By Marilyn Pellini
Be adventuresome! Set sail from the shallows out into the deep. Sometimes in our life we are becalmed in a lull, so we need a new plan. We need to chart a new course. My new direction began when my little family had to move from state to state because of my husband’s job. Each new city was exactly that: big, different, and sometimes even rather unfriendly. In one town in the northeast I went to the same bank, cleaners, and supermarket, sometimes even more than once a week, but was treated as if I was a total stranger. Our neighbors in the area were pleasant but not overly friendly either. We never visited back and forth. Most of them had been born and raised in this New England town, and their families went back for generations. They had so many relatives in the area that they did not need to make new friends. I joined the town’s Newcomers Club and found my niche.
Then came my fourth move in six years. We were set to buy our first house, but were discouraged to find the only places we could afford were way out in the suburbs, which would mean a long train commute for my husband. After much searching, we finally bought a place we grew to love with a sprawling backyard and a big old tree just right for hanging a swing. We moved in five days before our oldest child was to start kindergarten. This rather rural living was all new to me, and I wasn’t at all sure I was going to like this new experience. In no time at all, however, I began to love my new surroundings.
The first weekend after our move, my husband took our two kids to his folks’ house so I could do some unpacking. I had gotten up early on that Saturday morning and was grabbing my first box from the back porch when I noticed my neighbor crossing over into my yard. I went out to meet her and introduce myself. She had heard that children would be moving in next door, and wondered where they were. I explained that they had gone to their grandparents for the weekend so I could more easily get organized. Her response was, “Breakfast is at nine, lunch at noon, and dinner is at six, you’ll take your meals with us until your family returns.” How could I not love my new town immediately? Over the years, all of the neighbors did little kindnesses for each other, which gave me such a sense of belonging. One neighbor knew how to repair just about anything; another shared her fresh garden vegetables all summer. I baked an enormous amount of Christmas cookies for both neighbors and friends.
When you have taken the plunge out into the deep, stay the course. That is exactly what we did. Two years after buying our first place, my husband was offered a promotion in the midwest. He turned it down, can you believe it? I had told him over and over how happy I was where we were living. Our son was thriving in the elementary school just down the street, and when the principal there found out I was a teacher he began calling me to substitute. We were invested now in our home and community. We decided to trim our sails and remained in port, and although my husband had turned down that first promotion, others in our area opened up for him, as he was such a loyal and hard worker.
The years seemed to pass quickly, and before we realized it the kids had grown up and were out on their own. My husband and I still felt young and vital, so it was time once again to wander out beyond the shoreline and submerge ourselves in new experiences and exploration. I began to paint, take piano lessons for the first time in my life, and joined a writing workshop. My husband, an avid striped bass fisherman, went on a quest to catch the world’s largest of that species.
Unfortunately this led to his much too early death. No one knows just how this bizarre fishing accident happened, but he did usually fish alone. I would plead with him, to no avail, to take a friend along on these excursions; but how, when, and where the fish were running and how best to catch them was always a well-kept secret.
How could I ever venture forth again, after being tossed and torn by this storm that attacked my whole being? Port was no longer port, so I had no choice but to head for the deep once again. I began writing, starting out with letters to my husband about the plight of being a widow in today’s society. The letters were quite full of anger at first, asking over and over how he could go and leave me behind.
Suddenly my new direction became clear. I needed to help others going through their own tragedy of losing their mate. My book Dear Al, A Widow’s Struggles And Remembrances became my refuge. I had no intention of having it published, but it sat on my desk for so long I got tired of dusting under it, around it, and over it. That’s when I found a gal who had just lost her job, and said she would love to earn some money typing my manuscript. I was very lacking in computer skills, and was so lucky to find her. Her husband, who had recently retired, began to research publishing firms that had done a grief book in the past, and a young relative with fine artistic ability produced a most pleasing cover. There were some nibbles from publishers, but ultimately I had to self-publish and I’m ever so happy I did.
Now the waters are a bit murky as I flail about alone trying to decide my direction, but at least I am afloat. My new navigation into the beyond has me going out to give talks on my book, especially to women’s groups where you always find so many widows. I also love to go to assisted living facilities and nursing homes, even though I rarely sell a single book there. The audience often comes in looking glum, but usually leave with a smile on their faces as I try to add a bit of hope and humor to my talk, which might lessen their burden too. I encourage them to write a “bucket list,” get out of their comfort zone, and explore some of the things they have always wanted to learn about.
My journey out into the deep has brought me some solace. Hopefully my journey has enlightened many others at the same time. I know this chapter of my life has been choreographed up in the heavens. I was dealt some very yellow and sour lemons, but hopefully I have now made some tasty lemonade. My husband would have been so very proud of me.
Marilyn Pellini has recently published a grief book entitled Dear Al, A Widow’s Struggles and Remembrances. It has been selling quite well. Her other credits as a writer include a recent article in Brick Magazine entitled “Memories in My Button Jar,” pieces in Westchester Parent Magazine, Bay State Parent Magazine, On The Water, Balanced Rock, and others which she would be happy to provide copies of upon request. In May of 2018, she took the first place prize in the N.Y. State Federation of Women’s Clubs writing contest.