If you're a homeowner, head to policy genius dotcom right now and see how easy they make getting the best insurance for your situation, they've saved their home and auto insurance customers an average of 1000 dollars a year policy genius when it comes to insurance. It's nice to get it right. Hello. Hi. Hi, how are you doing here? As I said, it's a little like Alicia Keys, Alicia Garcia.
Yet whenever you're ready. OK, seeing her in me, I'm sorry for your loss, as if you're lost like a forgotten wallet or misplaced keys, a phrase used to empathize, to quell unease. I said it to about pets and strangers. But never about you. I find you in my deep set eyes and the cheekbones below my hands match yours from 30 years ago. I see you and my son Martin start by mid-July, and in the lines that arc around my mouth, if I laugh or cry, no, I haven't lost your mom that could ever be.
You are present everywhere, most of all in. That was really beautiful. Thank you. When did your mom passed away? June 22nd of twenty. Nineteen.
What was it about that phrase, I'm sorry for your loss that really just kind of struck you?
I guess just I felt like everyone was saying it to me and I over the course of a year she was sick. I think more and more, I don't know pieces of her in me and just in my life that I felt like she was less lost than she had ever been, in a way. Mm hmm.
This was part of a larger poem.
So the original poem, I wrote it like very soon after she passed. And then the next verse said, You'll be present in my parenting when I have little ones to raise love. I learned from you will comfort them on their bad days. They'll carry on proverbs I recite about flies, vinegar and granny, and you'll be the source for your belief that time is more valuable than money. Thank you so much.
All right, you too, bye bye bye now and call him a little stronger than any of you. Never loved anyone but yourself. Today's essay is A Widow Walks Into a Wall, Finds Hope, published in April of 20 twenty. It's written by Betty Anne Moskowitz and read by Suzanne Taron.
The wall must have moved into the doorway when I wasn't looking and I walked straight into it as I was rushing out of the kitchen. I just burned my thumb on the oven rack while pulling out a casserole, having forgotten it was hot. This was before the pandemic, but after the funeral. What are the chances that becoming widowed on the eve of a pandemic and practicing self isolation and grief will give me some perspective on life and death? Or put another way, will I survive?
Dinners without him are terrible, the worst time to hit a casserole and touch hot oven racks, though, practically speaking, word casseroles invented for giving to widows to heat does their solitary dinners. He and I didn't eat casseroles, we preferred steak, some fish, a chicken, a chop. Oh, we loved our lamb chops like Jack Sprat and his wife, he couldn't eat the fat along the rib while I devoured it. He didn't like the marrow and osso buco either.
How lucky to be married to someone who left all the good bits for me.
Did I ever think that while he was alive when we met, he was leaning against a wall at a party, dark brown eyes, dark eyes, his head inclined to the girl next to him.
He looked like just the kind of bad boy I was partial to all smoldering looks and banked fires. And I was a little drunk, so I went over there.
Do you mind if I ask your fiancee to dance? I ask the girl. She shrugged. He's not mine, she said. Go for it. He was a Brooklyn boy back in town from the army, from Korea on our first date. He smelled like camphor balls and a moth flew out of his jacket pocket. I was a Bronx girl with literary pretensions and I read everything I could get my hands on, good and bad, high and low about love.
I wrote poems and fantasized endlessly about those strict, strong, brooding men like Keith Cliff, Mr Rochester or Rhett Butler. But I found out that his silences and those piercing eyes that fooled me into thinking of dangerous love and dramatic heartbreak were not who he was at all.
His eyes were simply beautiful and his silence wasn't fierce. He just didn't have anything to say at the moment. He wasn't a bad boy. He was a quiet man. Yet his kisses did taste like vanilla, and I began to feel that the unspoken could be as sexy as the withheld.
So we got married. I have to tell you, our prospects were not good. We had nothing in common, we didn't know how to argue. I made noise. He stayed silent. We didn't seem to want the same kind of life, I was a show off. He kept a low profile. I had ambitions while he only had exigencies to make a living to support me. He would have said since we were the post-war generation when husbands took care of their wives and the wives were grateful.
By the time I knew the phrase passive aggressive and he knew pretentiousness when he saw it, we had two children. In the 70s, no fault divorce, the sexual revolution and feminism were in the news and marriage breakups were common, if not rampant. He was still struggling to make a living selling medical equipment. I was writing and working in a bookstore with Doris Lessing, Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Simone de Beauvoir and company. I thought about life without him.
I thought about redecorating my life with brighter colors, a more adventurous style, even another man, one with perhaps more with more words the night he went out for a long walk and took the car. I was pretty sure he was thinking about it, too. But as taxing as his habitual silence could be, there were certain things I had come to value and was not willing to give up. He was a great friend, a great father. A kind man who helped anyone who needed helping.
So we made our way through the 80s, he started his own business and we felt the pressures of that and of raising two teenagers. But by then, I had developed a taste for quietude, and he discovered he could make me laugh. When it looked as though my first book would be published, I worried that it would disturb the equilibrium of our union with his ego, be able to take it, what would it do to us? I think I would have backed off, but he said not to be afraid, his ego didn't work that way.
He said he might not read what I wrote, but he knew it was good. He was behind me all the way. Life was sweet in the 90s, I was teaching, and there was room in our life for me to write and find my way as a writer, my second book was published.
He joined a medical supply company that sent him all over the world. We had some money and a nice car. Sometimes he took me with him. Sometimes he brought home gifts.
And stories that you knew how I loved stories, and he brought me stories on Sunday mornings when he was home from early March through October, we would sit outside on our little city patio and read the newspaper and have our coffee. A neighbor once said it gave her pleasure to see us there, quiet in harmony together.
In 2000, he retired from his position as director of international sales and I left my teaching job at the City University and we settled in Woodstock and our vacation house where we built a life, made friends, worked, volunteered. We got sick and better. Many times. He took care of me and I took care of him. Our children and grandchildren came to visit. We got a dog, Pete, so we would walk more. I walked Pete in the morning and he walked him in the afternoon.
I cooked he did most of the driving and paid the bills once in a while after he had a heart attack, he would say, come here, let me show you what I'm doing. But I didn't want to see knowing he was preparing me for when I might have to do it on my own. He got me coffee in bed every morning. Six months ago, things got serious with his heart. Three months ago, I began bringing him his coffee in bed and started doing both the dog walks and driving him to and from doctors.
I also took over doing some of the other things, such as collecting the week's trash and hauling the big cans down to the end of the road. And I had let him show me where the water shutoff valve was in the garage, but I hadn't let him teach me to pay bills, so he kept doing those breathing with effort. He was winding down and we knew it. Here's the thing, we talked about it and didn't talk about it.
He had learned to say some things and I had learned not to talk so much when he felt a pain or a twinge, and I would see it in his face and say what? He would say nothing. For me. When he closed his eyes in the middle of the conversation and fell asleep, I didn't wake him. I waited for him. We kept up what we could. He didn't have the breath to walk the dog anymore.
But we drove to the market. And while I went in and shopped, he stood outside with Pete. He wasn't very hungry, but we kept our dinner hour. We had a cocktail, whether it was tomato juice or a beer or if he felt like it, a small scotch. We clinked our glasses and talked about the past and laughed and held hands and talked about the future and how we were going to get ourselves to a beach as soon as he felt better.
We said our wish would be to end together just like this, that had taken us fifty six years to perfect the ordinary in this extraordinary marriage. He died just short of his 80th birthday. And a month before the pandemic that has landed me in the house alone, having kitchen accidents and walking into walls. The pandemic distracts me. I sit alone, unable to be with my children. But I'm not thinking I would rather die than live without him. Instead, I'm thinking, after all that life, I hope I don't die.
I want to see what comes next. And I believe that is what a lifetime of good loving can do. Shopping for home and auto insurance can seem like a daunting task of protecting the things you've worked hard for is important. The trick is knowing where to find the right coverage at the best possible price. That's where policy genius makes it easy. They'll compare rates from over 30 top insurers from progressive to nationwide to find the lowest quotes, saving you time and money.
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And thank you. Hi, Betty. Hi, Mia. Hi, how are you? OK, how are you doing today? I'm so happy to talk to you. I absolutely adore your essay. Are you still living in Woodstock?
Yeah, I'm still up here in the trees.
I'm here with Pete. My dog are nice and I've been alone since the pandemic hit.
Wow. And have you been faring well?
The pandemic is. Awful, but I think in an odd way. It puts me in the same position that everybody else is in. And in an odd way, it's like a cuckoo.
I mean, every once in a while, the reality will pierce my my thinking and I'll think, well, when it's over, everybody else will go back to their normal lives and then I will have to reckon with the fact that he's still gone. Yeah. And and I don't know how how that will affect me, but I do know that I, I live in the house with his presence and with his absence. Both Yeah. Yeah. And so far I've been able to manage in that way.
Listen, I have my good days and bad days.
We all do, of course.
But I think in general, the end of the BSA. And how in what way does all that good loving help now? Yeah. And I kept thinking, it's like padding, it's just good padding. So when you fall on your ass, that's too hard.
What do you mean by Pat?
The good life is padding the good life. The good life. Yeah.
All those years of support and the confidence that he had in me and that I had in him and the the ways that we negotiated all sorts of good and bad things in our lives together is like padding for now. And I think, oh, I can do this. We we've done so much. I can do this. I can do this.
I like that idea. A lot of his love is padding and as a means of support, you know, even now. Yeah, I'm struck also when you when you talk about living in the house with his absence and his presence, how do you feel his presence?
I feel his presence in the kitchen, certainly when I'm cooking, because I cooked for so many years, we had the same taste. Yeah, we both loved the oysters and we both know casseroles. Yeah. Except mac and cheese.
That doesn't count.
And when I'm in the kitchen, I, I'm instinctively cooking for both of us. Even when I was cooking for the two of us, I was always cooking for four or six and then we would just and it was his job to sort of finish the leftovers.
But I don't love leftovers.
So I feel his presence. I feel it at dinner time. You know, the things that we just did together, sometimes I still if I'm watching Jeopardy and I get an answer, I always got the FCC never did. He was always sitting to the right of me.
I still I'll turn to the right and say, yeah, New York or San Francisco.
I sometimes I feel as though he's sort of nodding.
And of course, I do feel his presence at night, I sleep on the same side of the bed. Yeah. And he slept on the other side of the bed, and that's where the dog sleeps. And sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I hear snoring.
That dog snores.
So those are some of the ways that I do feel his presence.
And do you think your routine has changed a lot? It's hard.
You know, we I mean, you live with somebody for fifty six years. If you're going to last, you're going to dovetail into one another's habits and likes and dislikes, as we did. And so one of the things we always did together was separate. If we went shopping, for instance, we would. Should we get it now? Well, I don't know. I'm not sure.
And so we would sort of aid and abet one another, her insecurities and separations.
And I'm finding that I feel a new freedom in saying, no, I don't want to or yes, I'm going to.
And I've also been thinking about my so-called feminism, which is, believe me when I tell you, fifties, sixties feminism, nothing compared to the women, my daughter or my granddaughter and women of today. But I always thought of myself as is pretty liberated. Yeah. And yet I lived a life in which I accepted that some work was women's work and some work was the man's job. Mm hmm.
Hey man, the screwdriver. And now if I have to screw something in, I pick up the screwdriver, I never pumped gas before. Never, never that staggering.
I know that's wild. As a matter of fact, pumping gas was a big issue. We would drive up to the gas station and he'd say, you get you do it.
And I'd say, no, no, no, I'll do it next time you do it. I don't. I do this and I just didn't.
So when you pumped gas for the first time, which is still incredible to me, that you never pumped gas before.
What was that like? Oh, I, I got all flustered, nervous, and I you know, I felt like I was going to be one of those people who will forget to put it back and drive away with the pump attached to it or something. I was just a wreck. I still don't like it and it smells bad.
Yeah, but then I thought, wow, yes. I felt so strong. I was so happy about that afterward.
So it's been six months. What do you think has surprised you the most in this time? You never know, I mean, there are things that that you think are going to be awful that really warrant like disposing of his clothing. On the other hand, I went to a farmer's market during the summer that we used to go to together, and I thought everybody there was a couple and everybody was perseverating together. Should we get it? Now, let's not.
And I came home and I cried for days. So you you never know what's going to hit you. Yeah, I mean, I think if you don't have a sense of humor in this life, man, you are challenged. And even now I laugh. I don't know if you know anything about the Jewish ritual of outside candles that cold. You like them on the anniversary of a death or something like that. But I bought a bunch of them and I just like them whenever I'm feeling the mood.
Come on. And lately I've been deciding that what I'm going to do is light one around cocktail hour and clink my glass.
So he's so before I light it, I take a slug of my drink and say, here's to you big. And then I light it. But it just struck me so funny.
Thank you so much, Betty. I really appreciate it. You're very welcome. I enjoyed it. It was fun. Modern Love, it's produced by Kelly Price Hans-Peter and edited by Sara Sarasohn. And when did door music by Dan Powell? This week's essay was written by Betty Anne Moskowitz and read by Sue Santorum. Her tiny love story was written and read by Alicia Gabr. Special thanks to Julia Simon, Nora Keller, Mahimahi Blanning, Laura Kim, Bonnie Wertheim, ideastream in Sam Dolnick, Corsica, and also to Ryan Wagner and Kelly Rogers at Aurum.
The executive producer of New York Times audio is Lisa Tobin. I'm really I'm Dan Jones. See you next week.