I've never been a widow before. It wasn't a role I cared to rehearse, even though I knew for twenty-three months that I was losing Mel.
But there's no way to be prepared for the things that hit you. You know that birthdays and anniversaries and holidays will be killers, but you don't expect this: On this ordinary day, reaching into the supermarket dairy case for a container of milk, you see the black lettering on it that reads EXPIRATION DATE JULY 16th. You cry out. The carton falls from your hands. Milk pours over the floor. People are staring at you. The manager hurries over."What's the problem, lady?"
How do you tell him the "expiration date" is your husband's birthday - and your husband has just died?
TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW
I'm in the car going home from the hospice. My daughter is sitting beside her "significant other"; my son is next to his closest friend. I feel totally alone. The man I shared my life with for thirty-nine years isn't in the car, isn't anywhere in the world. I run my hand over the cold seat, staring at the two gold bands on my finger: my wedding ring and the matching one I removed from his hand just an hour ago. In the silence I hear my voice saying, "I'm not a wife anymore."
TEN WOMEN OF VALOR (Introduction)
My name is Eve, which means mother of all. So I’m the rightful one to introduce the Biblical “daughters” in these pages. Still, I may seem like an odd choice since I was fashioned before there were any religions. Notice that I said “fashioned, not “born,” for Adam told me I was formed from one of his ribs. (Imagine beginning life already a fully-grown woman!) It was a wonder to me that his skin was so smooth, no mark to show that a rib had been removed.
There we were in that most beautiful of gardens, with trees bearing lustrous fruits. Adam said that the “God” who created him had given us permission to eat the fruits, except the ones on a forbidden tree in the middle of the garden. Adam obeyed, but I was tempted by that wily serpent who told me if I ate the fruit I’d become like a god myself. I thought just one taste. . . Isn’t that how we deceive ourselves?
Since I hadn’t learned the names of things yet, I’m not sure what the fruit was. Some sages think it was figs or grapes, or pomegranates which are a form of apple. Maybe that’s why artists have portrayed the fruit as an apple. By whichever name, I decided to eat it. The fruit was so tasty I brought some to Adam to let him taste, too.
You know what happened after that, how even hiding our nakedness with fig leaves failed to prevent our disobedience from being discovered. Adam tried to save himself by saying, “That woman gave me the fruit.” (I learned that the man usually blames the woman.)
She wants to be allowed to just sidle past the day.
But her niece is insisting that it's no time to be alone.
I'm not alone. Of course, she's never told anyone.
"What's a mere birthday?" she asks. "The world will be celebrating the birth of a new century soon."
But it seems that a luncheon has been planned.
At least, Jenny thinks, there should be enough people to give an illusion of festivity. But her friends have turned into"snow birds."(She pictures them flapping their arms and clutching mahjongg tiles as they fly south for the winter.) The one friend from her theatre days is on the other side of the country. So this will be that most fraught of scenes, a family affair.
"We need a surprise guest to add some drama," she tells the shadowy figure silhouetted in the bedroom window."If only you...."
But she vanishes, as always.
"MAYA'S MAGICAL ADVENTURES"
My name is Maya. I'm seven years old and I'm starting an adventure. I'm going to a big city called New York to visit my grandma. Daddy has to see someone there for his job and is taking me on the plane with him. Flying is fun because my lunch bounces around on the tray.
When we land Grandma is waiting for us.
"I'm delivering your granddaughter," Daddy tells her. It sounds like I'm a package.
Grandma's hair is white and when she smiles her face wrinkles like it needs ironing.
"What would you like to do while you're here?" she asks me.
"Have a real adventure," I tell her.
"What's a real adventure?" asks Grandma.
"Climbing a mountain or sailing on the ocean or a jungle with wild animals," I tell her.
"We don't have jungles in New York," she says. "But we have two famous lions. Would you like to visit them?"
"No way! They'll eat me."
Grandma laughs."Not these lions."