Dear Annie: My wife of 44 years passed away after a nine-day bout with cancer.
We started dating at 16, went to college together, married at 20 and graduated at 21, when we started our life together for real.
"Sally" passed away two months after her 65th birthday. I will turn 65 in a month. I was to retire in three months, while Sally was already retired. Our house is paid for and sits by a beautiful creek in small-town Georgia, and moving has been suggested. I like it here.
All our plans for traveling and having a life together in retirement disappeared in a matter of days.
We had saved a pile of money to do all we couldn't do until we retired. Now I don't know what to do. I was her George Bailey, and she was my Mary Hatch. I never had a wandering eye. I don't have a long-lost girlfriend from high school. Our circle of close friends is small and mostly live out of town.
My daughter and son are grown and pretty much have their own lives. I refuse to spend the last 20 years alone without female companionship. I liked being married. Single life is not my cup of tea. I know I can't replace my wife. Some accuse me of that.
She was educated, a retired teacher. She knew who Emily Post was and watched Julia Child. Together, we watched "Jeopardy" nightly. She loved to travel, saying, "Travel feeds the soul." She played bridge, volunteered at the hospital and church, and sent food to shut-ins. She would watch football with me and enjoy it if I would watch Hallmark movies with her.
During the pandemic, I began teaching myself guitar, and she would let me practice in the bedroom while she sat in bed reading. She remarked, "I would rather have you with me making a racket than somewhere else causing a racket."
Should I try to forget her now that she is gone and look for another type of person to spend my life with? Should I look for another woman like her? Should I pursue her first cousin with similar qualities who lost her husband last year? Are there women out there like her who are good-hearted and looking for a stable, educated man with whom to have a good time?
How do I connect with them? I can't go back to the neighborhood front-yard football game again, be tackled by her, injure my shoulder and have her be the first girl to come to my house worried about me, which is how our love affair began. Help! – Lost at Potato Creek
Dear Lost: Your love affair sounds like something out of the movies. I am so sorry for your loss. Of course you are lost and confused, and that is understandable. You are not supposed to have all the answers to what the future will look like right now. Find other widowers who can understand what you are going through and help you work through your grief. The healthier you get with your own emotions, the healthier your next relationship will be.
You will never replace your wife. You will now have a new normal, which will look different from your old normal, and that is perfectly natural. Instead of trying to find a replacement for your wife, try to remember all of your beautiful memories, which will live inside you for a lifetime.