One Way to Handle a Widow's Grief - Buy Stuff
I live in an old Victorian house in rural Maryland. It's about 2000 square feet and in good shape for a home that was built in 1892. But like all historic homes... it's constant upkeep and repair. Something always needs to be fixed.
For the last ten years, Dan and I did nothing to improve the décor. Our house is a mishmash of things we've collected over the years, things our kids left behind, and way too many mementos. Nothing matches. Our fourteen-year-old couch sags in the middle, is too big for the living room, and has black magic marker stains on the arms from when our twin granddaughters were toddlers. I abhor that couch.
The House - neglected, crowded, disorganized
We overhauled our bathroom sixteen years ago with the cheapest fixtures available. We couldn't afford elegant back then. So we bought a little sink/vanity combo, a shower and a toilet. Imagine the cheapest fixtures complemented by a multi-color scheme of blue, green, gray, peach, rose and navy enamel paint with mermaid accents. (I must have been on crack). Dan never completed the finishing work. There are paint drippings and broken trim and unfinished corners without trim. Some of the tile eventually cracked. The sink stopper in that bathroom is permanently broken, and the sink itself has brown stains from our hard water that has eaten through the glaze. This is our bathroom from hell.
Our kitchen still had its disgusting turquoise laminate counter that was likely installed in the 60s and a cheap, shallow stainless steel double sink. The kitchen island was falling apart and had an ugly chewed corner courtesy our (now deceased) dog, Fergus. There was no room in the kitchen to move or cook. Cabinets were jammed so full that cups and containers would fall out when opened.
Then there were our bedrooms. Oh, my God. I hate to even remember them. We had a spare room with an antique spindle bed, two unmatched, rickety tables on each side of it, a rocker with frayed upholstery hanging down under the seat. There was a child's vanity propped up on bricks that supported a GIANT doll house that I couldn't bear to part with. There were shelves full of toys, puzzles, and books from when our grandkids were little, and a TV sitting on a stack of boxes. The cracked plaster walls needed paint and none of the three sash windows worked. Just walking into that room made me want to cry.
Comfort Buying Begins
In April of 2019, Dan had brain surgery. During the procedure, I sat in the surgery waiting room worrying and worrying. I'd tell myself everything would be fine, and then I'd worry some more. To distract myself, I thumbed through my Facebook newsfeed. I saw a Wayfair advertisement for a chair I liked. That chair ad came down my newsfeed once a day, and every time it did I'd stop and look at it and read the description and think about where I might put it in my crowded house of cluttered horror.
But this time when the chair appeared I thought to myself, "I love that chair. Where would I put it? It's a good price. Maybe if I got it for that awful POS second bedroom, it would force me to finally fix up that room. For now, I'll throw out the rocker and put in that chair. And it will feel good every time I look at it" BOOM. I bought it. Delivery would be in seven days.
It was a four-hour surgery, and I was on a role. I talked myself into redoing that bedroom, and I purchased (with my little iPhone) two night stands, a dresser, two lamps, a console table, a chest for the foot of the bed that matched the chair, new linens, accent pillows and a cute little alarm clock. It felt good. I had something to look forward to. It felt creative. Dan's surgery went well. All was good.
I shared my new buys via private message with my grown children, all of whom had occupied that bedroom at one time. I got great cheers of affirmation from them, except from my son, Daniel who texted back, "Please burn the bed while you're at it." I texted back, "Bite me. I like the bed." In fact, the bed was the only thing I didn't replace. Once the old stuff was sold or donated and the new furniture was placed, I had the room painted a very soothing green with taupe trim. Then I bought window shades and a large braided rug. I felt like Joanna Gaines every time I walked past that room.
It took Dan nearly three months to recover in the hospital from that surgery, and in that time I also ordered a new island for the kitchen, along with a countertop, sink and faucet ... and new cabinets for our mudroom. All of these things were in place when Dan got home. We were hopeful about his progress, and my anxiety lifted. For the remainder of that year my buying was tamped down.
But then came January 2020. Dan had to go back into the hospital. Like before, this stay was nearly three months. Covid hit during this stay, and things were very stressful. Dan came home on March 17th just as everything was shutting down due to the pandemic. His health was not stable, and we were sequestered inside our home. I was cooking all of our meals in my improved kitchen with my new island.
And it was nearly my birthday.
Poor old Dan couldn't buy me anything so I told him not to worry. I wanted a new charcoal grill. Suddenly, I'd developed a hunger to learn the art of charcoal grilling. So we bought me a Weber Performance Deluxe Grill in Crimson as a birthday gift. I watched a dozen YouTube videos about charcoal grilling and fell in love. I also got a wooden prep cart to go with it - and new dishes - and new grill stuff.
With my love of cooking revived, I bought an air fryer. What a life changer that was. I still use it nearly every day - mostly for cooking vegetables. I also bought and Instant Pot for indoor cooking and an outdoor chest to store the cushions and deck supplies. We had so much fun on that deck.
Once the weather got chilly, Dan got sick again. He was admitted to the hospital on our twenty-first anniversary - September 18th. He came home on October 30th under the care of Hospice and he passed away on December 5th.
Christmas came and I did my usually buying for five grown children and their spouses and ten grandchildren. But the grief is setting in. It changes everyday. Anxiety comes with it.
So I've geared up agin.
I'm finally replacing that wretched couch, and that horrid bathroom vanity. Also .... a new TV stand that hides all the cords and doesn't look so junky. I got myself a new ice-maker. I haven't had ice since I moved from Laurel in 2002. Our water is disgusting. I use bottled water in this ice-maker, and it sits on the countertop making all the ice I want. These home projects are a nice distraction from noticing how very empty my house is these days.
Fortunately, I only buy what I can afford at the time. Sometimes I wonder why buying things has a soothing effect on my grief, but for now it works. I hope I don't run out of money before I enclose my deck, expand the kitchen and buy leather chairs for the music room.