Today I learned that the husband of a neighbor died three days ago. In an instant, I was transported to the first days after Kevin died almost six years ago. Shirley came to see me. We hadn’t lived here a year yet, and I had a full-time job so hadn’t gotten to know many of the neighbors. I didn’t even recognize her but that didn’t stop her. She knew I was here alone and didn’t hesitate to take me under her wing. She came back the next day and asked what I needed, and I still wasn’t sure what her name was! Luckily, my sister had arrived and made her own introduction to help me out.
I prepared to take Kevin’s cremains to South Dakota for a memorial service, and she offered to help another neighbor take care of our dogs while I was gone. (It didn’t happen because Buddy ended up needing veterinary surgery care, but that’s another story.) Now, that’s generous.
When I came home about a week later, she called and insisted I go out to supper with her and her husband. I still remember it; we went to Uno for a burger. Uno is a restaurant I had not been to before, and now it’s not even there any longer.
A week after that, she just happened to have an extra ticket to a local big deal, a Christmas concert at her church. I didn’t really want to go but she talked me into it, and I am grateful she did. It was a kindness of the true holiday spirit, and it did uplift me.
She checked in on me from time to time after that. I would see either her or her husband walking their dogs, or at lunch, or the garden center, and just here and there. By now, I have recommended a hair stylist to her (she loved my cut but did not like the stylist or her cut), have borrowed her fondue pot, asked her advice about my consulting business, and given her rides to lunch. I know her much better now.
And yet, grief over the loss of a spouse — any grief, but especially this one — is so very personal that I am hesitant to intrude. Her children and grandchildren are arriving, and I don’t want to be in the way.
I have created my own sympathy card and will take it to her tomorrow. This is my message for her.
The Thing About Grief…
I was swept off my feet with the experience of losing someone special, too. But I don’t know how you feel about your loss or what your worries are.
I also had doubts about what I should do next, where I should be, how I was supposed to act or react. But I don’t know what kinds of doubts you have.
I felt the distress of wading into unfamiliar territory, the messiness of grief. But I don’t know what you find uncomfortable or awkward.
I can now recognize the joy that is mixed in with the sadness. Be kind to yourself, patient, and trust that you will have these kinds of discoveries, too. I’ll help you if you want me to.
I understand now that love does not end because he is gone, that grief does not last forever. You probably can’t see it yet. I’ll listen when you want to talk.
I am encouraged by knowing that every ending is followed by a new beginning. I believe you will grow from this experience. Yes, even at your age! I’ll help you celebrate when you are ready.
Nobody knows your grief except you. I can’t guess what you’re going through, and you couldn’t explain it all if you tried. That’s okay. You’re okay. You’ll do it right; there is no other way. That’s the thing about grief.
Do you remember the guy from television commercials who used to advertise his Social Security Number publicly, on air, as his guarantee that whatever security system he was selling was hacker-proof and couldn’t be used by scammers? I wonder what ever happened to him. In this day and age, it’s hard to even guess.
I was reminded of him today because I found myself in need of an account number that apparently is classified as Super-Duper Top Secret to the billing clerk at a utility company. Of course, an “operator error” on my part caused the problem to start with, but when you hear what happened, I believe you, as a jury of my peers, will acquit me!
Last week I closed a checking account at a bank I have done business with for around 25 years. Seriously. New fees, questionable business practices, ongoing changing conditions and requirements. I finally said Enough. It was oddly easy; no effort at all to try and retain me as a customer. Gee, didn’t I feel special. I had to make an appointment first (thanks to Covid); I went in and said I wanted to close an account, she said Sign Here, and I got what money was left in the account in cash. I came home, cut up my debit card, and went online to remove my account.
Oops! A few days later I realized that I forgot to print out my bank statements, spending activity reports, or bill pay info. I tried to access them yesterday, but no luck. So this morning, I fortified myself with caffeine and dialed the Customer Service call center. Voila! It was easy-peasy to get reinstated…for the bank statements only. Unfortunately, I could not access the Bill Pay feature any longer since I didn’t have an account to associate it with. I love Bill Pay; no paper bills to get lost in the mail, no checks, envelopes, stamps, and counting days until credited to my account. But the new bank also has this feature, so no problemo.
Well, little problemo maybe. In order to set up the new system at the second bank, I have to add a new recipient. Including payment address and phone number of the business. And of course, the precious account number. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that info. I’ve been doing online banking for the entire 6-1/2 years I have lived in this house. Thanks to Bill Pay, the payee info is locked away in some secret bank data vault. I just basically auto-pay when a bill comes due, whether I’m home, camping, or wherever.
So I got an email yesterday that I had received two e-bills …via the Bill Pay at the bank I had just closed my account with. I cannot access those bills now. Hmmm. What to do. I guess I will have to contact those companies to get my info so I can set them up at the new bank.
I started with the electric company. Get the difficult one out of the way, and the rest will be easy. So I thought. Crystal was very helpful, eventually. Unfortunately, she cannot give me the account number since I am not on the account. And I cannot have the account switched over to my name, since he (my Mr.) is not available to give his permission. Even though I have paid the bill for 6 years after he died. I have to have a new account set up to get it into my name. New accounts do require a security deposit, by the way. Crystal did waive that if I agreed to pay the final bill for Mr. Duggan. So we got it all taken care of. I had all the info I needed now and was able to add the electric company as a Payee on the new Bill Pay system. One down.
On to the gas company, which should be easy since I do get an electronic bill each month outside the Bill Pay system. I typically send it to the Junk Folder because I know I am getting it through the bank where I will pay it anyway. I have received this bill for nearly seven years; the bills come to my email address, and are paid from my checking account. The bill, though, is in the name of Kevin Dugan (their misspelling). What?!?
So I said to myself, “Self, let’s fix this. Let’s get this changed to my name.” I went to the online profile, and I tried to update the account to add my name. It wouldn’t let me do that, but I could change the name of the account holder. Again, what?!? I tried that. I had to give a reason, and I had to choose from 4 options: Marriage, Divorce, Legal Name Change, and something else that I forget now but didn’t fit. So I chose marriage since death was not an option. Interestingly, the system updated to now add my name, also spelled incorrectly as Patrica Dugan, but it did not remove his name. This was not going well. So again I said, “Self, let’s just call Customer Service and do this right.”
Dimitri was trying very hard to be helpful, but I am gathering steam and being upset at the late Mr. Duggan for not putting me on the account initially. Once again, the resolution was that I had to establish a new account, plus set an appointment for a new meter reading, and agree to give up my first born child if I didn’t pay the final bill of $15.74, which is due in two days. Fortunately, he could take the payment over the phone for an additional fee of $2.95, and because I agreed to that, I again got the deposit for a new account waived. (PS-unlike a window of time for 2-4 hours when they might show up to do the meter reading, these meter readers get all day. And I am supposed to be here waiting.) Uff-da.
Next up, the water and sewer bill. And again, I do not have my account number nor the old Payee info to get payment address or phone number. (Side question: why do I have to send my payment to Carol Stream, IL?) I don’t have enough energy left today to keep going. I will get a paper bill one of these days since, luckily, they recently changed from a quarterly to monthly billing system. Then there will be trash pickup, and the internet/cable company -never my best fun place to contact. So I will put that off for another day even though I wish I could just get it over with.
The good news is that the “new” bank has received all direct deposits as expected in September so the money is available if ever I have bills to pay. Oh, and as I have started to set up the new Payees online, I am keeping a paper list for the next time. Live and learn, I guess.
I shouldn’t be surprised that when we bought this house, Kevin set up all the utilities in his name only. But why I’m just figuring this out now, I don’t know. He did the same thing when he got his new truck, which I did know about. But at least I also wasn’t financially responsible for making payments on it. I can’t just voluntarily surrender my utilities like I did with the truck. They will cut my services off without a second thought if I don’t pay (except during COVID, but you get the gist).
It is frustrating to feel disenfranchised because of petty details like this. I can’t pretend to know what he was thinking, except maybe he wasn’t thinking at all. It is a remnant of the patriarchal society we grew up in. He never had to do this kind of thing, like I did when I got divorced back in 1991. He’s never had to change his name on his driver’s license or health insurance or Social Security when he got divorced from her or married to me either. I’m trying to let this go, but I’m kinda bugged about it in this moment.
I’ll bet the tv commercial guy helped the utility companies and banks set up their online systems. And the fact that I was efficient when I hit the “Save” button isn’t enough cause to say this is all my fault, is it? There must be a better way. Couldn’t the banks and utility companies just ask people when they set up an account if there is a (female/male/ spousal) joint occupant or owner or something?
Let me just close by suggesting you check your status before you have to. Get the passwords, account numbers, and other gory details now. Trust me, it could save you a few headaches six years down the road after you’ve joined the Solowingnow club.
A funny thing happened on the way to … well, it sort of isn’t funny, at least not if you are the dog, but it is kind of funny if you’re me. Once you stop making it worse.
It continues to be hot and very humid here in Virginia, and my one-year-old Shih Tzu, Rocco, needs regular grooming to keep his hair matting under control and to survive the heat. I’ not just talking combing or brushing. I mean The Works! I am not willing to pay $80 to have him professionally groomed every month ever since I had a bad experience taking Harley and Sasha to a groomer. Three years ago and I still grit my teeth when I think of it. That woman complained that Sasha wouldn’t sit still for her, which I do not doubt, but I had told her when I took her in that she was a rescue and didn’t seem to like being touched on her feet or around her neck. “No problem. I can handle it. This is what I do.” Yep, sure. Long story short, she gave both of them uneven, chunky haircuts, and I went out and bought my own clippers because I was sure I could do better. And I did…I do. Mostly.
So it rained yesterday, a lot, meaning the ground was soft and wet. From one day to the next Rocco can develop mats, which neither he nor I are fans of trying to comb out. And when he is wet, it’s worse.
Out came the clippers and off came the top layer of hair. He shook in happiness! Then I got out the scissors to trim around his eyes and ears, but he was not having it. I gave up on that and moved on to his paws. They are as fuzzy as a pair of beloved winter slippers; he actually slides along the floors when he is in a hurry.
It’s necessary to trim the between the pads as well as the top of the paws. The regular hair clippers are too large to do small feet nicely, plus the cord tends to get in the way of trying to manipulate the feet of a dancing pup. Which means I also recently purchased a battery-operated, palm-sized clipper just for these small jobs.
And now Rocco has lost his little goatee because he just had to look down and sniff and smell and lick my hand to get at the new clippers when I was trying to shave the pads of his paws. Those little clippers are fast, and sharp! He kind of looks like he has lost his chin now, and the straggly neck hairs I couldn’t get earlier are still there because I’m now afraid to get too close to the rest of his head. That one ear doesn’t look too bad, does it?
This is another one of those times when the reality of Solowingnow hits home. Some things are just hard to do by yourself. Like hold a dog with four legs when you only have two arms and a buzzing chainsaw in your hand. Or sooth a scared puppy who doesn’t like the new noises. Or hold one paw to file down the long, pointy, black toe nails.
What I need is a tranquilizer gun, I think, but what I bought was one of those arm things to clip them to on the edge of the counter, to hold them in place theoretically and to keep them from plopping down. That was a waste of nearly a hundred dollars. I bought a couple of those sticky mats you swipe peanut butter on to distract a hungry dog (and yes, they are always hungry). That works great for a bath, but not when you need their head to stay upward, away from the counter and their feet. I hope it’s just that I haven’t found the right thing to stick them to yet, though. I’ve seen people who tape them to their own foreheads but I’m not there yet. Not sure how I could see the paw if a tongue was smearing my glasses.
I finally gave up on trying to clip his nails, which I can do okay usually with a Dremel sanding thing, but it’s those dew claws, the little nails hiding on the inside of the leg and that grow round and turn back in on themselves. Trust me, it’s just as easy to snarl or nick their hair as file off the nail tip.
So I figure if I’m gonna pay $10 for just a nail clipping, I might as well let her do all of the nails and not just those dews. Tonight it’s all for one and one for all! Three dogs get to go to Clip It Up at 5:45. I don’t think she’ll actually say anything about Rocco’s face and uneven trim, but she might remind me in case I forgot from last time that she only charges $60-80 for a full grooming, including ears, eyes, anal glands, and nails in addition to the regular spa bath. (And yes, it’s a different groomer from the crapulous haircut giver.)
Thank God I still have the sense to not cut my own hair. So far.