Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Widow Yoda

     Niles, IL may not be the swamps of Dagobah, but on Osceola Street lives one of my best friend’s mom from grammar school.  Growing up, we were always at their house.  Kenny had an awesome dad and a very funny mom.  When we were seniors in high school, his dad died and it was difficult for all of us.
After high school, we went our separate way to college. I can count on one hand the times I have seen his mom.  But when I sold our house two years ago and I move in with my parents, it put me back to within one block of his house and right in the middle of treat-or-treating territory. 

Last Halloween, with some families from our school, we were going door to door and came to Kenny’s old house – Kenny has since married and lives out of state.  The second the doorbell rings, out comes Mrs. Thompson, bursting through the door like best friends have stopped by to chat, big green bowl full of candy, and she looks down to the sidewalk to get a glimpse of the parents.  I wave hello and announce who I am.

“Hello. Mrs. Thompson, it’s Matt Croke.”

“Matthew? Is that you?” she says.

 Forgetting all about the kids, she starts to walk down her sidewalk to meet me.  I walk up and meet her halfway and the group of kids and parents head to the next house – my presence for my kids irrelevant for the conquest of obtaining candy.  After a quick hug, she comes right out with it.

 “Are you dating anyone yet?”

 Only Mrs. Thompson could blurt out such a statement that makes me smile before it makes me wince.  It was the same tone and aggressiveness she used on us over 30 years ago when we were all playing in the backyard with 4x4 trucks and she would come home, “Have you boys had lunch yet?  Come on, you need some food.”  You normally had very little dialogue with Mrs. Thompson.

 I laugh as I shrug, “No, not yet.  Just taking care of the kids.”

 “You need to date a widow,” she said, not having the least amount of interest of my thoughts on this topic.  I was half expecting her to tell me that I need to eat and go into the house and fix myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

“Listen to me, will you listen,” she continued. “You need to date yourself a widow. They know.  They understand.  It would be a good fit for you.”

"Okay Mrs. Thompson, I’ll think about…”

 “You’re young, you have time, find yourself a widow and enjoy life.”

I pointed to my children four houses away, thanked her for the advice, and said goodbye.  One of the mothers asked me what that was all about and I told her she wants me to date a widow.  We both laughed.  I had no intention of dating a widow. 

I didn’t like the idea.  Too many deep wounds on both sides, not to mention, what if it didn’t work out?  How painful would another loss be for each person?  Mrs. Thompson means well, she’s been there, but not sure she gets it.

I met Cheryl at a camping trip the Good Mourning program puts on for our kids.  I remember seeing her once or twice in our group sessions, but really didn’t sit down and talk to her until this camping trip.  We had a nice conversation: both had three girls, both had spouses fighting brain tumors, both had spouses with outgoing personalities.  It was nice to talk to someone with common ground.

We went out as friends about once a month – great being on the same schedule.  One of my biggest fears of dating would be to explain to someone why I sometimes couldn’t go out on a Saturday night at 7pm because the kids needed more “dad” time.  Cheryl is in a situation where her girls need more “mom” time.  Most nights we would go out past 10pm for a few hours. Kids first, us second.  I think it was this common view point we both had that brought us closer.
Although, on paper, there were many reasons we should probably stay friends, we decided a few months ago to start dating.  There’s been way too much over thinking the past few years on how I’m managing my grief, so I decided for this relationship, to let it be what it is.  It is what it is.  And right now, we are getting along; all the obstacles on paper will have to wait.
Mrs. Thompson nailed it.  Even when I thought she was wrong. “Listen to me, will you listen.  You need to date yourself a widow. They know.  They understand.  It would be a good fit for you.”
Maybe I should go back and ask her, now how do I manage a relationship while living in my parent’s basement?


  1. Thank you Matt, you gave me a hope for the future that I really needed this morning. I am no where near being ready for a relationship, but it is nice to hear how you have progresses into one. Keep the walls down.

  2. Matt,I know you...maybe have not seen or talked in a very long time but I know you. You are the best father in the world (whether you think so or not) you were a great husband, and a fantastic friend to many...Happiness is deserved...I love you and always will. You were my 1st friend in life...Much love to you, your girls and your life.
    Karen C

  3. So happy for you. As we all know too well, life is too damn short. So grab onto whatever comes your way and enjoy the ride.
    And as I've said before .... you will not be ready to start dating ..... until one day you wake up and find that you are.
    It really is as simple as that. And we all have different time tables for that. So all of you, don't push yourself. Don't allow others to push you into it. You are the only person (now) who knows you inside and out. And only you will know when you are ready .... for anything.
    I'm so happy for you, Matt. See you soon!

  4. all smiles with this post. thanks, matt :) I've always thought it would be the best scenario to date a widower. Mrs. Thompson is wise :)

  5. She's a widow. They know. They understand. :-)

  6. Guess I've been as wise as Mrs. Thompson all along! While I am not really purposely looking,I always knew that if I ever date again a widower would be the best fit coz he would "get it" (the ups and down, the "kids first me second")...Now all I need is to do is actually meet and find a widower...