Sunday, August 26, 2012

No Signs of A Man

Please welcome our guest writer, Wendy Doyle Diez, who is filling in for Matt today. Thanks Wendy!

“Excuse me, but is your husband in the service?,” the kind, if not nosy, carpet cleaner asks as he dumps the enormous amount of dirty water he has pulled out of my area rugs into my kitchen sink.

“No,” I reply, genuinely surprised at this question.  This is not a question I expected to hear, ever really, but definitely not today.  I used to be prepared and anticipate the questions when someone came into my home to do work.  I used to be ready to tell them that Chris died if necessary.  There was a time where all I did was wait for the inevitable references to my husband to come up in conversations.  But today, I let my guard down and I failed to brace myself for this inquiry.

“Why do you ask,” I question Mr. Nosy Pants Carpet Cleaner. 

“Oh, just wondering,” he says.  “I saw that picture up in your bedroom that says, “We love Daddy” in the sand and there were no signs of a man around so….”, he trails off, perhaps wondering if he has said too much.  “I thought maybe your husband was deployed.”

“Oh,” I respond.  “No, actually he passed away a few years ago.”  

And there it is--The Look.  You all know it.  The how-can-this-young-woman-with-two-little-kids-have-a-dead-husband look.   When he recovers from his shock, he offers his condolences.  He shakes his head and says, “Man. That’s just too bad.”  And then offers the standard proclamation, “You are one strong lady.” 

After he leaves, his words, “no signs of a man,” ring out in my head.  Are there really no signs of a man in my house?  For some reason, this observation hits me hard.  Have I erased all signs of Chris so much so that complete strangers entering the premises have no idea that he ever lived here? 

I take an inventory of the rooms of my house.  The kids’ rooms each have a couple of pictures of themselves with Daddy.  However, the master bedroom is clearly feminine.  There are some photos of Chris around but I redecorated a year and a half ago to make the room feel more like mine and less like a constant reminder of my old life.  Did that project expunge Chris’s existence from my life?  My dining room could definitely use an update of pictures as there is only a couple of Claire from when she was a baby and one family picture of me, Chris and Ian.  Maybe there is some truth to the assertion that there are no signs of Chris around.

Convinced that this can’t be, I review again.  I remember the artwork that Chris liked that is hanging in the living room near the piano that he loved to play.  I glance at his Cubs pictures and mold-a-rama collection that still reside in my office.  I consider the beautiful garden he created in our yard that despite my neglect and weed infestation still resembles its original likeness.  I smile thinking about the ways that Ian and Claire manifest their father’s personality and passions.

Slowly, I realize that my hyper-sensitive widow brain has interpreted the phrase, “no signs of a man”, all wrong.  Mr. Nosy Pants Carpet Cleaner didn’t infer that Chris never existed but rather that he was missing.  He correctly sensed that he must have been a powerful force in our lives and that he was dearly loved.  He was accurate in his assessment that there are no signs of just any man here.  But there are plenty of signs of my man.  Even if they are imperceptible to an outsider, they are here.  And those who loved him and knew him intimately know it.  

And that is all that counts.


  1. I love how you post ends with the signs of not jusy a man, but of your man. That't always how I want my house to feel! Even when I have a new man he will have to be one who can accept that which is often why I often think I need to be with a widower who gets this.

  2. I am in the process of moving into a new house - and the furnishings and decorations will be to my taste....there will be pictures, for sure...but, this will be all me. The house, however, is possible because of him. So, like always, my beloved is responsible for putting s roof over my head.

  3. IMHO anyone saying "there are no signs of a man here" is rather rude. A) "Signs of a man" aren't always "obvious," like the piano and the garden; and B) unless you are IN the lives of the people involved, you don't know the situation, really would've been the better part of valor for him to keep his mouth shut.

  4. Please don't be harsh on the carpet cleaner. Try instead to be grateful that he was observant enough to notice and caring enough to ask. His word choice could have used a more careful touch, but he was kind and gentle and genuine in his question.

  5. What an interesting dance with Mr. Nosy Pants. His question would have caught me the same way. And then your answer caught him off guard. I wonder why he thought your husband was deployed? I'm genuinely intrigued and can't help but appreciate that he'd ask, maybe out of respect for our military wives. You're always eloquent, Wendy, and your thoughts really capture these moments.

  6. HEC: Sorry, but it was really none of his beeswax, was it? He was just being nosy, and unprofessional to boot. It would be one thing if he had cleaned your carpet for the past ten years and knew your husband casually... but NOT.

  7. I keep manly stuff around the house and yard just to stave off such nosey-ness.

  8. A couple of months ago my daughter and I were in a resturant and as I opened up my wallet to pay the waiter a photo of my husband was the first thing he saw and he said " who is that?" I responed "my husband" the waiter then said........"where is he, I don't remember seeing him in here".
    And for some reason without thinking I said "he's out of town"
    The most difficult and painful thing for going to church (why?) because if he wasn't preaching, he was sitting besides me with his strong arm always around me.
    "put my tears in a bottle oh Lord" I've cried until I can cry no more, unsure which step to take next, except I am learning to breathe one breath at a time and to take one step at a time.
    God tells us in his word to put him in rememberance of his the other day I did just that and said......."Lord you're word says that you "heal the broken hearted and bind up their wounds" so I seek your love and trust today that in your way and in your will heal my broken shattered heart and bind up my weeping wounds"

    Blessings ~ dodi / SC

    1. Oh, how I know how you feel about the dreaded "where is your husband" query? It's innocent on the stranger's part. But it cuts. Because you have to get those words out - "he's in heaven now" or "he passed away in January" or "I lost him in January". I, too, am holding fast to God's promises. He cannot go back on His Word. I wouldn't be able to write this if God was not constantly holding my hand, going before me and beside me.