By PETTUS READ
I have found out that when something ends something else begins, at least that has been the way it has worked in my life. Over the years I have held numerous titles, some given, some won and often many just happened because I showed up. One such title happened because I began something over 36 years ago and was the one still there at a most inopportune time.
The title of widower is one that most men don't look forward to, especially if they had a wife like mine. We had a wonderful thing going, but one September day, I gained the title of widower that now gets checked by a somewhat reluctant pen when I fill out applications that want to know my marital status. I never knew over those 36 years that she was preparing me for the job either. Often she would say, "Now watch what I'm doing, someday you may have to do this." It may have been something to do with the wash, the cooking or other things around the house, but I would watch because with her you never knew when there just might be a test. And, let me tell you, the final exam has really been a doozy.
I have held this title for more than five years now and must say I'm a pretty accomplished widower. This past Thanksgiving I cooked the turkey, made the dressin' and fixed some of the best sweet potatoes with marshmallows that left folks smiling after they ate them. As I write this column, I have three loads of wash a'going, two phones busy and just finished vacuuming the house. Let me tell you, I was paying attention during all those widower lessons when it came to homemaking and the outside is doing all right as well.
When the term widower enters the discussion, individuals have numerous images of what those people should look like. When I first was asked if I was a widower in an application, I immediately saw an old grizzled man, unshaven, felt hat, and living in a house with dim lighting. That night, I returned home and turned on all the lights. It took that application to make me realize that I had achieved a new title in life. I notified my daughter that she now had a new job to keep an eye on me so I would avoid the image of what I had pictured at the application process. She was to tell me if I smelled like an old man, looked like an old man or allowed my house to turn into the home of the hermit from Gunsmoke. Something may have ended, but now something else will begin.
Christmas is now upon us and I am in the process of preparing my home for the holiday. Decorations are up and each year I attempt to do something new. Now, I know there are men out there who are saying to themselves this can't be right. True, I'm not a decorator, but I'm a photographer who knows how to look at and copy pictures. My house is a copy of something I have seen somewhere else and it helps me compete in this world as a widower. In the Bible it speaks of taking care of the widows but doesn't say anything about us widowers. If the Bible is silent on the subject then it means for me to get busy and take care of myself.
I needed something the other day for the house and a very kind lady suggested I could get it at the Old Timers Pottery. On a Sunday afternoon I ventured there and proceeded to look for the item and found a lot more. There in every aisle of the store were ladies with carts being followed by husbands with the look of being weaned on a dill pickle. Each man walked with a distinctive hump in their back and I could tell that on this particular Sunday they all had rather been at home asleep or watching a football game on TV instead of roaming through plastic roses. They just didn't understand it was part of the test.
I watched and saw wives show husbands flower arrangements, followed by asking their opinions on which one would work best. Each time the one that the husband chose was discarded and the other picked. I remembered those days and on that Sunday I understood why I was brought along on those Sundays past. I was there as the official quality control for my wife. Those husbands were there that Sunday doing the same thing, but also being taught a lesson on what is the best choice, much the same as they would have done showing the wife the proper lawnmower for the yard.
As I said, things do end, but with every ending there is something else to begin.
-Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com