Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dorian Gray


Today my office coworkers organized a lunch gathering to welcome myself, and another worker who will be joining us on Monday. They had ordered sandwiches, and we all rolled our desk chairs out into the common area for the lunch. It was the first time I had the opportunity to meet some of them. After we each settled into our chairs to eat, our supervisor suggested we go around the room, introduce ourselves, and say something about who we are.

As we sat there, with our chairs in a big circle, the gathering began to take on the look, and feel, of a 12 step meeting. Each person would say who they were, how long they had worked there, and something about their marital status, and children. I had the opportunity to talk with most of these people individually throughout the past week, so many already knew much about me. Yet when my turn came up I hesitated for a second. Should I mention the fact that I am a widower?

I decided that I would want everyone to know of my loss, as I would want to know about theirs. Those that have learned of my situation during these past few days, have been wonderful in their response to my sharing about Michael. I thought it was only fair that everyone heard it from me. My only hesitation was about how this might bring the mood down. Yet, I was able to to state this matter of factly, and segue into something lighter, probably about the kids and animals.

Anytime I am in the position to introduce myself to new people I have had to decided how to share the fact that I am gay. I am always aware that not everyone will have a positive response to this disclosure, but I must say that times have changed. And, how funny that at this point in my life, disclosing my sexuality comes second now to my disclosing about being a widower. It was actually a very nice way to put it all out there, saying "my name is Dan, I am a widower with three kids, and my husband, Michael, did a year ago." There you have it, all in one fell swoop.

Something that feels strange lately, is that when I disclose that I am a widower, I begin to feel very old. Let's face it, it's an old role. Yes, we all know that widows, and widowers, are made every day, and that many of them are young. Yet the word, "widowed," still has a very old sound to it. And as I sat there, looking rather hip in my Levi jeans and close fitting striped shirt, I felt like each person's impression of me aged considerably in that moment.

After lunch I made my way to the men's bathroom to wash my hands. Above the sinks are very large mirrors, which are brightly lit, and quite complimentary. I stood there and saw a rather young looking guy. His hair was cut and styled nicely. He was in good shape, and had a cool-sophisticated look about him. Yet when I stepped away from the mirror, the image I had of myself was a very tired, emotionally drained old man.

I kind of laughed at my observation, as I seemed to have come across a reverse Dorian Gray reflection. The guy in the mirror looks young, vibrant and put together. But close my eyes and I see the old widower.

Who do I have to make a pact with to merge these two individuals?


  1. My widower friend's daughter (who is 11) looked at me the other day and said, "you look like a TEENAGER" ... I love her anyway, but wow that made me love her even more. But when I look at myself in the mirror, I see the grey hairs coming through the dye, the wrinkles round my eyes, and the dark bags under them.

  2. Recently, you've posted a couple of photos of yourself - dinner at the Mexican restaurant, and I think the other may have been with Fido. Anyhow, you're looking great these days.

    I suspect that you may have felt a bit like me in the months after Michael first died. After Don died, I felt so exhausted and physically messed up from spending many months caring for him and, in the final few weeks, being confined to just a couple of rooms so that I was never more than a few steps away in case something went wrong. By the time that he died, it wouldn't be stretching the truth to say that I was a burnt out wreck, feeling sluggish from lack of exercise, and carrying extra weight from drinking the same high-protein fruit smoothies I'd been making to try to keep Don from wasting away during his chemo treatments. I sure felt old and crappy that first months that I was alone. But that slowly changed after a winter spent working in the garden or taking long walks in the desert after I was down at the rental place in Arizona.

    We do gradually morph back into ourselves - the person we were before all of the bad stuff went down - but a year or two further down the road. However, I do believe that there is a certain look that remains - mostly in our eyes - after these experiences. It's like we're members of a secret society, privy to certain information that gives us a slightly sad look -- sort of like being among a doomsday group of astronomers who knows the exact date when the earth will be destroyed by a giant asteroid. We're not older in a physical sense, but the great weight of our knowledge and experiences has changed us in a way that makes us psychologically aged. Actually, I like to think of it less as aged and more like having become sages.

    Whatever, there something a bit different after you lose the person you most love. I was thinking that a couple of weeks ago when my neighbours celebrated their 65th anniversary. Although they are in their late 80s, their eyes have that little twinkle when you see them sitting together. Next to them, I feel mentally old, even though I'm more than three decades younger. Kinda weird, isn't it?

  3. you do not look old. when we met, you acted vibrant and alive and fully living each day of your life. whatever you feel your appearance is, others do not see it that way. and i believe you will always be young at heart, and the heart is what matters.