HOME PLACE - In widows' eyes, husbands take on sheen of perfection

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It's true, Mary and I decided last week. The two of us have become Marriage Nags. Almost officially -- we lack only bumper stickers.

Before I explain, have I told you about Mary? She's worth hearing about. This woman, who seems unassuming by nature, called me up one day. Or sent me an e-mail, I'm not positive which -- it was a foggy time for both of us.

I had just written a column about the six-month anniversary of my husband's death when I heard from Mary. She told me it was also the six-month mark in widowhood for her.

I fetched the copy of David's obit I keep handy (but why do I do that?) and sure enough ... Mary's love, Mike, smiled from the same page.

Like us, Mary and Mike were married a long time, starting life together as practically children. Like David, Mike was a family man and faithful in his commitment to God.

Both men loved to joke, although Mike's veered toward dry humor while David's were pure corn.

How could Mary and I not have lunch? Made, as we were, into sisters by a date on the calendar and all.

Now, closing in on a year past that first bowl of soup, we've invested in several lunches and phone calls. We've talked about all kinds of things, especially the stuff no one else is likely to understand.

It's a big category.

For instance, we agree we miss being worshipped. Just completely adored, no questions asked.

Like Mary, I long to lie next to the only person in the universe who knows how I got that scar or that when I'm drowning in my sleep, I will eventually rescue myself before I awake. And that I like my back scratched with gusto and my hair to be stroked softly.

I could call only Mary and say, "Would you think I'm crazy if I heard David say my name?"

She doesn't think I'm crazy, she thinks hearing my husband's voice once again is a gift. She longs, Mary assured me, to receive such a gift for herself.

Under the circumstances, I hope we can be forgiven for becoming Marriage Nags. As we recently savored sub sandwiches in high noon sunshine, Mary and I traded tales of friends (you're all anonymous, so just settle down) who have complained to us about this or that ... the husband who won't fix the screen door or do the taxes. Who won't take the dog to the vet or votes the wrong way.

We can't endure those complaints, we said, poking our sweet onion chicken back into a slot of Italian bread.

Indeed, we harbor our own petty marital guilts. In my case, as one microscopic example, I used to whine to my husband that no one was able to read his handwriting on the forms that come with having kids and bills and a house and health insurance. David's writing was a lot like David -- impulsive, free flowing and kind of adorable. But not always so readable.

It blows my mind that I used to worry about this. I was concerned about people getting paid to deal with forms from families like ours, that they would think badly of us, become exasperated if they couldn't read every single word.

Now, a bazillion of these things later ¬?-- completed almost exclusively late at night with my head supported by my hand -- I don't care at all about handwriting on forms (apologies to Mrs. Richardson, the only teacher to make me stay after school to master my penmanship).

I no longer give a rip if people paid to do so can read them. Call me up if there's a problem. I would give anything to tell David, "Hey, Babe, write however you want. And hey, thanks for taking that job, because I loathe it."

Yes, Mary and I do realize with Mike and David no longer here to demonstrate human failings, both husbands have taken on a sheen of perfection. They've become better people since they died.

But we get how obnoxious we are, trust me. We well remember the frustrations of daily living with another person, the anger that can boil up like baking soda mixed with peroxide after yet another dirty glass has been abandoned by the couch.

We can still taste the bitterness of swallowed resentment and the salt of hot tears. Our heart muscles have memorized the ache of trying to make real marriage match the romance novels. Or at least sustainable.

But we believe, we know -- not being married is worse. And we, the widows, are pretty frank about that with those who come to complain about this or that. We are, no matter how much we shun the title, Marriage Nags.

Don't worry, we won't always be. We're both intelligent women who had pretty typical marriages, lots of up and down, lots of words we wish we could snatch back. Those times will come to mind when our souls are ready.

In the meantime we've ordered bumper stickers.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom or by calling 509-526-8322.

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