The Widower

Yesterday, I was having what I had thought was an innocuous FaceTime with my father. There was our usual current discussion of the weather in his northeast Pennsylvania, and any snow – including what is up at our house in the Catskills. There was also the required exchange about what the new U.S. president is up to. And there was other chitchat.

As I thought we were about to sign off, abruptly he veered without warning into again reviewing my mother’s cancer and death in October 2015. Through hard personal experience, I’ve learned a lot about widowers since then. “The widower” is a particularly difficult area in our culture.

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Day Of Rest

I read none of my Conventions manuscript yesterday beyond glimpsing its cover on Instagram and here in my post about it. I’m taking a few days away from the late 1700s to clear my head before I delve into correcting it from the beginning. I think this is probably the first time in months I have gone a 24 hour period (and counting) not writing or reading any of it.

Stock Photo: An Indo-Chinese tiger sleeping on a rock.
Stock Photo: An Indo-Chinese tiger sleeping on a rock.

As part of my “day of rest,” I found myself in a sudden Messenger chat with a friend. She lives in Bristol and was my wife’s friend before she became mine as well. (I have deleted names used.) She is the opening message…

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One Girl At The Reception

We went to a family funeral on Thursday in north London.

Simple Rose Sheaf - Yellow. [Photo by me, 2016.]
Simple Rose Sheaf – Yellow. [Photo by me, 2016.]
A couple of weeks ago, my wife’s uncle-in-law died at home in his sleep at 85. While there is naturally sadness, at the catering hall gathering that followed the church service and cemetery his son reminded me (perhaps he was also telling himself this as a way to deal with the loss) that his dad had been 85 and he had had (as they sometimes say in this country) “a good innings.” And his mother was coping okay so far at least.

I also bumped into a guy there I had not seen since he was at my wedding in 1999. His late father had been German, his mother (a close friend of the widow) is Irish/English, he himself raised in Switzerland and he lives there now with his wife, who’s Canadian. In case you are keeping track. (His wife did not come to England for the funeral.)

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Today’s Advice Column

As you probably know, I write fiction set in the late 20th century and – soon to come, hopefully – the late 18th century. I think I can do so in part because I feel I’ve gleaned a few basic insights over the years about people and relationships. We all do learn more as we mature further simply because we have usually come to experience more over time.

Social media also allows us, of course, to share our own unpleasant life moments – such as this one I saw on Instagram last night:

Screen capture of Instagram.
Screen capture of Instagram.

And social media also makes it possible for us to offer a little advice and even some (hopefully) reassuring words. Which is what I am about to try to do. Here is some insider information from an “old” married guy, which may prove useful for you as a woman.

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Authors: A Troubled Bunch?

Have you seen this from the other day?:

Screen capture of the Telegraph.
Screen capture of the Telegraph.

This sentence especially grabbed my attention, with his ex-wife claiming:

Sir Salman Rushdie needed consoling every year he did not win the Nobel Prize for literature….

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Wanted: Their “Effortless Sophistication”

Last night, as we sat about three feet apart, my wife forwarded me this Telegraph article, messaging:

Screen capture of Facebook Messenger.
Screen capture of Facebook Messenger.

“Amuse” me? Actually, I took cover. It’s about a matchmaking company for the “well-to-do.”

No, she was not hinting about what she had in mind for herself. (I hope.) Rather, it was because of a major assertion made in it. First, the background:

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“So who would you live with if I died tomorrow?”

My octogenarian in-laws have been thinking more than ever about what happens after one of them dies. After dinner last night, around the table a discussion arose among the four of us about their London house, and where would the survivor live, etc. My father now living without my mother in the same house they had bought together in Pennsylvania, and what he is going through as a widower, was the main immediate conversational catalyst.

However, my father-in-law insisted several times on taking matters too lightly for my mother-in-law’s taste. At one point, she put him on the spot: “Don’t joke,” she admonished him as he chuckled. “What will happen to you if I go first like Robert’s mum? You’re useless. You can’t do anything for yourself. You couldn’t live alone….”

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My Mom And Me

There was a time we rummaged through shoeboxes and dusty albums and stumbled on nearly forgotten photographs of deceased loved ones. No longer. Nowadays, we find hordes of digital camera photos that had once been uploaded onto now barely used PCs:

Outside a cousin's wedding, in Manhattan, 2002. [Photo - I think - by my wife.]
Outside a cousin’s wedding, in Manhattan, 2002. [Photo – I think – by my wife.]

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We Don’t Fight, We Write

Pardon a brief rant. I just want to get this off my chest. I don’t do this on here very often….

Always at the ready for reference. [Photo by me, 2015.]
Always at the ready for reference. [Photo by me, 2015.]

To a slug “relation” (by marriage):

Last year, I lost someone I loved. You think I give a rat’s you know what about you at all? And if you actually imagine you are ever going to get my wife and myself to humilate ourselves by bending to your will, well, dear, I got news for you: I’m a novelist:

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Spouse Or Country?

International marriages have become pretty ho-hum in the last two decades or so. My (English) wife and I have laughed with two sets of Danish/English married friends about how there also appears to be something between Danes and the English. ๐Ÿ˜‰ In their cases, the women are sisters who both married English men. One couple lives in England, while the other couple did live in England and now lives in Denmark.

I bring that up for this reason. The BBC tells us:

Stephen Kinnock, son of the former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, has been selected as the Labour candidate for Aberavon at the 2015 general election.

Mr Kinnock, 44, is married to Danish Prime Minister Helle Thoring-Schmidt.

He is based in London and works for the business advisory company Xynteo, and worked for the British Council and the World Economic Forum….

Unlike our friends, apparently Kinnock and Thorning-Schmidt (she perhaps best-known in the U.S. for that “selfie”) have long been accustomed to marital separation owing to geography. Wales Online explains:

….When interviewed by WalesOnline in December, Mr Kinnock said the couple โ€“ who have two daughters โ€“ had maintained their family life despite living apart for much of their marriage, with Mr Kinnock serving in positions in Russia, Sierra Leone and Switzerland, as well as London.

A couple’s private marital arrangement is entirely their own business. Yet although it might be considered, at minimum, interesting, neither report touches on this public policy question: Are there concerns worth addressing about a married couple of differing nationalities serving simultaneously in elective office in their different countries?

Imagine if a U.S. senator were married to a British MP, or to a member of the French National Assembly…. or to a Danish prime minister? How might such a pairing be received by many in both nations? One suspects eyebrows would be raised at the very least.


It has been asserted that, back in the 1920s, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General John J. Pershing did not marry his French girlfriend because he believed Americans would not accept it if he, the country’s top soldier, had a foreign wife. True, attitudes have since softened considerably. Voters seem far less troubled now if a government official has a non-citizen spouse. (Or a soon to be foreign new spouse…. even after his wife had divorced him for cheating on her with that woman.)

For example, it is well-known that British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s wife is Spanish. However, Miriam Clegg is not a member of the Spanish government. And she resides in Britain with her British husband.

We know we are all “good friends” nowadays, yet issues may still arise that place countries on “collision” courses. It definitely remains an uncommon marital situation, but it nonetheless raises an intriguing hypothetical question: Which would come first for spouses serving in their different countries’ governments? Their spouse? Or their country?