Sunday, March 18, 2012

Lord of the Widow Ring

Deep in the far away land of Mordor, stands Widow Mountain.  Four hundred years ago a Hobbit traveled to this mountain and climbed to the top.  There he found a volcano, and in the memory of his deceased wife, forged a widow ring.  This ring, when worn, possesses great powers to the widow/widower. 
Then, in a series of events - too long to explain and wouldn’t make sense if I did anyway - the ring found its way to Niles, Il, where a young man found the ring right after his wife passed away from breast cancer.  He is, Lord of the Widow Ring.

            So I posses this widow ring and I don’t know whether I should keep it or trek across to Widow Mountain and throw it back in the volcano, where there – and only there –  it can be destroyed (for reasons too long to explain and wouldn’t make sense if I did anyway).  The reason I hesitate to destroy my ring is, I can’t tell if this ring is a curse or my best friend.  When I put it on, I can feel the power of being the widower.  I can be at a family gathering and right in the middle of dinner, get up, knock over a lamp, take the last cookie on the cookie tray, walk out, and head off to the movies – leaving my children for someone to take home and put to bed.  “He’s going through a lot. It’s good he went to a movie, he needs a break,” they would say, justifying my actions while they put my kids in their car to take to their home.
            Without my widow ring, I would be at a store, knock over a lamp, cut in line at the register, and open a bag of candy without paying.
“How rude.” They would say and stare.
“That man has no manners.” They would whisper. 
“Come with me please.” The police would say.
            Can you see my dilemma?  Without the ring, I have to act like everyone else.  With the ring, I don’t always have to explain my actions; others would justify them for me.   No brainer, keep the ring right?  Wear it whenever I feel like making an excuse for my downfalls.  Not to mention, this ring is really difficult to get.  Married people can’t use them.  You know why?  Because married people have what they call “spouses” that renders the power of this ring useless. Example: 
“What are you doing? Why aren’t you cutting the lawn?” the wife asks.
“I’m playing video games,” says husband.  “I was going to cut the lawn but I am feeling emotionally down.  I need this to gather my thoughts.”
“Get up and cut the lawn now.”
“Oh yeah, look what I have.  A magic ring that allows me to do what I want and you will justify my actions.”
“It doesn’t work on you, you’re married.  Get off your ass and cut the lawn.”
“Stupid  Hobbit.  I paid $100 for this thing.”
I never thought I would miss having my wife telling me how full of crap I am or when my actions were out of line, but I do.  Losing a spouse is deeper than losing love.  I needed her to keep me honest, to challenge and get the best out of me.  If I keep this ring, I will keep looking to put it on when faced with difficult moments.  If I destroy it, no more excuses.  Life is tough, deal with it.
My concern is, if I do keep it, what will I look like in five years?  Will I be one of those people who lives in a house - windows all boarded up - filled with small animals in cages.  “Only you, Mr. Squirrel, understand me.  You know why sunlight is out to get me.”  I’ll build a fantasy play land for myself in the backyard.  Kids will ring my doorbell and run for their lives as I answer the door.
However, if I destroy the ring, I’ll have to lose a lot of excuses.  I’ll have to take care of myself even when I don’t feel like it, do that last load of laundry even though I just saw a commercial that reminded me of Lisa.  I have to engage back into life. I don’t know if I can emotionally destroy the ring. It’s a long trek to the far-off  land of Widow Mountain.  Do I have it in me to make that journey and destroy the ring?  Not sure. For now, I think I’ll just keep it in my pocket, where I can hold it and rub for comfort.  How bad can it be to keep it?
My precious, my precious.  


  1. ahh I understand.
    I just took my "widow ring" to be changed into my "new journey" ring.
    I was tired of telling complete strangers the "no, not married - was married, very, very tragic tale to follow".
    Sometimes it was like a magic ring where I could still go out in the world and "pretend" my husband was anywhere but not dead. It was a cloaking device. The rings still on the third finger of my left hand.
    But it stopped feeling right. I didn't like the explanations and I didn't want to pretend because the reality was too painful.
    I took off my wedding band and put it safely with his. I took my 25th anniversary ring - a stunning diamond - to a jeweler friend who said "I will give it new life and when you wear it you will always know - his love is at the heart of it.
    I look at it and I too think "my precious" - because I want my power to come from our love, not from his death.
    Because if I use that power I also have to stay in that grief forever - on the mountain.

    Thanks Matt - great post.

  2. Hi Matthew, I am right down the road in Skokie and was widowed with two small kids almost four months ago. Nice to find a close neighbor on this site. You are welcome to "store" the ring here so you can reclaim it in an emergency.....

  3. Matt,
    Loved it! I whimped out and just moved it to the other hand. I do so miss being told how full of crap I am by the only person who mattered. Thanks for a great read.

    1. Isn't it hard trying to stay on track on a daily basis without your spouse to motivate you? I still struggle from this one. Everything from making healthy meals to getting up on time to keeping a routine have been a major struggle. Lots of things you'd never imagine when you'd imagine being widowed. It takes alot of energy out of you. I know I get annoyed with myself on a regular basis that I don't keep up with things the way I used to (and I was a superachiever). I struggle to do the most mundane things, even grocery shop. I suspect that's because he's no longer with me doing these things, but who knows. I know he still consumes my thoughts after two years. I liked my life, alot, and it was alot to lose.

  4. Love this post. Though I no longer wear a physical ring (I'm just past 4yrs on this road) I struggle to take it off mentally. Though I can't say I enjoy your writings, because I know the pain behind them, I do appreciate the unique perspective you bring to the board. I enjoy your writing and look forward to other posts.

  5. This is brilliant. I've often wondered, where is the line between true grief response and...just using it as an excuse? Glad I'm not the only one.

  6. Matthew, thank you for posting on this topic. I know that everyone is different on this subject. For me, after my husband's birthday in January (just 8 months after his death), I took my wedding ring off. I tried to move it to my other hand but it just didn't seem right.

    After his birthday, something changed. I didn't "feel" married any longer. I found myself wondering if I was wearing it for all of the reasons you talked about. Was it to preserve a memory or a set of memories? To carry on thinking of myself as Married? Or was it something else? Would I feel as connected with him, without the ring? Would it signify that I was "ready" to move on, and forget him?

    For me, I actually found it easier to be in public without my ring. Fewer conversations with strangers that involved connecting where my husband was (because obviously, I was married) with the event/situation in question. No decision about whether or not to tell the truth when the inevitable "So, where is your husband? what does HE do?" questions would arise. I could choose to bring up his name, not be "forced" into it through a casual conversation with someone new. That decision to take it off, enevitably, gave me a new sense of power.

    And as to the meaning of it, I found it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. I no longer feel married to my husband, but I feel just as close. And if giving me the choice to bring up his name makes me happy, I know that Greg would have wanted that for me as well.

    On a separate note, I never really wore any other rings in the last 12 years. Maybe a special one if going out for a special event, but rarely if ever. Recently I attended a jewelry party, and bought myself a new "pretty" ring. This brought on all sorts of emotions, all of them surprising to me. It felt like the purchase was loaded with emotion, but I also feel like it's a chance for me to stretch my comfort zone too. Sigh... this stuff is so hard.

    Do what you feel comfortable with, Matthew. Only you can decide when and how it will be best... for you. Like all other momentous decisions, you'll know when the time is right.

  7. Great post- hilarious!!

  8. I needed too needed my spouse to keep me honest, to challenge and get the best out of me.

    He died March 31. I miss him every moment. Some moments are better than others...