Category: Widowers


After at least four years of more lectures, labs, study groups, readings, papers and presentations than you would ever care to count, the prospect of taking up to another 18 months to attain a master’s degree or maybe even four years to earn a Ph.D is a prospect most graduating seniors would rather not even think about.

And yet the question still persists for some: Should you seriously consider taking the advanced degree plunge right here and now following graduation? Consider that even more employers are requiring advanced degrees; many want MBAs.

Before answering this perplexing interrogative: Consider the unmistakable NFW response by the author of Almost DailyBrett in 1978. Yours truly had just received his bachelor’s in Broadcasting Journalism from the University of Southern California. There was simply no way when it came to the question of signing up for even more college.

I was done, thank you very much.

Looking back at that easy-and-yet momentous decision, your author now regrets not pursuing a master’s degree right then and there, when he was as free as a bird … no spouse, no kidlet, no mortgage, no car payment … absolutely nothing.

Fortunately, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were right in Stairway to Heaven: “Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

A confluence of events in my life (i.e., widowerhood, adult daughter, real estate appreciation, fellowship) gave me that one-last-chance-in-a-lifetime opportunity in 2010 to pursue my master’s degree in mid-life at the University of Oregon.

The author of Almost DailyBrett was very fortunate, very fortunate indeed.

Died and Went to Heaven

When the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication offered me a fellowship, your author jumped at the opportunity in two nanoseconds or less.

You should do the same, if you are selected for an on-campus fellowship at a R1 university.

Becoming a Graduate Teaching Fellow (GTF) provides the following benefits:

  1. An absolutely free master’s degree or Ph.D … yep no-instate or better yet, no out-of-state or private school tuition;
  2. Medical, dental and vision health care benefits for at least the fellow, and maybe the whole family as well;
  3. A stipend of $1,000 or more per month;
  4. Invaluable teaching experience as a teaching assistant to a professor.

As Almost DailyBrett wrote before, I appreciated this unbelievable deal and thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was perplexing to say the least when the University of Oregon GTFs went on strike in 2014 … Patience, Kevin. Patience. Let’s not get started on this subject again.

Some have asked: Should I take an online master’s degree or Ph.D? My short answer is nein.

If one is pursuing an advanced degree in public relations, marketing, journalism, broadcast, film etc., it is best to be on campus to directly interact with your colleagues and Ph.D professors. Sorry to say, file sharing and texting just don’t cut it.

If one is pursuing an advanced degree in accounting, an online program may be appropriate. Having said that, communications requires – face-to-face interaction and diplomacy – no online program can help you advance these interpersonal story telling skills.

What about the necessary evil? The Graduate Record Exam (GRE)?

Brace yourself and come to full acceptance mode as quickly as possible. Any graduate school worth its salt (sorry University of Phoenix, that designation does NOT apply to you), particularly a Research One or R1 university, will require the GRE.

Your author took it twice, the second time after a prep course, and lived to talk about it. Take the prep course and do as well as possible on the GRE.

What About Grad School?

“No one does bull shit better than you.” – A compliment from one of my USC fraternity brothers

Trust me, bull shit does not work in Pro Seminar.

The two-night-per week, three-hours per class, was the most intense review of communications philosophy one can imagine (i.e., Kant, Marx, Althusser, Descartes, Hegel, Le Bon …). Don’t even think about going to class without doing the reading; you can’t hide in plain sight for three hours. Don’t even think about B.S.- ing a full professor with a Ph.D in Philosophy from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

And once you have navigated the benign sounding, but mind-numbing Pro Seminar class with its up-to-five hours per night of reading, you will be ready for … qualitative and quantitative analysis in the next quarter.

Sounds horrible? Right?

In reality, pursuing a graduate degree was an incredible and rewarding challenge. It soon dawned on me that I was only using a mere fraction of my brain. I made some great friends as well.

One of my profs said: “We are working on your intellectual growth.”

Intellectual growth? Me? Really?

Oh, did I mention that my master’s degree was an absolute prerequisite for landing a tenure track professorship in public relations and advertising at Central Washington University? Guess, learning about Immanuel Kant and his categorical imperatives was well worth it.

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/taking-the-gre-again/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/12/03/are-striking-uo-graduate-teaching-fellows-certifiable/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/07/18/online-college-not-good-enough-for-pr/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/07/01/did-a-perfect-storm-lead-to-the-gathering-storm/

 

 

Oregon will never be confused with Tuscany.

In Tuscany, thousands wait in line for hours to check out Michelangelo’s “David.”

In contrast, somebody in Oregon is named, “David.”

In Tuscany, one can queue-up for hours to admire Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” standing in her perfect sea shell.

In Oregon, one can find sea shells at the coast, not sure about Venus.

Frances Mayes’ book, “Under the Tuscan Sun,” and the movie with the same title tells the story of an American (e.g., actress Diane Lane) in search of a life change, and a little love too.

She made a totally impractical, impulsive decision. Seemingly on a whim, she bought a classic “fixer-upper” in Cortona, Tuscany and lived to talk about it. The book’s story and the heroine, who took the ultimate plunge, set off a series of similar decisions as literally hundreds of upper class Americans rushed to Central Italy to buy their own Italian villa in the sun.

Reportedly, some even asked the locals for the Italian word for “cappuccino.”

The author of Almost DailyBrett eventually made the trek to Tuscany with his new bride, Jeanne, to celebrate our honeymoon. We stayed in a 12th Century Italian villa on a bluff overlooking Il Duomo de Firenze, but we resisted the temptation to buy the Torre di Bellosguardo.

That does not mean your author is innocent when it comes to rash, impulsive decisions. In 2010, I came to Oregon at 55-years-young in search of a master’s degree, Oregon football games in the fall, and maybe a little love too.

The impulsive part comes into play when one asks: Why would a middle-age widower (being kind here) decide to buy a three-bedroom, two-bath 2,000-square-foot “tree” house for himself and his American shorthair feline, Percy?

Wouldn’t renting make more sense, particularly when one contemplates widespread academic prejudice: my chances of landing a teaching job at University of Oregon after graduation would be next to none? Renting easily made more sense, except for the George Carlin “stuff” factor.

Carlin’s comedic monologue about the never-ending acquisition of “stuff” (i.e., beds, dressers, chairs, tables, washer/dryer, fridge …) results in a predictable crisis. Can the author of Almost DailyBrett downsize from a 2,200-square-foot Monopoly (ranch-style) house in Northern California to a 1,000-square-foot apartment, and still find sufficient space for his stuff?

Let me interject right now: your author does not do orange metal doors surrounded by Berlin Bunker concrete (e.g., storage units = unintelligent loss of legal tender).

So what did all of the above make me? A displaced Californian with equity to transfer, looking for a tree house to display his stuff, and live and study as well … Under the Oregon Clouds.

Spider and The Fly

On more than one occasion, it has been questioned why would a single-at-the-time, follicly challenged mature dude acquire a 2,000-square foot house with a deck, hot tub and occasionally serving prosciutto and melon with Sangiovese? Was my Eugene house the human equivalent of a spider’s web, looking for “some little girl to fly on by” as suggested by Mick Jagger in The Spider and The Fly?

Almost DailyBrett will piously declare the primary purpose for the turn-key Eugene house with next to zero backyard maintenance was to serve as a place to study, research and finish a master’s degree in Communication and Society. The next steps were finding a full-time teaching gig. The wonderful new wife came later, even though my eyes were always surveying the horizon for both.

The aforementioned Jeanne became Mrs. Brett on her own recognizance, and yours truly was offered a doctoral fellowship to Arizona State University and a tenure track professorship at Central Washington University, taking the latter position.

What that on-the-one-hand and on-the-other-hand decision meant was transporting my new bride, two alley cats and our  “stuff” to a townhouse in Ellensburg, Washington and renting out the house Under the Oregon Clouds. That plan worked for two years until the renters (e.g., Stefanie and George) decided to move.

Considering that our move back to Eugene was not coming anytime soon, we made the decision to sell the house Under the Oregon Clouds. Think of it this way, a house is bricks and mortar or some variation of that theme. We can always buy another house, another day maybe with sun above. Right?

And yet, the house did not sell as the rain fell during the winter. The house Under the Oregon Clouds is quirky (e.g., it has character). It has three flights of stairs, a car-port instead of a garage (for your stuff). Das Haus ist nicht für Alles.

It did not sell. We couldn’t be happier.

Someday, we will once again visit the 12th Century Firenze villa Under the Tuscan Sun.

More importantly, we will surely move back to that special tree house Under the Oregon Clouds.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Under_the_Tuscan_Sun_(film)

http://www.francesmayesbooks.com/under-the-tuscan-sun/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvgN5gCuLac

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0CSs4Nf-64

“Believe in the Power of the Run.” – Legendary University of Oregon and U.S. Olympic Team track coach Bill Bowerman

“Food is the enemy.” – Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee

“Drive-throughs are killing more people than the drive-bys.” — LA Gangsta Community Gardener Ron Finley

Went to the big-box store looking for a men’s reversible belt. Supposedly, you are supposed to buy one size larger than your actual waistline.DSC02471

Let’s see: There is size 38, size 42, size 46, size 50 …

Where the heck is size 34? Do they still make size 34 belts, let alone anything smaller?

Your Almost DailyBrett author may be vertically challenged. There is no doubt he is follicly challenged. Damn it, he will not be horizontally challenged.

No convulations over my size 34 belt.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 34.9 percent of American adults or 78.6 million are obese. The added medical costs nationwide amount to $147 billion or about $1,429 in additional doctor visits for each obese adult.

Day-in, day-out millions of Americans are literally eating, smoking and/or drinking themselves into infirmary. Wheel chairs, scooters, canes and walkers are just waiting to be purchased (an unfortunate growth industry) and the kidney dialysis centers are popping up like Starbucks.

This trend has to stop.

When you think about people in wheelchairs you feel sorry and sad particularly for what they can’t do in their lives any longer. There world is literally getting smaller and more restricted with each and every day.

For some, this state of affairs was unavoidable and unfortunate. They deserve our sympathy and support.

For others …

And then, there are the 400,000 Americans who die each other because of smoking-related diseases. Can’t they read the warning labels? Ah, yes it is the nicotine talking; it is always the nicotine talking.

Without Limits

More than a few don’t want to hear anything about running. There is a commitment to a level of pain when it comes to getting into shape.

Some correctly believe that it’s near-insanity to wake up early in order to run in 16-degrees (ski cap, gloves, thermal undies); others may see this commitment as dedication.

And some may be concerned about running in 90+ degree heat; better make sure that plenty of water is available.

Why should we even consider running? How about because we want to not only live, but live well?

Literally hundreds of thousands of people outrun little ole me on a daily basis. They have the 13.1 or even better, 26.2 decals on the backs of their cars. These stickers are tributes to themselves and to Pheidippides, who according to myth immediately died after  running 26.2 miles to deliver the good news of “Victory” after the Battle of Marathon.marathon

In My Time of Dying

“I see the smiling faces; I know I must have left some traces; And I see them in the streets; And I see them in the field; And I hear them shouting under my feet … “– Robert Plant and Jimmy Page

At 11 minutes and 6 seconds, “In My Time of Dying” is the longest Led Zeppelin song ever recorded. For some reason, it seems to be an apt title for a run of almost two miles. There are times when you actually believe: This run is really In My Time of Dying.

The question that needs to be asked, besides the obvious bout against overweight/obesity, why take the time and effort (particularly in extreme temperatures) to make a commitment to fitness and staying in shape?

The answer is multi-fold, but one of them revolves around having clothes you wore 20 years ago still fitting. Another is the little extra bounce in your step that arises from increased stamina. And how about the prospect of living longer, doing more, being sharper and enjoying life to the fullest?

If one needs further stimulation consider a mobile device with Nike+ software. The little tyrant actually awards you video game-style “medals” just to make sure that you run more than 30 miles each month.stonescuba

When the author of Almost DailyBrett contemplates the Rolling Stones are still bringing it on the road, even visiting Cuba for the first time just last month, in their collective seventh or eighth decades (i.e., Ronnie Wood, 68; Keith Richards, 72; Mick Jagger, 72 and Charlie Watts, 74), one needs to rebel against a lethal sedentary lifestyle.

Watching Jagger dance and perform in his 70s for upwards of two hours with a reported waist line around 30 inches-or -so is simply awesome.

momsledPondering how my mumsy at 97-years young has kept her slender build, just renewed her driver’s license for FIVE MORE YEARS, and still goes to Curves three days a week is motivation enough for me, and maybe it should be inspirational for others as well.

Yes, I am a tad biased on this subject.

Her father, an avid fitness kind of guy, made it to 100-years-young with all of his personal transmission running just fine.

Happy Birthday mumsy. You are still ready to hit the sled and drive the nose guard off the ball.

Something tells me, she will see the century mark and then some.

http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html

http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/prevalence-maps.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DUnOup4tVY

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Bowerman

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/split-an-entree-today-enjoy-a-free-lunch-for-two-tomorrow/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/life-in-your-years/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/06/21/plant-some-shit/

http://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/mar/26/rolling-stones-enjoy-historic-cuba-gig-havana-obama

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_My_Time_of_Dying

http://www.lakepowell.net/marathon.html

 

 

 

 

 

Meet the baby of the family, the unexpected/unplanned baby of the family.

This coming Saturday, Pi Day, the mathematically inept, right-brained baby will “celebrate” the successful navigation of 60 years on the planet, and look forward to hopefully plenty more.kmb2

Much has changed since the decade of Ike, Elvis, Disneyland, Sputnik, U2 (not the band) and “Senator, have you no sense of decency?”

The author of Almost DailyBrett has always been a tad vertically challenged; in time became follicly challenged, and still vows to never-ever be horizontally challenged. Looking forward to Saturday’s cross-training with Nike+, charting the results.

Tempted to mimic a lyric, “Oh, what a long, strange trip it has been,” but I was never into that kind of “trip.” When it comes to sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, always been a big fan of the first, still dig the latter (never was a Dead Head), and never understood the appeal of the “medicine.”

Baby Boomers are supposed to wax nostalgic for the 1960s and the demonstrations in the streets of Chicago and arrests on the quad at Berkeley. What the heck happened to your author? Instead, he pleasantly recollects the 1980s, when he tied the knot for the first time, became a father to Allison, when it was Morning in America.

California even balanced its budget, raised zero taxes and maintained a $1 billion for emergency. Almost sounds quaint when compared to today’s oceans of red ink for our children’s children to pay. Yep, the 1980s worked; they always will; historical revisionism be damned.

Come to think of it, during my life a Wall went up in 1961 (“Ich bin ein Berliner”) and it came down 28 years later (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”). O.J. sliced up UCLA’s defense in 1967 and Nicole Brown a generation later.

Nothing has ever been permanent, particularly disco, hem-and-tan lines.

Brady Bunch Neighborhood

Growing up in lily-white Glendale, California in the age of Hogan’s Heroes and the God-awful Brady Bunch, your blog writer will always be grateful for those priests and nuns who taught writing, reading and literature. They also transformed me into the rotten Catholic I am today with their unique combination of arrogance, boorishness and corporal punishment.

Sorry to say Padre, you were wrong: Mary Magdalene was not a whore.

There was the bitter divorce of 1967, but with it came life-long lessons about how to and how NOT to treat the fairer gender. Monogamy with a special one is best; you should try it and stick with it, fellow hombres.ibmselectric

My love of writing began at eight-years old, the very same year in which the school loud speakers told us about the death of a young president. This same infatuation with the pencil, pen, IBM Selectric, work station, PC, and now the mobile device continued as man walked on the moon, a president resigned, our diplomats were held hostage for 444 days, and planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Growing up, always thought that Nixon’s first name was “Damn.” Came to appreciate that Tricky Dick and Slick Willie were spot-on names for my least favorite presidents. Thankfully, Nixon abolished the draft. There was no ‘Nam for me, University of Oregon instead.

The Earth Shook

Eventually graduated from the University of Southern California with a Rose Bowl ring and no loans. Yes I was fortunate, but a long career laid before me. Cut my teeth covering the Proposition 13 tax-revolt earthquake in 1978. Toured the Soviet Union in 1981, seeing the Evil Empire and its grip on people up close and personal. Recruited to serve as the press director for the Deukmejian Campaign Committee the following year. We won the governorship of California at 5 am the day-after-the-election. We recorded the biggest landslide in blue state California’s history four years later.

Sacramento has two seasons: Hot and Cold. Served as the Governor George Deukmejian’s press secretary as the earth shook San Francisco (e.g., Loma Prieta Earthquake). Was told “The Bay Bridge is in the Water.”  Whew, it was not true, even though the Cypress Structure mysteriously came down.cypressstructure

Next was trees, owls, chips and Japan, which led to the fifth most famous person from Liverpool, Wilf Corrigan, and LSI Logic. Saw the Internet bubble rise and inevitably it exploded, resulting in seven rounds of layoffs and a company on the brink. We survived and yet it was time for Wilf to retire … The world moved on to social, mobile and cloud.

Faced mortality twice, first with prostate cancer and then with Valley Fever/Meningitis. Fought off the first and battled the second to a draw, and yet it was my first wife, Robin, who lost her battle to cancer. Life is unfair. Life is fickle. Life is finite.

Attained the so-called “Holy Grail” of public relations, vaunted agency experience with a life-changing side-effect; subbing at Santa Clara University. Could I teach at the college level, maybe even at the school that caused time to stop with “Kenny Wheaton is going to score; Kenny Wheaton is going to score”?DSC01171

Accepted a fellowship to the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication and earned 15 months later my master’s degree. The attainment of a second career was complete with a full-time instructor position at UO, and now a tenure-track assistant professor gig, teaching public relations/advertising/corporate communications/investor relations at Central Washington University.

And best of all, the author of Almost DailyBrett turned his attention away from his blog long enough to survey the field of contenders on Match.com. The result was a love affair with Jeanne, fireworks on the Fourth of July, and trips in the little green chariot. Next up is our long-overdue romantic honeymoon to Bavaria and Tuscany, Mad King Ludwig’s castles and Under the Tuscan Sun.

I am one lucky dude.

Today, I am inspired by Mick and Keith at 71, Ronnie at 68, and geriatric Charlie at 73 on worldwide tour. To use more than a few metaphors, there is still plenty of gas in the tank and the engine continues to rev every morning. It’s pedal to the metal time.

“Oh what a long, strange trip it has been.” Looking forward to continuing the ride with the top down and my few remaining hairs flowing in the breeze.DSC01421

 

Why Widowers Make the Best Lovers

My seven-year involuntary bachelorhood, and more important my seven-year forced widowerhood (if there is such a word), ended with the autumnal equinox, September 21.

As a new happily married man, I am pleased to report that both my bachelorhood and widowerhood are over. If you don’t believe me, take a moment to review my all-time (nearly 2,300 page views and counting) post: The Trouble with Widowers.

Back then, I was a frustrated, disappointed and unhappy puppy. And it shows in this particular Almost DailyBrett post. Initially, I thought being a widower was an advantage compared to other single folks. I was coming to a completely different conclusion. Having said that, I never gave up on the notion that widowers make the best lovers.

“Mommy got sick. And it happened just like that. There was nothing anybody could do. It isn’t fair. There’s no reason. But if we start asking why, we’ll go crazy.” – Tom Hanks as widower Sam Baldwin in “Sleepless in Seattle.” sleepless

Sam Baldwin’s wife died of cancer. And Meg Ryan as Annie Reed was determined to meet him. The same fate happened to my wife and by extension to me as well.

Entering into compelled bachelorhood, I wrote that compared to other categories of Baby Boom singledom; it was best to be a widower. The alternatives were bitter divorcee, single-north-of-40 or worse yet, currently separated with the warring states engaged in pitched battle.

Nonetheless, there are so many Frauen und Frauleins that are unhappy with their widowers because they remember their deceased spouses; they still may have mementos (e.g., displayed pictures, commemorative art, photo albums); and they continue to love her.

In turn, these factors in many cases trigger a mental comparison between the present female and her real and perceived flaws and the dearly departed. There are some who insist and can’t resist: Competing Against the Dead. And yet, there is an undeniable reality. She is deceased. Finis. Endo Musico.

It has been suggested that my personal record number of web hits and (not always pleasant) comments for The Trouble with Widowers is a reflection of women who are frustrated with the knuckle-dragging gender, particularly those who are widowers.

An immediate thought that comes to mind is whether these unhappy members of the fairer gender are searching for ideal hombres, as if these animals actually exist or ever existed. Let me offer the following for what it is worth (keep in mind, I am not a romantic expert and never will be): Widowers make the best lovers. And let me provide an addendum: Not all the good ones have already been taken.

How can I make such a categorical and unequivocal claim with no escape clause that widowers are the best lovers?

Assuming the widower did not become a widower because of foul play, one can conclude based upon experience that a widower knows how to keep a relationship and by extension, a marriage intact. sleepless1

He is not single because he was thrown out of the house. He is not single because no one is interested in marrying him. He is not single because he is separated, and the war is just starting.

He is single because of-death-did-they-indeed-part. My apologies for the sophomoric statement: Cancer sucks.

Certainly widowers are not perfect, but who is?

If a marriage stood the test of time, then obviously the widower contributed in part to this success. As a former widower, I know that a relationship is an everyday commitment. It cannot survive on auto pilot. There must be an effort to keep the romance and excitement alive, even in the face of the mundane daily challenges (e.g., work and raising a family).

Every successful marriage must overcome challenges and inevitable disagreements. Widowers know this, and can bring this knowledge and experience to their next relationships.

Sounds like the widower is applying for a new job? Ever experience an initial Match.com date? There are two simultaneous interviews taking place with each person serving as the interviewer and interviewee. A widower has an excellent chance of succeeding in this setting, provided he has found The Right Woman.

corinthians Probably, the best advice I received from multiple females of the species: “Just be nice.”

That seems so simple, and yet so many men swing and strike out even with a fast ball being thrown right down the middle.

A successful marriage requires the patience, kindness and willingness to NOT keep score. There is a much better than even chance that a widower instinctively knows this and has practiced these biblical tenants during the course of his marriage.

And yes, he can love again. Believe that. I am loving again.

http://symbioticpublishing.com/widower.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleepless_in_Seattle

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4J7gg1V0oak

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/the-trouble-with-widowers/ https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/01/22/competing-against-the-dead/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/the-right-woman/

The Right Woman

DSC00344

 

This is not a gushy blog.

Instead, it is a response to one of my earlier epistles that resulted in many pairs of panties getting themselves all in a twist.

It amazed this writer how my April 15 blog…as in the April 15, 2012 The Trouble with Widowers post managed to get so many (mostly of the feminine persuasion) so riled up. The offering is one that keeps on giving and gosh darn it; the piece helps my SEO as well.

Go ahead, I dare you…Type in The Trouble with Widowers into your Google search and let’s see what comes out on top. I am as confident as Muhammad Ali stepping into the ring.

Okay, it’s time for a little humility for a change.

I never wrote The Trouble with Widowers for pure SEO (Search Engine Optimization) glory. As a widower, I was perplexed and a little irritated … okay a lot irritated … why I was not doing better when it comes to the affairs of the heart.

Deep down, I am a nice guy with a fun career. I can communicate with the best of them; heck it’s my profession. If you don’t believe me, just ask me.

And yet, my efforts at honest, effective communication with the fairer gender were coming up empty. One of the problems was the image of the woman in my past: The one, who passed away eight years ago tomorrow.

May you rest in peace, Robin.

Looking back on the past 15 months, I am amazed how one blog could draw 1,338 page views-and-counting and a record 28 comments some of which telling me that I was “clueless,” an “attention seeker” and my favorite, a “martyr.” Ready to nail me to the cross?

As the famous cliché states, “You can’t always tell a book by its cover.”

The title, The Trouble with Widowers, may have been akin to Xmas morning for youngsters. The majority of the readers of this particular post (e.g., women) most likely saw presents under the tree in the form of a new avenue for male bashing. Let’s give it to those widowers…until…oh…the blog wasn’t pounding men with deceased spouses into fine grains of sand. Instead, it was a call for understanding and communication.

It was a call for the right woman.

There are approximately 3.6 billion card-carrying females on this planet. Thankfully for heterosexual widowers, there are more women than competing men. Finding that woman, an understanding woman, is an exercise in patience and perseverance. For me, it took seven years to find Jeanne.

Vice President (and fellow widower) Joe Biden lost one-half of his family in a horrific traffic accident in December, 1972. It was several years before he met his Jill. And it was even longer before he could think of his deceased wife and baby daughter with a “Smile of the lips before a tear in the eyes.” Jill is an understanding woman.

The same is true for me, even though one of my readers wrote: “God help the next woman who enters into a relationship with you” and another, who offered, “I doubt your girlfriend is as secure as you maintain.” Thank you, Gloomy Gus, Negative Nancy and the other human barbiturates.

What seemed in particular to get everyone’s bowels in an uproar was the prospect of a “shrine” to the deceased and the notion that a new GOW (girlfriend of a widower) or WOW (wife of a widower) was second best.

Growing up in Southern California, my mom at dinner time would turn on a small electric light to illuminate a large portrait of her mom (my grandma Peggy) and turn it off shortly before retiring. Was that a “shrine” to a deceased member of the family? What constitutes a shrine? The next question: Is it appropriate? I never questioned it.

As I offered before, photos of a deceased grandparent, parent, sibling, (Heaven forbid) child are kosher, but photos and art work from the late spouse are insensitive? Each and every one of them were family members. Why is it different if one married into the family?

And then there is the notion that the GOW or WOW is somehow “second best.” Let me ask this question: Does a mother with multiple children numerically rank her Kindern? Is this the equivalent of the BCS standings with the top two children vying for the mother’s number one spot when it comes to love? Will a trophy be awarded for winning the maternal, “Natty?”

There is no denying that a GOW or WOW is second, chronologically. That’s just common sense. The deceased spouse came first. That doesn’t make the new love of your life, second best. She is second. The same is true for children…only one can be the first child.

Let me offer the following: The venom that has been directed at me may be a cry of frustration. Dating a widower is not as easy as it seems. He usually does not carry the bitterness of many divorcees or those currently separated. He does not bring obvious questions of those post-40, who have never been down the aisle. In most cases, he brings to the party the experience of a successful marriage that was cut short by the Grim Reaper.

It all comes down to two-way symmetrical communication. Both need to understand. Both need to be accommodating. This is not a once-a-week practice, but it is every day. Relationships take work, even those with widowers.

A widower needs to work every day with the new woman in his life, just as he did in his past relationship. The same is true with the woman dating and loving the widower. It all comes down to the right widower and the right woman.

As one of my colleagues said to me last year: “When it’s good; it’s good.”

Thank you Jeanne. It’s been good, damn good. You are the right woman.

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/the-trouble-with-widowers/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/smile-on-the-lips-before-a-tear-in-the-eyes/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/01/22/competing-against-the-dead/

July 10

The hospice nurse woke me at 6 am seven years ago today.

It was the start of the worst day of my life.

It was not a wonderful world.

“Mr. Brett?”

“Ah…What is it?” I asked groggily from the computer room couch.

“I am sorry to tell you that your wife just passed away…”

(Uncustomary silence on my part.)

“Would you like us to call the mortuary?”

“No, thank you. I will do that. Please give me about 20 minutes…”

It was time for an unrestrained cry before making any telephone calls.

Later I rallied myself to make the dreaded walk down the hallway into the master bedroom. The lights were off. The oxygen canisters were silent. For the first time in my life I was coming in direct contact with a deceased person, my wife Robin of almost 22 years.

This was the same gorgeous creature that I took on our first date to Hamburger Hamlet in Pasadena, CA. She was the same one that I slipped a diamond engagement ring into her glass of ice-cold Liebfraumilch. I asked her, “Would you?” She replied, “Uh-huh.” She was the very same absolutely stunning woman, escorted by her father, who walked down the aisle to marry me. She gave birth to our daughter, Allison. She was and still is my very best friend in the world. I will always love her.

mommy1

So what do you do when you see your way-too-young-to-die, 50-year-old wife is no longer breathing without any pulse in her veins? Instinct took over. I kissed her forehead. Eventually I noticed to my horror that her diamond wedding ring was still on her already swelling finger. With the assistance of hospice and some aloe lotion we were able to finally wrestle it off.

Shortly thereafter, the mortuary van arrived.

I had to make an irreversible decision: Wake my then-16-year-old daughter, Allison, to give her the news and suggest to her to say goodbye to her mother…or let her blessedly sleep on an otherwise beautiful Sunday morning. I opted for the latter. The mortuary van took Robin away.

Around 8 am, I woke Allison. She instinctively knew by the look on my face that her mother had died. I hugged her. At that moment, I told her that I made a decision to not wake her. I asked her for her forgiveness, if I had made the wrong choice. I did not want the gurney and the mortuary truck to her last memory of her mother. She told me that I made the right decision. Whew.

Friends asked me why I never stopped Robin from smoking (as if I could). Sometimes she was proud when she smoked less than a pack-a-day. There was always the solo cup on the backyard table, regardless of the weather, with sickly dark water on the bottom and dozens of cigarette butts stacked up. There were also the excuses, the explanations, the rationalizations. The nicotine’s presence was there; it was always there.

She once asked me, if I would ever give her up because of smoking. I was silently thinking, if she would ever give me up because of smoking. I never tested nicotine vs. me. I feared the addiction. I was terrified of the answer. It was simply better, not to know.

Several years later, I was sitting with my long-time friend in the upper deck of AT&T Park in San Francisco. One team was coming up to bat; the other was heading out into the field. My friend was looking to the Bay. The loud speakers were playing Louis Armstrong’s, “What a Wonderful World.” Tears started to roll out of the corners of my eyes. This was the same song that Robin wanted for her memorial service. Those lyrics and Armstrong’s voice will always have the same effect on me.

In the aftermath of this life-changing experience, I have counseled widows/widowers that three anniversaries: his or her birthday; your wedding anniversary; and the annual date of the passing will always be extremely difficult.  Keep in mind that you can anticipate these dates similar to a hurricane being tracked across the ocean. You have time to mentally prepare.

Satchmo’s “What a Wonderful World” being played with no warning at the ballpark just clobbered me. There always seems to be that special song, that special picture, that special place, that special memory that makes the finality of death so difficult. There is no preparation for these sneak attacks on your emotions…and this does not spare a testosterone-laded male.

Robin always wanted her last piece of California real estate. Her tombstone: “Wife, Mother, Writer, Artist,” sits under a coastal pine tree at the Cambria Cemetery about three miles from the Pacific Ocean. I make a pilgrimage at least once a year. Others can’t go or won’t go. I understand. Really, I do.

cambria

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that her soul is up above. Stomach cancer may have taken her life, but not her spirit. If she could come back for just a few precious nanoseconds, I would ask her to describe the Kingdom of Heaven to me. Should I fear or look forward to my inevitable day when I will be carried out in the mortuary truck with my ashes eventually thrown into the Willamette?

Most of all, I want to ask if he she is proud of me. I always wanted her to be proud of me.

“I see trees of green…….. red roses too
I see em bloom….. for me and for you
And I think to myself…. what a wonderful world.

“I see skies of blue….. clouds of white
Bright blessed days….dark sacred nights
And I think to myself …..what a wonderful world.

“The colors of a rainbow…..so pretty ..in the sky
Are also on the faces…..of people ..going by
I see friends shaking hands…..sayin.. how do you do
They’re really sayin……I love you.

“I hear babies cry…… I watch them grow
They’ll learn much more…..than I’ll never know
And I think to myself …..what a wonderful world

“The colors of a rainbow…..so pretty ..in the sky
Are there on the faces…..of people ..going by
I see friends shaking hands…..sayin.. how do you do
They’re really sayin…*spoken*(I ….love….you).

“I hear babies cry…… I watch them grow
*spoken*(you know their gonna learn
A whole lot more than I’ll never know)
And I think to myself …..what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself …….what a wonderful world.”

http://www.louisarmstronghouse.org/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3yCcXgbKrE

“There will come a day, I promise you … when the thought of your son or daughter or your husband or wife brings a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eye. It will happen. My prayer for you is that day will come sooner or later. But the only thing I have more experience than you in is this: I’m telling you it will come.” Vice President Joe Biden

It’s not every day that I quote Joe Biden, but every once in awhile even a loose cannon can be right …err … correct.

biden

What compels me to write a non-political blog featuring the Democratic vice president and former senator are the lessons he teaches us in overcoming the loss of a loved one or in his case, two loved ones. Biden instantaneously lost his wife, Neilia, and one-year old daughter, Naomi Christina, when they were broadsided by a tractor-trailer on December 18, 1972. His two sons were in the same car. They were seriously hurt, but have fully recovered. Historically, Biden does not work on this anniversary.

I can understand why.

As I have mentioned before, I have seen a similar version of this movie and just like the vice president I cried at the ending. It will be seven years this coming July 10 when I lost my wife, Robin, to terminal stage four, fully methathesized stomach cancer … a death sentence cancer.

Both Biden and yours truly are mackerel snappers. And all the years of parochial education naturally prompt one to beseech the All Mighty as to how she or he could allow someone near and dear to you to be taken away in the prime of her life. I lost one in a relatively short period of time. Biden lost two immediately.

Biden, who had just been elected to the US Senate from Delaware in 1972, remembers staring up to the capitol rotunda ceiling and saying, ‘God!’ It was if I was talking to God myself. ‘You can’t be good! How can you be good?’”

A padre at the Cathedral in Portland, Oregon a few years ago commented how all deaths are by their very nature sad, but can be actually welcomed when someone is elderly, sick, suffering and has no hope of ever continuing a healthy, happy life. The opposite is true when someone is vibrant, full of zest and contemplating her next three decades or so of life…and then…

One of the keys to Biden’s recovery was a strong wonderful woman, Jill Biden, the second lady of the United States. She is absolutely gorgeous even as she approaches her 61st birthday next week. She is obviously understanding and was willing to work with Joe, the widower, in not only incorporating her own life into his, but helping him to overcome…not forget…the double tragedy that struck his life.

“This woman (Jill) literally saved my life,” said Biden to the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). In that same speech with the media present, Biden bravely said he understood thoughts of suicide because someone may have been to “the top of the mountain and they knew in their heart they’d never get there again, that was never going to be that way ever again.”

Mercifully, I never had those thoughts. Having said that, I am searching for my “Jill.” I know she is out there. She may even be reading my blog.

jillbiden

As I have written before in related Almost DailyBrett posts, “Competing Against the Dead?” and “The Trouble with Widowers,” it will take someone strong and accommodating. She will need to understand that I simply cannot forget 22 years, but at the same time I am ready to move on. I am always amazed by the unprompted pronouncements about how I have not recovered from Robin’s passing. That’s where Biden’s comments come into play.

When I now think of Robin, I remember fondly the good times, the fun times, the playful times. A smile comes onto my face, before an occasional tear ventures into my baby blues. The vice president without saying it directly was referencing how time is a great healer. Forgetting is neither an option nor something I want to do, but going forward with a renewed spring in my step is something that I see in my future.

I have been accused of being a Pollyanna. I happily plead guilty.

http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-biden-reflects-on-tragic-accident-loss-in-speech-to-soldiers-families-20120525,0,2650548.story

http://www.taps.org/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Biden

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jill_Biden

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/the-trouble-with-widowers/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/01/22/competing-against-the-dead/

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/pollyanna

The Trouble with Widowers

There seems to be plenty of online advice for WOWs (Wives of Widowers) and GOWs (Girlfriends of Widowers), but I am striking out finding comparable guidance for HOWs and BOWs.

Silly me. I used to think it was far better to be widower and to periodically talk positively about a deceased wife than it was to be a bitter divorcee and talk horribly about an ex-wife or ex-husband. Guess I was wrong.

widower

The counsel that is being provided to the fairer sex about dating widowers remembering blissful marriages is far from universal. The direction includes compelling the widower to lock all of his late wife’s gear, including photos, in a pharaoh’s tomb-style steamer trunk (UK Guardian columnist Mariella Frostrup) and throw away the key.

Another opines (blogger Julie Donner Andersen) that it would be “inhumane and selfish” to demand that a widower put all of his memories in a box. At the same time, she concluded  that a widower maybe looking to the heavens for permission from his dead wife to fall in love with someone new.

A third input (author/marketer Abel Keogh) simply suggests that it is time to move on if a widower dedicates an online or literal shrine to his departed wife.

Let’s see: Real or digital shrines are kosher for mothers, fathers, siblings, children, but verboten for deceased wives … Not sure I am following the (il)logic.

My response as a widower to this “advice” and the “counsel” emanating from the relationship Pharisees is to ask: Have you ever walked in my shoes?

I never thought I would ever have to “overcome” a two-decade-plus successful marriage. One could reasonably conclude this experience was a plus that one actually knows how to make a marriage stand the test of time. Having read advice columns and blogs on this subject and factoring in my own dating experiences, one is now tempted to come to an all together different conclusion.

During my nearly seven years as a single follicly challenged dude, I have heard a litany of complaints from recent and not-so-recent divorcees about their ex-spouses including using charming names such as a..hole, d..k and the fact that his parents were not married when he was born.

Is it a blast to listen to this dialogue? Nope. And for some reason these negative vibrations are somehow better than listening to a widower talking about his positive relationship with his late wife. Sitting there politely while a female of the species verbally unloads on her ex is somehow commendable, but a knuckle-dragging male musing romantically in moderation about his dearly departed in the presence of a contending female is insensitive. Sure.

Should a widower temper his discussion about his late wife and be cognizant about overdoing it? Absolutely. Should he take all of these memories, put a sock in it and permanently seal them away in a mental or real vault, never to be opened again? Is this realistic?

The trouble with widowers, and I have heard this more than once, is that if we discuss our late spouses more than a few times that triggers a knee-jerk conclusion from the mind readers that we have not come to terms with the passing of our beloved wives. We are not ready for a prime-time relationship with someone with a totally different set of genes.

How else can I put it?  She’s dead. She’s not coming back. To death did us part.

The answer to addressing the subject of a positive marriage to a dearly deceased wife and a bitter divorce to an (add appropriate explicative) offending guy is communication. I have always contended and probably always will believe that how a couple addresses conflict rather than days of wine and roses dictates the success of a relationship. It all boils down to verbal intercourse.

Regardless of whether a previous marriage ended in death or divorce, there are memories and mementos. The longer the marriage, the deeper the emotions and the thoughts about special places and times. Most likely there will be pictures, some more intimate than others. There may be art. There may be letters and cards. Should all of these be put into a steamer trunk, locked and placed into the hold of the Lusitania?

Personally I believe that sensitivity is a two-way street. There should not be a double standard. Discussing an ex, whether it is by a female or male speaker, and whether divorce or death results in a spouse becoming a former spouse, should be done with care. We need to consider the comfort level of those receiving the message and be sensitive to their feelings.

At the same time, those dating a divorcee, a widower or a widow need to come to terms with the undeniable fact that there was someone prominent in that person’s past. There must be some accommodation, but not in an unlimited manner. This is a real or potential conflict, but it can be solved if both sides wish to do so.

If not, a WOW or a GOW could end up competing against the dead. The result may very well be a relationship on life support.

Almost DailyBrett note: The acronyms WOW and GOW originate from blogger Julie Donner Andersen. Very clever.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/jan/01/mariella-frostrup-widower-first-wife

http://juliedonnerandersen.blogspot.com/2009/04/enough-already-when-widower-talks.html

http://abelkeogh.com/writing/widower-red-flag.php

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/01/22/competing-against-the-dead/

The courage to stare someone in the eye and tell them something they do not want to hear is becoming an increasingly rare commodity in today’s society.

As Almost DailyBrett has commented in “Losing the Art of Verbal Confrontation,” digital technology has provided us all with the means to be analog cowards.

If you need to deliver some unpleasant news to a soon-to-be ex-boyfriend, ex-girlfriend, also-ran job seeker or one of the losing competitors for a RFP (Request for Proposal), then simply send an e-mail…or even more touching, deliver the news via a text.

Think of the beauty of this gutless approach, you don’t have to see the look of the recipient’s face or faces. You don’t have to hear the reaction. The transmission of unwelcome and uncomfortable news has never been easier.

When singer/songwriter Phil Collins decided to split with his second of three divorced wives, he had to compose a hard-copy message and feed it into a fax machine, and wait for electronic confirmation that the message had been delivered. How primitive.

collins

Today, we don’t have to worry about fibre-optic lines. We can dispatch the unwanted message via wireless technology with the aid of a handy satellite or two, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

What I am about to do is very un-male-like: Admit a romantic setback.

My policy at Almost DailyBrett is to omit the exact name of the person involved; in this case because she may be tad uneasy and maybe a smidge embarrassed, even though she has every reason to be proud. I will refer to her as Mizz “A.”

Over a  dinner last Sunday of grilled pesto chicken breast on a bed of linguine, steamed green beans and pinot gris, Mizz “A” told me that she had boiled down her romantic finalists to “Ron” and myself. I restrained the impulse to campaign for her vote, simply thanking Mizz “A” for her candor.

Three days later, she sent me an e-mail asking if I was available for drink after work. We met in downtown Eugene (or what passes for “downtown” in Eugene). She looked at me and said, “Let’s get a glass of wine (“wine” is a bad sign; “dinner” is a good sign).” My male intuition (not an oxymoron) turned out to be correct.

After some procedural small talk, she prefaced her remarks by saying, “This is not what you want to hear…” Ron had won the competition for her heart. Similar to Bert Parks and the “Miss America” contest, I was the first runner-up (translated: I was the first loser). My competition got the girl.

She expressed her sympathy to me. I replied that she was a “stand-up woman,” someone rare in our modern society. I told her that a phone call would have been sufficient; how it was miles better than the ubiquitous text or email. She didn’t even think that a phone call would have sufficed. Gee, there is a reason I liked this woman.

I asked, what were the deciding factors? She said there were two: First, Ron had expressed a desire to live overseas, something that has always interested Mizz “A.” I countered by reminding her of my receipt of the Zertifikät Deutsch from the Goethe Institut and how I always wanted to live in a Schloss, drinking schnapps and clicking zee heels in the Bavarian Alps. She also said that Mr. Ron was a very religious and spiritual man, and that was very important to her. Alas, that is not me…and that clearly separates the two final contenders.

Upon departing, I resisted the temptation to say to her that she could contact me if things do not work out with Mr. Ron. That statement in my humble opinion sounds weak and may be perceived that I am rooting against their relationship, which is not the case.

Looking back at this experience and venturing forward to the continuation of my post-marriage (I am a widower after 22 years of blissful matrimony) dating life — characterized by more activity than accomplishment — I know that at least one person exists out there who knows how to treat people right. She clearly follows the Golden Rule.

Sooner or later, we all have to deliver less-than-cheerful news. The rule that I humbly submit is the more that someone genuinely puts into a relationship, the search for a position, the quest for a project, the more they deserve a face-to-face delivery of your difficult news and an explanation of your decision. That may not be physically possible every time, which leaves the phone as a distant second best option (at least you can hear the reaction). E-mails and texts should never be used to deliver bad news to those who have invested considerable time, resources, emotion and effort. If you do, it says more about you (and your organization, if applicable) than the person or persons receiving the news.

One last point: If you are fearful of an inappropriate reaction to your eyeball-to-eyeball transmission of less than stellar news, then I would opine that you shouldn’t be in this “relationship” in the first place. Have to call me as I see em.

Editor’s note: Here are three recent Almost DailyBrett blog posts about the adventures of mid-life crisis dating and social media.

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/losing-the-art-of-verbal-confrontation/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/%e2%80%9cit%e2%80%99s-not-you-it%e2%80%99s-me-%e2%80%9d/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/unfriending-your-%e2%80%9cfriends%e2%80%9d/

 

 

 

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