Twin Rebounds and 9/11

Does anyone else remember how 9/11 seemed like the fire that cleansed? How afterwards those of us with only public losses felt we would never be able to be mean again, we’d never be able to endure hurting anyone, we’d change our lives, we’d help make the world better for everyone. We were wide awake and stunned and constantly going back to the video, the rubble mountains, the list of names in an attempt to process the largeness of the event.

Lovers committed. Friends and families reunited. We knew the sky would clear one day and by God, we’d have our priorities straight.

I remember watching the towers fall in the 5th floor conference room. Someone spotted a fire not too far away, I asserted it must be an accident in a trendy wood-fired oven but it was the Pentagon. I skipped the third class in our statistics intensive to return home and witness, try to help, see, even though we couldn’t go below 14th street. I remember the posters on lampposts everywhere, touting hope, loss, denial. I remember co-signing for a cell phone for my sister who’d walked north in the dust with her cat, living for who-knows-how-long in a friend’s basement music studio.

Gavin drew the gorgeous blue sky he remembers that whole clear day.

I remember feeling like I was really, finally a grown up. I would be part of the solution. It was my turn to step up. My generation had a Pearl Harbor, but we couldn’t see what it meant or what the story arc would be. Remember that we didn’t know if it would be the only attack?

Then it turned into a war, a war I couldn’t connect to the events, and then a second war, and everything got all muddied up. We took sides. The pain backed off, and we forgot how things were going to be better different. We had fires burning all over the place, too many to count, and everyone seemed to get comfortable again.

I finished grad school and reproduced my genetic material.

* * * * * * * * * *

Gavin’s diagnosis on 9/7/04 was another day that changed everything. He lived 2 years with a stage IV cancer. A year and a half after his death I started dating and found The First pretty quickly. .

It’s so weird to read about your life in someone else’s book or blog, but young widows have that experience all the time. It’s validating but can be spooky.

Abigail Carter lost her husband on 9/11, in 9/11, and she’s written a wonderful book, The Alchemy of Loss, describing her experiences as a young widowed Mom and some of her upward trajectory out of the pit of loss. She continues to chronicle her recovery on a blog and I love her.

Her first relationship after widowhood was so much like my intense five weeks with The First. She says:

“I was rocked sideways by my own desire, fervor, and heat, the persistent ache of my loneliness forgotten, or perhaps soothed. My new partner, equally wiling, had endured two years of unrequited love from his soon-to-be-ex-wife. // In the coming weeks, we wrote more flirty e-mails full of desire. He wrote me a poem. Is this a phoenix love we have, rising from the ashes of other lives and other loves to clutch life as it passes? … I found myself in a lustful relationship, based not on reality, but on a sleepy, hazy, live-in-the-moment dreamscape.” (p. 236)

I can’t describe my feelings any better. The First and I were twinned, worried we’d dry up. We didn’t share poetry; just sexy texts. To help fill in our world of unreality I gave him the His Dark Materials trilogy for Christmas. Unlike Abby and her love, we kept the kids completely out of it, which definitely added to the sense of fantasy and probably to our lack of judgment.

Abby again:
“I sometimes tried to imagine what our life might be like together -- one large car, four children -- but the image never quite came. // We both had messy lives. We both knew that we were holding each other back from dealing with them. … I wasn’t yet ready to commit so seriously to a man who would sacrifice what was best for him and his kids to be with me, so I began to pull away.” (p. 238)

I could imagine merging our households eventually, but his divorce was starting to happen. All of a sudden I was invisibly in a tussle with his soon-to-be-ex. I couldn’t win against his kids and didn’t want to be part of the changed game. I understood my moral imperative to get out and ended it a week later.

Is it a widowhood thing (many of us share eerily similar experiences) or is every rebound like this?

For me and I think for Abby too, rebound relationships helped us rebuild our energy, imagine new roles, and find strength in different areas. As fantasies, they served their role and then sunsetted out of our lives.

Were those two wars like rebounds for a country trying to comprehend its biggest hurt ever?

* * * Comments * * *


Puddock said...

Hi Supa Dupa - just popped in to say hello. :)

What a brilliant post this is - intelligent, wise and true - thank you for it.

On the widowed front, you say that you've found that it's a common experience to tumble quite quickly into a rebound relationship. I wonder if it mainly happens in younger widows, as I have to admit that I haven't felt much of that. I don't know if it's cos I'm older (47 when widowed). I wish I had felt the skin hunger - might have had some fun! The weird thing for me is that when I was widowed I still felt pretty young but now, four years later (and still not been kissed!) I am in my fifties and have graduated (been relegated?) to a whole new group of men - I now look at the guys with grey hair instead of their sons!

Over here in the UK I heard an interview on the radio with a young widow who has written a book that you might be interested in. It's called Wife, Interrupted by Amy Molloy and it's about her experience of basically sleeping around to get through her grief. Painful but honest, is how the book is described on Amazon.

Hope your weekend is going well


Supa Dupa Fresh said...

Hi Puddock,
Thanks for your visit and your comment!

Susan Weidener (blogs at http://susanw-againinaheartbeat.blogspot.com/) said at some point that women in their 50s have it tough in the dating world. To me, it looked like a smorgasbord of men and that's not because I was that hot -- my impression was that they were more realistic about what they were looking for than men in their 30s. But it's quite hard to generalize.

I certainly know several widows in their 50s who I consider young, but I'm not sure where the dividing line is. Another thing I've been thinking to address in a post.

But we're all different and there's certainly no "right" way.

For the record, my 1st relationship didn't happen till 18 months out, and while I know many who were involved earlier, most of the young widows I knew took 18 months or more to get back in the saddle (so to speak).

Thanks for mentioning Amy Molloy's book, I will definitely look it up!



Roads said...

Wow, thanks for the great link to more of Abby's great writing. I must read more of it soon. She's very wise, and so are you.

I'm sorry for Abby that her loss is tied up with 9/11, because she can't stop all the rest of us having an opinion about that day which is very personal and yet somehow so public.

Because it was a life-changer, even from this distance. Above all I can remember this huge wave of sympathy all around the world for New York, for America. The first person I had told that early afternoon (as it was, here in London) was an American colleague.

A plane's just flown into the World Trade Center, I said to him, because I thought he'd want to know. You're joking, he replied. If only.

That wave of sympathy brought all of us, all around the world, so much closer. America was no longer an island, isolated from the wider world -- her borders had been violated, just like ours had so often been before.

From such unlikely beginnings, it really felt like the start of a new and more hopeful era -- and within the days and weeks that followed, the vision clearly appeared that out of this awful loss and shock and sacrifice, so much lasting good could bloom.

And then somehow, before too long, we went and threw all of it away. That was the worst part of all, at least for me.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...