“Did he leave you enough money?”

Yes, this gets said to new widows. I’m always temped to answer, “Are you offering some more?”

But that doesn’t get either of us anywhere. Remember, the most likely subtext is, “I know this is a huge change in your life and suddenly your income has dropped by half. I hope that it does not adversely affect you. I hope you’re still secure enough and you don’t have that additional worry hanging over you during this difficult time.” That or they are just nosyparkers scouring for idle gossip.

Good intentions aside, it’s simply not a question to ask. Unless you had that kind of relationship with the couple before one of them died and you would sit around together talking about your respective incomes and savings investment plans. Even then, it’s still not a question you should be asking. My estate lawyer told me hair-raising stories of other widows who discovered their spouses had secret credit cards and accounts maxed out to tens of thousands of dollars. Fascinating, but still none of my business.

I also had more than one neighbor come by the house after John died. (Neighbors, no less. Not even strangers!) I thought to offer condolences. Silly me. After a short while, they pulled out their business cards—they were Realtors! And wanted my listing. It’s like a call went out, “We Have Widow! She’ll be selling soon!” Sadly for them, I had no intention of moving. It’s the equivalent of ambulance chasing—it’s hearse chasing.

In many forms, the question does get asked. Instead of the clever quips I would later come up with (at 3:00 a.m. after the opportunity had long past) I generally answered, “Thank you, I’m doing okay.” I figured that was generic enough and they just wanted to know that I was alright.

It’s not like they’re going to do anything about it. Why give them the satisfaction of gossip. Let them make up their own.

How young is a young widow?

I was 45 when John died. I didn’t think I belonged in the elderly category of widows, those over 75 say, who have lost their spouses. On the other hand, I wasn’t young anymore either. I feel pretty well seasoned, especially now.

So in looking for support after John died, I had a little trouble figuring out where to go, what category I fit into. Also, we didn’t have children, which made things different. Most of the younger widows had children to raise, a whole kettle of fish I couldn’t even begin to understand. Now I’m in specialized sub-category:

>Widowed

>Middle-aged

>Childless

>With dogs.

Old enough to have been entrenched in marriage and all that a long relationship entails. Young enough to have another life ahead of me. Old enough to be enraged at having to start over after all those years of work. Young enough to know starting over is possible. Old enough to know children of my own are out of the picture. Young enough to be resentful of my friends with loving families of their own. Old enough to have experienced over twenty years of a deep loving connection with one man. Young enough to feel cheated at only twenty years.

I still don’t know where I fit in on the scale.