The New Normal

 

By Louise Ure

  

Bruce Goronsky and his mother, 1951

 

Today, March 29, is the one year anniversary of my husband Bruce’s death. It seems so much shorter than that. But so much longer at the same time.

I’m finally back from all my travels to Australia, Arizona and Seattle and maybe … just maybe … ready to think about the next steps.

Six months ago, my brother, Jim, asked me if I was getting back to normal. “What is that? What does that look like?” I replied. There was nothing normal about my days and my future would be different than I ever imagined. I would never be normal again, but somehow … just maybe .. there might be some kind of New Normal ahead.

Like any other endeavor I’ve ever approached, I tried to get as smart about widowhood as I could. I read countless tales of previously strong women bowed by the unexpected loss of a spouse. Joan Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking,” Joyce Carol Oates’ “A Widow’s Story,” Genevieve Ginsburg’s “Widow to Widow.” They may have proved that I wasn’t crazy, but they also showed that I sure wasn’t handling this well.

So many people tried to help. My old advertising friends, Judy Hughes and Barbara Pauly, whose memories about losing their husbands haven’t faded over the years. David Corbett and his frequent emails giving me permission to handle this however I had to in order to preserve my sanity. Linda Ronstadt with her constant invitations to dinner, to a walk, to help around the house. Pat and Karen Scott who took the burdens of my in-laws in Seattle as their own. David and Sara Arnold next door who continue to feed me now just like they did when Bruce was sick.

Neighbors and cousins and email friends, you’ve all done your best.

But eight months into this new life I found myself not getting better, and only getting worse. I shuttered myself indoors and would not bathe or dress for days at a time. I quit answering the telephone. I wouldn’t leave the house if I ran out of food: a paucity of cigarettes, wine or toilet paper was about the only call to action.

I cried every Monday at 8:05 a.m., remembering the 36th Monday without him … then the 37th. Then the 38th. I cried yesterday, too, although I know that the rest of the world will call him gone a year today. What a world we live in where there are 52.14 Mondays in a year.

I broke down when the lady at the Mammography Center asked if Bruce Goronsky was still the emergency contact she should list on my medical forms.

I lashed out at acquaintances who asked if I was dating yet.

I have not been the model widow. Nor am I Mrs. Bruce Goronsky anymore.

But I’m not Louise Ure again yet, either.

Three people have brought me this far. Three people who never, never let me give up.

 Jude Greber

 

First, Jude Greber, who not only made me laugh the day we went to the mortuary to arrange for Bruce’s cremation, but whose constant, gentle support has carried me every day through Bruce’s illness and now through this new chrysalis of widowhood with emails, long visits and even more frequent meals. Her message: DON’T FORGET, YOU’RE A WRITER AND YOU HAVE FRIENDS.

 

Maggie Polling

 

Second, Maggie Polling, my old friend from Australia who opened her home and her life to me these last several months. She wanted to come take care of Bruce but I wouldn’t let her. Then she wanted to come for the funeral, but I thought that hosting an out-of-towner would be too grueling. She finally came to travel with me to the memorial car race the SCCA put on in Bruce’s honor; I couldn’t have attended without her. Then she taught me how to breathe again in Australia. She is closer to me than a sister. Her message: WE KNEW YOU AS LOUISE LONG BEFORE WE EVER KNEW BRUCE, BUT WE LOVED HIM, TOO.

  

Louise Ure and Brian Washington

 

And finally, my foster son, Brian Washington. How can I ever thank him? He sat by my side those long hours in the hospital. He took me home when Bruce’s last lap was run. He bought me a cookbook called “The Pleasure of Cooking for One.” He calls and comes by every week, offering love, lunch and a change of light bulbs if I need it. I could not ask for a better son if I had birthed him myself. His message: YOUR FAMILY IS HERE FOR YOU.

I can’t promise that I’m over this fever, but things have started to become more gray than black. I wake with plans for the day, even if those plans are sometimes just to make lunch or go to the post office.

I can still get caught short by the strangest, most unexpected sadnesses. I still have to mute the television when one of the Cancer Society’s “Happy Birthday” ads comes on. False advertising I call it, and rubbing salt in the wound. Bruce didn’t even get a quarter of a year.

Then just this week Bruce’s father asked if I would send him Bruce’s wallet as his own is well-worn and falling apart. I tried to do that and again broke down noting that Bruce’s credit cards had longer expiration dates than he did. And the wallet still holds the curve of his butt. I think I’ll send my father-in-law a different replacement wallet and hope he understands.

This anniversary, like so many other benchmarks I’ve passed this year, is neither completely happy nor sad. I’ve begun to remember the good times we had and not just the last hours in the hospital. I’ve even laughed a few times.

The Vietnamese lady who does my fingernails lost her father in the same hospital on the same week I lost Bruce. She told me yesterday that she and her family prepared his favorite foods on the anniversary of his death and added a plate for him in front of his picture at the head of the table. It’s a lovely idea. Maybe I’ll do the same, even though a bowl of chili with cornbread doesn’t sound all that festive.

But while I’m remembering Bruce today, I’m also remembering and loving each of you who have given me so much this year. You have my heart.

 

 

 

42 thoughts on “The New Normal

  1. PK the Bookeemonster

    I have no idea what you're going through, Louise, so I'm not here to give advice,platitudes, or words of wisdom. I don't have any. Your love for Bruce is immeasurable. I am so very glad that you have friends and family to keep you with us.
    Not on the same degree of course but a month ago our dog passed away unexpectedly. He was only eight and I was with him at the last. We don't have children so this was our baby and it has been difficult. People are kind but they don't live with the day by day of the empty space that now exists for us. It's easy to say get over it, move on, but things are different now.
    Life will be different but still good. It is our choice.

  2. Shizuka

    Your post this morning is so beautiful.
    The reason you have so much love in your life
    must be because you've given it to others.

    BTW: That photo of Bruce and his mom should be a Mother's Day Card.

  3. Grace

    My heart ached when I read your post. Sadly it doesn't touch your pain but I am so glad you have such good friends in your life.

  4. Barbie

    Awww, Louise. Even for me, who am only a reader here, it seems like time has passed too fast. I came in here today, saw the post and thought, "WOW! It's been a year, already?" Obviously, I'm just a kid and have no idea what you're going through, but I'm glad you have a strong, caring support system. I hope you find fun, joy and reason as you get through each day, even the hard ones. I'm sending you a really big hug from Brazil today. Be good to yourself.

    (And, um, maybe this is inappropriate, but your son is a total cutie!!! :P)

  5. Kathy Collings

    Thank you for your post. Thank you for sharing of yourself, Bruce, his mother, Jude, Maggie and Brian.

  6. Tammy Cravit

    Louise, there's a proverb that says happiness shared is doubled and sorrow shared is halved. I don't know if that's true, but if it is, I'm glad you have so many wonderful people with whom to share it. I've never lost a spouse, but several of my close friends have, and I've seen the journeys they've gone through. You and everyone else who knew and loved Bruce are in my thoughts and prayers.

  7. Louise Ure

    PK, I'm so sorry about your pup. I lost my golden retriever five weeks after Bruce died. It was almost as tough.

    Shizuka, I love that photo, too. I just found it last week when I was up in Seattle helping Bruce's father.

    Thank you, Grace. I didn't mean for this to be a totally sad post. I have hope.

  8. Louise Ure

    Yes, Barbie, Brian is gorgeous, isn't he?

    Colette and Kathy, thank you. No sadness here today.

    Eika, things are already easier. We do go on.

  9. Louise Ure

    Tammy, I love the proverb … and it seems to be true.

    Connie, there's another American Indian proverb that says we die three times: 1) when the body dies, 2) when we are put to rest, and 3) when we're no longer remembered. And the third one is the only one that counts.

  10. Murderati fan

    I'm so glad you haven't turned to sex, drugs, and rock and roll. You are amazing woman. As is that other Judy. Are you fortunately unfortunate or unfortanately fortunate or just fortunately fortunate.
    Such marvelous friends…and you know what they say about friends…Where the hell would we be without them. Love ya, woman! Wirzberger

  11. toni

    Louise, you always remind me to be grateful for every single moment. I don't think any of us can measure how we handle grief against how other people handled it–that's not a fair comparison. I think you've done what you could, and you're moving forward in the only way you know how. That's all you can do — that, and remember you are so loved by so many of us.

  12. JT Ellison

    Louise, I can't believe it's been a year. And I'm so glad that you've had the proper support from the folks who love you. I too am honored to have met Bruce, and think of him, and you, often. I can't give words, but I do understand. xoxo

  13. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    I broke into spontaneous tears when I thought of Bruce's favorite meal sitting before an empty seat. And his wallet, with the still-active credit cards and the curve. I think you should write your own book, like Didion. Maybe someday.
    I remember when my father died, I only wanted one thing. His wife had everything of his and she permitted me, with urging from the rabbi and my uncle, to at least let me take something to remember my father. I said I wanted his leather doctor's bag, the one where he kept his stethoscope and the other tools of his trade. She immediately flinched, because she didn't want to part with it. She knew that this object represented my father more than any other. She released it to me, reluctantly.
    I miss you, Louise. You have the most amazing voice.

  14. Louise Ure

    Toni and JT, thank you both for your support this past year. You've made a difficult time easier.

    And Stephen, you make me think twice about not giving my father-in-law the wallet. I should share the joy of Bruce as well as the pain. And his father might need that already curved wallet more than I do.

  15. Stephen Jay Schwartz

    Louise – that wasn't my intention, of course. I was just sharing my own experience. You should do what you feel is right – maybe he just needs a new wallet. Maybe he needs to feel the closeness of his son.

  16. Debbie

    I have never cried reading a blog post before…ever. I'm so sorry he's gone. Louise, I'm still crying as I type this because you remind me of every loss I've suffered. Please don't apologize, every wound reminds me of how wonderful each of them was. Their love is deep within.

  17. lil Gluckstern

    I have nothing to add other than you seem to be a gracious, charming lady, and deserve all the love and care you are getting. What very lovely people surround you. Take care.

  18. Reine

    Dear Louise… nothing can be said that will touch this experience. Just know, please, that we love you.

  19. Tammy Cravit

    After reading everyone's responses, including those which followed my first comment, I wanted to chime in again and add a favorite quotation of mine:

    "Think where one's glory most begins and ends, and say, 'my glory was I had such friends.'" – W.B. Yeats

    Louise, thank you for finding the courage to share what you have of yourself, and of Bruce, so generously with all your readers, fans and friends here. Though I never had the chance to meet Bruce, I know my life is enriched for having been a part of your remembering of him. And clearly, even in the midst of the pain you're now struggling with, YOUR life is immeasurably richer for the time Bruce was a part of it.

  20. Louise Ure

    Lil and Allison, this circle is deep and strong. And I love them for it.

    Debbie, I believe that those we've lost walk beside us every day.

    Thank you Reine and Rob. And Tammy, what a beautiful, beautiful thought.

  21. MJ

    I don't know you in real life, but I send you my hugs and friendship. I'm the type who always wants to push everyone away, but I must admit that friendship and fellowship make the hard, hard parts of life so much easier. Let your people in, they will catch you when you need them (even when you don't realize it).

  22. Fran

    I do so love you, Louise. I hold you close in my heart always, even when I (frequently, like all the time) forget to tell you. Thank you for this wondrous remembrance, my dear.

  23. Sylvia

    Louise, my heart is out to you as always. What a lovely post and the best thing you do is love Bruce as you always have – because he keeps loving you with every memory you have.

    I was at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge today thinking who was on the other side and remembered pulling into your drive one day and bounding up the stairs to a smile. I was at the Cantina last week while it was pouring rain and found myself staring at the table where you, Bruce, Jude and I had a great visit in the sun.

    I have no idea what the proper journey is and how you can or cannot be doing 'widowhood' right. I'll say that any day where you stop being irked by the damn Happy Birthday Cancer Society ad isn't a day you are now on some path of normal but a day I'd say you stopped feeling. So go ahead and hit the mute button.

    Love, love, love to you!

  24. Louise Ure

    Dear Designer Bags, mostly I just copy existing photos but thanks for the compliment.

    MJ and Fran, I count you as friends.

  25. Zoë Sharp

    My dear Louise

    Yesterday was taken up with travelling, but like Kaye I'm so glad I was able to get here. I think of our lunch at Point Lobos at one of the highlights of our trip.

    A beautiful post. My heart reaches out to you. You have the soul of a poet.

  26. Tracy Lucas

    I'm there with you.

    For me, it was my mother-in-law and not my spouse. I know there's a huge difference, but the things you've written twist me up just the same.

    She died of cancer at 52 only a few months after her initial diagnosis, and it's been but another few since we buried her.

    It's ridiculous that she's gone.

    The only birthday present she gave my now two-year-old son has batteries that lasted longer than she did. And she was (as far as we knew) healthy when she gifted it.

    I bought her a small potted orchid during her first hospital stay, and the damn thing keeps blooming.

    I keep getting life insurance offers in her name.

    I don't have any touching words to add, and there's nothing that will make it better nor easier.

    But your words, m'dear, have touched me, and you're not alone, either.

  27. Louise Ure

    Zoe, I was so pleased to be able to catch up in person. A poet? I think not. But heartfelt all the same.

    Tracy, my God, my heart goes out to you. You lost her so young. Make sure the kids have a bit of her to remember.

    And David, the thanks are mine.

Comments are closed.