Everything is the way she left it

In the closet

The red coat she wore on the last day of her life is still in the closet. And her jackets and dresses. Her shoes and boots. Her blouses and other garments are in the chest of drawers. Her sweaters are in the cedar chest. He sometimes think about packing them up and taking them to Goodwill. But he never does.

The dishes and glassware and cutlery are as she left them in the kitchen cupboards. Thirteen months ago. He barely uses them. He eats take-out and frozen dinners.

The only piece of furniture that he frequents is the drink cabinet. It is full with bottles of gin and vodka and rum and tequila and bourbon and brandy and several liqueurs.

He lives with a cat. His wife’s cat. He drinks alone. The cat sits in his wife’s empty armchair and watches him drink, wondering if this will be another night of 80-proof railing and wailing.

The old man has no immediate family left. He has been invited to move to places where he has some extended family and a few friends — Florida, South Carolina, Northern Michigan. He thinks about moving. But he never does. He tells them he’s too old to move. The will, the life have left him.

So he sits in his bungalow and drinks. He reads C.S. Lewis and The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton, and other spiritual literature in the hope that he will “see the light,” as the saying goes.

The other night he made the cat jump when he suddenly yelled: “I have seen the light — and it is black!”

The cat didn’t think it was funny, but the old man laughed his drunken ass off.

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Spiritual comfort for the bereaved, 80-proof guaranteed


Alcohol is god’s gift to the inconsolable.

If I may steal from an old joke: When people ask me if I have a drinking problem, I say, “No, I pretty well got it down.”

People who are okay with my hobby, ask me, What do you drink, mainly?

It kind of a seasonal thing with me — rum in the winter, tequila in the spring, gin in the summer, vodka in the fall, and brandy at bedtime whatever the season — and (I saved the best for last) the year-round favorite, Jack Daniels, so smooth, easy on your throat, unlike some whiskeys.

So, aided by the above 80-proof alcoholic beverages, I (please pardon the cliché) drown my sorrows, and I’ve had my share. But the damndest thing, I drown them for that night, but they ain’t dead, the next day they pop back up like bloated bodies in a sea of sorrow.

You can’t kill them. The only way to get rid of them permanently, is to drive them from your mind and the only way to do that is to off yourself, as the saying goes, which I’ve thought about just about every day these past ten months since my wife died. But I decided — with help from a certain person with the spiritually seductive name of Renata de Dios — not to do that.

‘Tis preferable, I concluded, to mellow out and fall into bed drunk, and, as Shakespeare penned, perchance to dream… Dreams of Susan, good ones, I pray, where we live over again parts of our life together. But even the goddamn guilt-ridden dreams I can handle, because when I wake, usually around noon, I shake them off and console myself with the thought that there are only five hours to cocktail hour.

Praise the Lord and pass the bottle.

Here’s to you, Dear Reader!

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Wild party on County Road 9

You try. You try to get through the death of your wife. You got through the death of two brothers and your son. Why is it so hard to get through this?

For one thing, your wife helped you get through those deaths, especially the death of your son. That was a tough one. You went crazy. You wanted to kill yourself. Your wife stopped you.

You can’t do that. It won’t help Will. And I need you. 

You went on. You lived through the nightmare. Years passed. Your wife was always there for you.

And then she fell ill. Ambulances wailing in the night. Emergency vehicles flashed their lights. Medics worked frantically at her bedside, their faces taut with urgency.

And then the night ride to emergency. A grim scenario played out before, but this night they could not save her.

And now you live alone. You join a bereavement group. You volunteer at the local library. You go back to the empty house. You have no immediate family left. You’ve stopped waiting for the phone to ring. You read a lot. You drink a lot. Gin is a lifesaver. Until it isn’t. But Xanax is, every time.

You put seemingly hopeful posts on your blog (obviously this is not one of them). You try to get off the subject of death. But you know you’re kidding yourself. All you know is, you want your wife back. And the rest of what you know is, she’s never coming back.

Your wife was a believer. She believed in something after death. But you can’t wrap your head around that. You are twice bereft — of your wife, and of belief.

Hell of a place to be in an empty house on County Road 9.