Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Heartbreak, Hot wings, and Hope

Here I am, one of nine men sitting on nine bar stools, all of us without wedding rings. The others look a little older than me but it’s an unfair comparison; in my mind’s eye I’m still 30, the age when I met my wife. But here we are, nonetheless, peers, or at least men of similar relationship status – lonely.

Every guy on every stool is sitting on a story, each probably just as sad. Some, no doubt, are worse than mine: cheating spouses, abusive ex-girlfriends, .... (hmmm… I seem to be all out of “worse.”) Others are here because they’ve never found love at all (which is definitely worse.) Regardless of the specifics, we are united on our stools as society’s misfits, the ones for whom the fairytale has failed. We missed our chance. So now we sit together in a crowd of nine, at a bar eating hot wings, alone. Camaraderie, I suppose, sad, wing-sauce flavored camaraderie.

It seems so unfair to me that I’m on this bar stool, with my partners in single life. I didn’t screw up and choose an incompatible mate. I didn’t not make her happy so she had some (albeit arguably shallow) reason to cheat. I didn’t not tell her I loved her every day. I didn’t fail to be a good husband and a good friend. I didn’t fail to support her in her dreams. I didn’t cheat. I didn’t abuse. I didn’t do anything wrong… other than fail keep her alive. Thus, my butt is stuck on this bar stool alongside my new friends eating hot wings in a sports bar wondering if I’ll ever be where I was again – in love and loving being there.

I feel like I should have some sad theme song playing, maybe with piano and saxophone, as I sit here on my stoop, lonely and a little pissed off (that my friends think I should be “over this” by now) and craving even the simplest of human touch. I can’t talk about how I feel to my friends because they don’t understand the depth of my loss. The very thing that strengthened the cement in my relationship with my sweet wife is the very same thing that scares people away now - I cared too much. Why is that a negative? Why can’t that be a badge of honor? Why do I have to go through all this 'being single' crap again? Why can’t there be a t-shirt that says “Hey, it is ok! I’m a great guy. A beautiful girl loved me and I loved her, too. Let’s talk.” Just something to break through all the bullshit. But no. I’m just some older guy with a sad story sitting on a bar stool at the bar with all the other single guys, eating hot wings.

Coming Friday (just days from now) I saddle up to a different bar. This one’s in California and is filled with other folks who understand what it means to not be “over this.” Every person there also speaks the language of death and loss and heartbreak. I’m hoping that a few might even understand and appreciate raw but appropriate dead spouse humor (Maggie and I can’t possibly be the only ones that find humor in this ridiculous tragedy.) I’m anxious about my trip but as a good friend of mine suggested “It’ll be good for you to be around people who have shared the same type of loss as you have.” I hope my friend is right. If she is, maybe for the first time in years, I won’t feel like such a stranger.

See you soon. I know we haven't met but to help you recognize me when you see me, I'll be the guy with the broken heart (and possibly some hot wing stains on my shirt.)


  1. Chris, I feel some of the same feelings as you! As a 47 yr old woman,I do not want to be single! I feel old,slightly overweight! I am competing with those younger more attractive,but not wiser!Like you,I long for my love who saw the person I truly am and not just what I appear to be! You are correct they do not get it! So,how will someone who might see me as a match! But I know is possible by reading what others have wrote here!

  2. Chris, it is so obvious that you write what your broken heart feels. Thank you for your passion and honesty. How true that we all ended up in this horrible place through no doing of our own. I always taught my children that actions carry consequences. Yet, we suffer through the consequences of losing our loved ones and not because of any action on our part.

    Hugs to you.

  3. Chris - You just wrote EXACTLY what I am feeling these days. Had all the happiness, the goodness of a great marriage and family, and then WHAM - by no actions of our own, we are put back onto that damn barstool, all because of cancer. I too feel like a stranger out there in society, unsure of where I 'fit' anymore. I can really relate to your post.

    Indeed it will be good this coming weekend to be around others who get it and don't feel the need to tell us to 'get over it'. We can only do our best to get through this, but will carry our loved ones with us always.
    Thanks for your posts, and I look forward to meeting you...yes, I think I'll recognize you - I wear that broken heart as well. Take care, Jill

  4. Being one of the people who "get it" and also saw my husband through a very long, sad illness until his passing, may I respectfully correct you on something? You are not "one of society's misfits" and are most certainly not a failure. You stood by your wife through her illness with immeasurable love and support. You have given and received unconditional love. Life is in the details, and the minutes, and the journey. You, my friend, are a saint. There are thousands of people who leave their spouses when illness comes to call. They put themselves first. They do not honor their marriage vows. It takes a great deal of strength, resilience, integrity, morality, and love to stick it out until the end. Erase the word "failure" from your memory and replace it with "hero." Please. I know you miss her and have a broken heart. But you can also put your head on the pillow at night knowing that you did not run, and did not fail her. That's huge, and never minimize what you did for her.

  5. I hate the fact that I'm single again too. Hate it on every level.
    Wish I was going to camp this weekend.
    Next year...

  6. @Anonymous who "gets it": Thanks for your comments. And, please, you can correct me or disagree with me or agree with me any time you like. I’m no expert any more than you are. What we share is our common experience and our respect for each other. We are all here to learn. I appreciate your perspective and comments tremendously. Thank you for chiming in.

    What I meant by “misfits” is that now I (we) don’t fit in with society’s accepted norms. We are an exception. We fall into the cracks. People assume that I’m divorced or that I’ve never been married and judge me in that light. But if I ever get the chance to tell them otherwise, they are shocked and then don’t know how to respond. I don’t fit their puzzle – a misfit.

    Regarding the “hero” word, how does one feel like a hero when the person they cared so much about and were trying to protect dies? That, my friend, is how psychiatrists pay for their Porches.

  7. It took some time and over a year of grief therapy for me to accept I couldn't save my husband from dying. And I tried to save him with everything I had for six years. I think you are a hero because you did not run from your wife when she became ill, or from your fear, or from the major changes that you had to accept in your life, and the million details that go into loving and caring for someone when they are seriously ill. You did everything in your power. She had the security of your love all the way through. And that is an enormous gift. When I was really struggling with not being able to save him, sometimes I would wonder if the situation had been reversed, and it had been me who was terminally ill, if my expecation would have been that he could save me from cancer. It helped me to put it into perspective. I know my words won't heal your heart, but I hope you can have some peace in knowing you did everything you could.

  8. Yes, every word of it true. As one of my fellow widda friends said of camp last year...it takes being around other widows(ers) to not feel like one. Normalcy is a rarity and I wish I felt it more often. I use to get so offended when people assumed I was divorced.
    Can't wait for this weekend! Maybe I'll see ya around!