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At book club last week, we finished Joan Chittister’s The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully. Many things in the book resonated with me, but I needed her chapter on “Future” right now as I emerge from the two-month mark of being a widow (there, I said the word I don’t like, but it seems there’s no nice word to describe this state.)

The chapter screamed challenges to stay alive, stay vibrant, stay involved and limit “pity parties” (my words). Right off, she quotes Louis Kronenberger, “Old age is an excellent time for outrage. My goal is to say or do at least one outrageous thing every week” (p. 159).

It would be easy to sleep in till ten, sip chai and munch on buttered toast while reading the paper until noon, spend a while roaming the house pining away for what use to be, then fall on the couch at four, and zone out on junk TV till eleven.

It’s harder to set an alarm and get up and go, go, go, but I have done that. Partly because some stuff has to be done, partly because fall activities started, but mostly because I have been blessed with Marv’s encouragement to keep on living and with an insatiably curious spirit. I like meeting new people, facing new challenges, trying new activities. I’d never last in bed for long.

So, to read the advice to “say or do at least one outrageous thing every week” gave me chuckles as I have almost met that quota in the two months since Marv passed away.

Here’s a partial list:

Four days after Marv died, I bought a new coffee table because Marv never wanted one. He didn’t want the clutter. But I found a display table in Younker’s going-out-of-business sale that had been $125.00 and was just marked down to $86.00. Meant to be, right?  I since have seen something similar in a furniture store for $400.

I stained the top gray.

A few weeks later, I bought a new dining set. While writing thank-you cards, my legs went numb at our counter height table. We’d needed that height in our Chicago condo with our view of Lake Michigan, but I do not need that height here to look at grass. My daughter advertised the set while I shopped. When it didn’t sell before my new set was to be delivered, I donated it to the thrift shop that supports my grandchildren’s school. I could hear Marv tell me that my old set was perfectly good (it was), but I could also hear him say, “I always loved your independence…” so, my purchase was meant to be, right?

I planned three trips—two in the States and one abroad. Those opportunities came up at the right time, unbidden. Meant to be, again!

Then, my latest—I bought a piano! I gave up my Yamaha when we moved downtown Chicago in 2005. There was no wall for it, I played very seldom, and the college that I retired from could use it in the student’ practice rooms. But now, I “happened” to stumble on an ad on Facebook. And get this—it was the right price and the right color to match my living room! My daughter went with me the next day to see it and found out the seller was a nurse (like me!) and their kids knew each other. Meant to be, again, for sure. And I’m being comforted now by playing my old favorite hymns.

Gray piano flanked by Marv’s handmade tables, lamps, and wall hanging, stained gray

With each new decision, I chatted with Marv. I’d hear him in my mind saying, “You go, girl!” His cremains keep me company in the living room. And I hope and pray I can continue to do something outrageous as often as the “meant-to-be” grace-filled situations present themselves. I thank God for his clearly obvious presence in holding me safely in his hands.

***

Last week in a fiction-writing class, our assignment was to take a 300-800 word piece (I took this blog post) and condense it to micro-fiction length (100 words or less) with a “punch line” or twist at the end. You try to get needed information in the title, because the word count doesn’t include those words. Here’s my effort:

What I Learned in Book Club Last Week

The chapter opened: “Old age is an excellent time for outrage. My goal is to say or do at least one outrageous thing every week.”

I’ve done that in the two months since my husband died: I bought a coffee table he never wanted to have; I bought a dining set he’d say we didn’t need; I bought a piano he would question since I gave my last one away. Plus, I planned three trips, one abroad he never wanted to take.

Before my husband died, a friend mused, “It will be interesting to see who you are without Marv.”

(100 words)

The really sad thing now is that I cannot share this with him, which I did before with any blog posts that included something about him. I just picture him smiling down at me…