something. She’d always prepare a couple of sandwiches and some fruit for his lunch if she was going to be gone through the noon hour. She’d prepare half a pot of coffee too, up to the point he’d only have to flip the on switch. It was the same routine performed for thirty-two years when he worked at Case, except the food didn’t go into his sliver lunch box or the finished coffee into his thermos. He insisted on drinking his noon coffee from the metal cup, however, said it was “seasoned” and the flavor was better that way.

They had been fortunate. Several of the factories in their area had closed down and they had witnessed many a neighbor sell their homes and move to far away cities to be able to find employment. After the children were grown she had worked part time at the local café, more for something to do with her time than from need of any extra income. He had made sure the house was almost paid for by the time he retired and while their income wasn’t going to provide luxury cruises, it was comfortable.

In the garage sat his old pick-up and the “family” car, the one she drove. It was only five years old and both were paid for. He put siding on the house eight years before so she wouldn’t have to worry about the upkeep of painting and the kids had bought him a riding lawnmower two years before as a Father’s Day gift. She could use that to do the lawn, though he’d only used it enough to keep her quite, preferring the old push mower he’d used for years.

She poured herself another cup of coffee, stalling a while longer before beginning the task she knew needed to be done. Today, she would empty the closet and drawers of his clothing. Her daughter told her she needed to do this, to have closure and feel better about this new phase of her life. They weren’t hurting anything or taking up much space. She’d had to buy his clothes or he’d have run naked. He never paid much mind to things like that. A couple of pair of blue jeans and some t-shirts for three of the seasons and a few flannels for Winter were all he cared about. One suit for marrying’s and burying’s, as he used to say, and that’s all a fellow needed. The suit still hung in plastic despite the kids urging that he be buried in it. She could not bring herself to condemning him to eternity in a suit and tie and had taken a semi-dress shirt and dress pants to the funeral home. Even then, he looked odd in the casket and not at all comfortable. Everyone kept commenting on how natural he looked and she wondered if they’d all gone blind. The mortician had put her husband’s dentures in, something he did only on sporadic and special occasions, and his face seemed too full and his mouth distorted into a half grin, as if he’s just pulled off a great joke. They’d combed his sparse hair wrong too so it had proven prudent that she had brought along his hair brush. She had fixed his hair that day as she had often when he did it wrong, as well.

“Guess, I’ll go get this done,” she said to no one as she rose from her chair and headed for their bedroom.

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Comments 28 comments

Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

This is so touching and reminds me of how my mom was after my dad died. She no longer felt comfortable in their house. It was too big for just one. She did a little better when she went and lived at my sister's. My brother-in-law is a big, genial guy that is easy to get along with. Her grandchildren ran and fetched for her; and my sister, she was used to.


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 4 years ago from On the edge Author

Becky - I thank you so for reading and commenting so that I was lead to read your hubs about your and your husband's experiences with the VA and all of the other incredible mountains you have had to climb! I truly hope this dark cloud blows over and stays gone for you and your family. I'll be following you now to see how you do and because you are a very good writer and you really know how to bring your readers right along side of you!


Becky Katz profile image

Becky Katz 4 years ago from Hereford, AZ

Well, thank you for the compliment. I really wish people would follow me because I write well instead of just because I read something of theirs. It means so much to me when someone does it that way.


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

I found your story very sad. I've often thought of myself in this position lately and it brings on tears. Wonderfully written.


TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

TIMETRAVELER2 4 years ago

This one was so beautifully written and so easy for me to identify with. I was widowed at the age of 43, and I have felt all of the feelings discussed here. Losing a spouse is incredibly painful. You really got it right with this one. Voted up, beautiful and awesome.


stars439 profile image

stars439 4 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

Wonderful story. Adapting to being alone after losing a loved one is never easy. Blessings to you, and all you love precious heart.


baygirl33 profile image

baygirl33 4 years ago from Hamilton On.

Dear Pooh!

I hope Gary is ok! You have written my life in your story.

His clothes are still in the closet and in his drawers,his ashes are still on the chair where he always sat to eat,his side of the bed is empty.It is 6 months now and I should be getting over myself,but he is everywhere.

Thank you for sharing that others may be as weird as I am. It is a sad story,well written.


SomewayOuttaHere profile image

SomewayOuttaHere 4 years ago from TheGreatGigInTheSky

that was good Pooh...a little peak inside at how life continues for some

and baygirl33...six months isn't very long when lives are torn apart...no, you shouldn't be getting over yourself and of course he is everywhere...and he probably always will be and that's okay..it's a very, very tender, bittersweet time now...be gentle with yourself.....you just take it one step at a time, they are your steps now......peace to you...


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 4 years ago from On the edge Author

babygirl and SOH - two of my favorite people! How good to see each of you. And SOH is so right, babygirl - there is no right or wrong way to continue on - that goes for you too SOH. You are strong beyond words losing so many and so soon but even Superwoman needs to take care ... of yourself love, and not just others.


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 4 years ago from On the edge Author

Susan - I know what you mean. This is something one of the spouses is going to have to face and either way it brings unbelievable sadness to think about, let alone go through. Thank you for reading and for your kind comment.


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 4 years ago from On the edge Author

TIMETRAVELER2 - Such a sorrow, so young. I hope you have been able to come to some kind of terms with such a great loss.


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 4 years ago from On the edge Author

stars, my buddy - yes, losing your Dad and then Mom, you are familiar with loss, I know, and while you weren't alone, being without your loved one is a huge adjustment.


SomewayOuttaHere profile image

SomewayOuttaHere 4 years ago from TheGreatGigInTheSky

ha ha ha...Pooh!.....superwoman is broken right now...she'll rise again one day, but much later...i figure there's no rush now.......those words to baygirl33 are what i tell myself everyday...thanks Pooh!..it's nice to know there are folks like you around .... xo


Lenzy profile image

Lenzy 4 years ago from Arlington, Texas

Very touching story. You are a talented writer and very empathetic. I so enjoyed your descriptions of the reality of day to day living adjustments after the loss of a spouse.


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 4 years ago from On the edge Author

Thanks Lenzy and welcome to Hub Pages. People here are great!


raciniwa profile image

raciniwa 4 years ago from Naga City, Cebu

losing someone close to you is very disheartening...i even still grieve the loss of my father even if he died when i was young...a moving story...


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 4 years ago from On the edge Author

Thank you for your kind comment, raciniwa. Yes, I have lost both parents, a child and a few friends now. It never gets any easier.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

This is very well written! Up and really awesome.


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 4 years ago from On the edge Author

Hey big brother! How you been? Thanks so much for the read and the kind words. I'll try to get over to your reads real soon - been pretty busy (and lazy too)!


Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

Hiya Pooh! I love your writing here. I love the title too. Loss is inevitable and everyone has their own process that they must go through. There is no right or wrong. Your story made me feel as if I know Ida and was right there with her and her thoughts. Hope all is well with you Pooh!

Sharyn


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 4 years ago from On the edge Author

Hello - have missed seeing you around. I am doing well. Gary is more awake and alert the last two days, maybe the decrease in pain meds, keeping my fingers crossed. You take care too!


Phoebe Pike 4 years ago

A touching piece. Beautiful and sad at the same time.


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 4 years ago from On the edge Author

Many thanks, Phoebe!


frogyfish profile image

frogyfish 4 years ago from Central United States of America

Very touching words about a place many of us are or will be someday.


Valleypoet 4 years ago

A great write, I felt a lot of empathy for your character. It made me wonder how I would (if at all) cope with such a loss. Loneliness is a spectre that I guess everyone dreads, particularly in old age. Thanks for sharing:-))


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 4 years ago from On the edge Author

Valleypoet - I'm quite honored to see you have read yet another of my writings. Thank you for your time and for allowing this to help you think of how the loss of a loved one would be for you. We will all have to face it, I suppose, and there are as many ways to experience it as there are people. I believe. it is a very personal experience.


Mommy Maile 3 years ago

Pooh, this is the first of your hubs I have read and I am beyond touched. I have worked in Assisted Living facilities and have see women and men go through these exact things. Also I saw my Grandmother prepare my Grandfather's breakfast for several weeks after he passed. This is such a wonderful read. It touched me to my soul. Thank you and I can't wait to start reading more of your hubs right now. God Bless!


Poohgranma profile image

Poohgranma 3 years ago from On the edge Author

Thank you, Mommy Maile, for your generous comments. After a lifetime together, our lives weave into a strong cloth that can not be torn apart. We may have to fold and put it away, but it is always there. It is one of God's greatest blessings and I pray more couples are able to ride out the difficulties and remain together as long as He allows.

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