Her Widow Excerpt 11

Published August 20, 2018


Her Widow

A sparrow has built a nest in the corner of the porch ceiling.                                                                                                                                                          

Dear Catherine,

I have discovered three small, white and brown speckled eggs in a nest of dry grass and fine twigs in a corner of our front porch ceiling. I think I scared the mother sparrow off when I opened the front door. I will use the back door now until the eggs hatch.

Today was warm enough to walk down to the village without a sweater or jacket. I went to Van Gordon’s to buy a gift for Julie and Nick’s baby. They have named her Catherine. On my way into the village I ran into Dee in her garage, painting the dinghy John built.  I haven’t seen John in a while. Not surprising. Three months ago, at your memorial service, he was having trouble walking. Today Dee was her chatty self and would have kept me an hour or more if I hadn’t excused myself, saying I was short on time. I promised to cut her hair on Friday.

Not twenty paces past Dee’s garage, before I reached the courthouse, a car’s horn beeped. Fawn was behind the wheel and shouted out my name. She was on her way to the post office and asked me to hold up when I got there so she could talk to me. I nodded, thinking I should have driven the car, not walked. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. Fortunately, Fawn was in a hurry to get to the gallery and she only had time to say she was meeting Kate for lunch tomorrow at the Mayflower and did I want to join them? I said yes, but when I got home I called and left a message saying that I had forgotten I had a doctor’s appointment.

I don’t have a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. It’s one thing to stop on the street and say hello to someone, pass the Mayflower and wave to Pat inside, serving lunch to a customer, or nod to a friend as she drives past me, and quite another thing to have lunch with friends who will want to know how I am doing. Ordinarily I would love to join Fawn and Kate at the Mayflower and talk about their photography and painting. By the way, I took down Fawn’s photo of the two of us. It makes me sad to see you so frail.

I heard the other day that Fawn and Bill are getting divorced. And Kate’s marriage has been on the rocks for over a year. Fawn and Kate are maybe getting together to commiserate, and that could lead to questions about how I am doing without you. I’m not ready for that conversation.

In the past, I’ve found the banter of the ladies of Van Gordon’s shallow. Today their chitchat, asking nothing more from me than a smile and not rendering me vulnerable or causing me to feel any obligation, was welcome.  But choosing a superficial exchange over one with depth is probably not a good sign.


A persistent wind following an April shower, ripples the puddles on Thompson Street.

Dear Catherine,

Poor Cleo and Caleb! More than two weeks have passed since they enjoyed a good run at Clermont. We went there this afternoon and took a trail you would have chosen because it faced west and the sun was low in a ruby sky. I let Cleo off her leash, as you always did, and she ran for the woods. I watched the edge of wood for the bobbing of her brown head and became nervous when I didn’t see any movement. I worried she had followed a mole into a hole, had eaten something foul, or had gotten herself lost. But you once said dogs have nose brains and don’t get lost, so I stopped looking for her and she eventually came back to me.  I wonder if Cleo and Caleb miss their walks with you and wish it were you rather than I who whistles to them that it’s time to go for a walk.

I expect I’m a poor substitute in their eyes as I am in my own. I don’t stand up well in comparison to you.


Rain followed me home on the Taconic last night and this morning the roads still glisten.

Dear Catherine,

It has been raining on and off all month. Two weeks ago, I went down to Long Island to a wedding shower for Jacqueline, and late last night I returned home from your niece’s wedding.  I wish it had been you doing a myriad of things for her, but especially you taking her wedding photos.  She handed me the camera that you gave her and asked me to take pictures of her getting ready.  While I was doing that, she told me she’d dreamt you were at her wedding, and I said you probably would be.

I watch the dogs race downhill at Clermont and remember them yapping as they chased you down that slope, their yapping sounding to me like overjoyed children on a playground. In the same way, I watched Jacqueline last night and thought how thrilled she would have been to have you alongside her.

The service in the cathedral was formal and long. Jacqueline was elegant and reminded me of your elegance at fifty-two when Steve married us—twelve years tothe day we had met. After the bride and groom left the church, the wedding party, friends, and family drove into Brooklyn to the Botanical Gardens. The reception outside was under a canopy of miniature lights. The surrounding trees were also strung with lights, and I should have been dazzled by the display but I had a sour stomach. Unable to eat all day, I was suddenly sick to my stomach and the muscles of my jaw ached from forcing a smile. I felt as I have always felt at family affairs, out of place, dressed forthe part but not a full-fledged member, and mimicking the gaiety of others.

Looking up into the sparkling trees, I imagined myself in one of the trees, looking down at the drama. I love drama, but I didn’t feel a part of this one.

I felt a similar melancholy not more than a week ago, driving through Hudson with the car windows down. I passed a restaurant with a bar outside and music blaring. In the darkness, neon signs flashed Michelob and Coors. The sight and sound of the noisy crowd made me sad at first and then I felt relieved as I drove on, preferring a quiet night and a natural darkness. In the pitch-black of the car.

I thought about how rarely we lesbians see ourselves in books and movies, or hear our delight or despair in songs, and how we are always outsiders at weddings.