So, right now in my house I’m dealing with a pretty major plumbing issue.
About a week ago, my tub started backing up. I thought it was a weird clog, so I did a couple of Drano treatments. We have weird plumbing that is original to the house from the early 50s, plus plumbing from a remodel by the previous owners that seriously violates code with the size of the pipes and the amount of turns in them.
The morning following my Drano treatments, it seemed fine, but while running the washing machine, my tub started backing up again. So I went to Home Depot and rented an auto-rooter to try and clear up the clog. I had done this bit of home maintenance within the first year of homeownership. At that time, I had to take apart the toilet to get the rooter down the drain easier and very quickly the problem was resolved.
This time, I removed the toilet and did so much work with that damn rooter and thought I had solved the problem. But, two evenings later, my tub started backing up again. I called a plumber to come, who arrive the next day. After breaking up the clog and putting a camera in, they discovered that my big, beautiful tree in the front of the yard had finally made its way into the original clay sewer pipes and had damaged them to the point of replacement.
The plumber drew up an estimate to replace the pipe and do some additional work on the pipe under my asphalt driveway and the total came to…$20,000.
This is the moment I find myself in a lot as a widow. I have a huge decision to make and not having my partner here with me means that I am limited to my own perspective on the issue. When Andy was here, we would have stopped to discuss the options because the stress and anxiety of doing the initial repairs and the monitoring of the water level and the research of what to do would have been spread amongst the two of us. Maybe even mostly on him. So, I would not have had the built up anxiety to GET IT FIXED NOW.
I told the guys to get it going, but I’m glad I had the need for connection so deep that I reached out to a few friend groups. In one group, my Mom Coven, a friend immediately suggested a second opinion. I felt so tired at that option and given what the plumbers had told me, felt like it wasn’t an option because we needed to GET IT FIXED NOW. Then a friend in the second friend group, the Circle of Zehn, suggested I get a second opinion. Huh. That’s a pattern. So I called CoZ friend and talked through it. Finally, I called Ronan’s godparents, who had just picked him up to take him to their house to be out of the way of all the coming and going. Ronan’s godmother, like me, is prone to wanting a solution ASAP and I knew I could talk through all I had heard with her and come to some reasonable conclusion.
So, I decided to seek a second opinion.
I stopped the work, got them to get things to a reasonable place, knowing that things could start backing up again as soon as that same evening, and asked them to email me their bid while starting the process of finding other companies.
I’m waiting to get that second opinion, plus more, and have had so many conversations about this thing. The most notable was when a friend and her husband got on FaceTime with me after reading through the bid and wanted to make sure I wasn’t getting fully taken advantage of.
This help was immense and relieving and also…exhausting. Where once I had one counselor, now I have 14. This story got told and retold to 14 people. That’s a fuck ton of emotional labor. And while it’s so helpful to have their love and support and perspective along the way, it highlights for me just how hard things are.
Widowhood is desperately difficult.
Not just because of the parenting decisions I have to make or the home decisions or the lack of support right there, but also because even to fill in 80% of the experience I had with my husband requires 14 people.
I had a meeting with my grief support group yesterday morning, the day before National Widow’s Day. We had an extensive conversation about having relationships beyond our person. There will be no “moving on” from them. Whomever I partner with next needs to be at least as wonderful of a man as Andy was. And, they have to be ok with me being in love with another man the entire time we are having a relationship. It’s a big spiritual and emotional ask and one I’m not willing to compromise on.
I don’t think people who haven’t been through this realize just how difficult this is. It’s not just because my best friend is dead. It’s not just because I’m now a single parent. It’s not just because I’m a homeowner alone. It’s because of all the extra work it takes to do the due diligence akin to what a conversation with my husband was like. And it’s the thought that this feeling of being deeply in love with him will never go away. That I will forever feel this gap. There is no time when it closes up.
It’s the ultimate unrequited love.
So today, National Widow’s Day, also the 7 month mark of his death, I want to document not only the loss of Andy, which is immense and still reverberating loudly through my family and community, but also what the true fallout is of his death. It’s a never-ending ordeal. There is no point where it gets better. It just gets more. It’s more devastating as I learn about what I have to truly do without him. It’s more tragic when I see what I and others are truly missing now that we’ve run through 7 months of scenarios without him. It’s more sweet to think of him and reminisce. It’s more unjust that this happened to me and my son.
Being a widow is a lot. Alotalotalot.
And that’s it. No sweet but message at the end. No silver lining. It’s just a lot.
Love your widow friends today. And love them everyday. Our burden is so much bigger than you could ever imagine. And it’s one of the few times in my life where I really don’t want anyone to walk in my shoes to learn this. So, believe me and other widows. And then maybe send us some dinner because some nights that’s as hard as a major plumbing repair.