Special thanks to fellow bloggers Chris and Cassie, as well as their friend whose name I forgot. On our final day at Camp widow, they helped me come up with the idea for today’s post.
This year is my first Camp Widow. A few of us from Chicago arrive at the Myrtle Beach airport. As we wait for a cab, a young married couple behind us overhears we're going to the Hilton.
“You wanna share a taxi?” the guy asks.
We start to load our suitcases in the trunk when the girl politely tries to start a conversation with us.
“Are you here for a wedding?”
“Not a wedding, no,” I reply, mad for not having a response ready. I knew something like this was going to happen, I just didn’t expect it ten minutes after landing.
“We’re here for a widow convention,” I say. “Our spouses passed away and there’s a weekend of workshops, reflections, and celebrations.”
As we get into the cab, we find out they're here for a wedding, one of his old frat brothers is getting married - his second marriage, her first. The conversation on the 20 minute cab ride is more than pleasant as they ask questions about us, and we ask questions about them. The only part of the ride that is uncomfortable is with the taxi driver himself – later our cab buddy said our driver reminded him of the guy in Men In Black whose body was taken over by an alien. “I haven’t flown since 1978,” the cab driver barks out at one point. “Had a couple of drinks and they found me passed out in my seat. I don’t like to travel.” The fact that one could argue driving a cab was traveling, coupled with no one had asked him the last time he’d flown, had us all in silence looking at one another.
As the weekend went on, we would run into our cab buddies and exchange stories of how the weekend was progressing. As you can imagine, our stories were on different ends of the spectrum, but they were curious about us, and we were curious about them. It looked like rain was going to ruin the outdoor wedding and it would have to be held inside. We each had our celebrations and setbacks in these three days.
On Saturday night after our dinner banquet (“No slow songs tonight!” Michele announced before the DJ started, such a great detail to get right for this type of event), we decide to have the after-hour’s party at the hotel bar. Miles away, at the end of a fraternity brother’s second wedding reception, they decide the same thing. So, there we are, widows spread all over the bar like secret service agents and a wedding party, complete with bride in wedding dress and all.
“There should be a fight!” One of us jokes. And I agree, there should be a fight, if only to read the best headline ever in the paper the next day:
Myrtle Beach – Fight breaks out at local hotel bar between a wedding party and a widow convention. Bride taken away in handcuffs as she screams, “Widows shouldn’t even be allowed to drink alcohol!”
Of course, the dark humor starts flowing a little easier and there are suggestions of redoing some of our tee-shirts so they now read, “I went to Camp Widow and kicked some bride’s ass.”
In fantasy, the idea of fighting the wedding party made me feel better. Forget the Spa and putting cucumbers on my eyes, I could release plenty of stress taking out my anger and frustration on some young couple who dared to rub in our face being married.
But the reality of the situation doesn’t fit my fantasy, because as we are sitting on one of the couches during our after-hours party, our cab buddy goes stumbling by - he is having little success keeping the beer in his glass as his body seems to have lost the concept of gravity. He happens to glance over and sees us sitting there. He stops, straightens up, and walks over to us.
“Hey guys, how are you?” he says. He steadies his hand, as the beer settles into the glass.
“We’re doing great.”
“Really? Are you guys having fun?”
“We’re having a blast, look around you, you're surrounded by us. See all these people laughing and having drinks. That’s widows rocking out this bar.”
“Cool man, that is so cool.” He says, and then calls his wife over. She comes running at us in high heels, so happy to see us one more time before we all leave.
Michele Neff Hernandez, Founding President and Executive Director of Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation, spoke eloquently in her key note address Saturday morning, saying that one of the benefits of this convention is we’re changing the minds of employees at the hotel and anyone we run into of what being a widow is all about. That someday, when they have to experience the sadness of losing a loved one, we are showing them that it can be done. It’s painful, but it can be done and one can continue to have a fulfilling life.
And while she is accurate, I find that my mind is changed also. It’s only by chance we shared a cab with that couple, because if we hadn’t, I probably would’ve seen that wedding party all weekend and been pissy. I probably would have heard their wedding was rained out and expressed no sympathies due to us being there because we lost our spouses. I probably would have seen our cab buddies all dressed up and not knowing them, would’ve rolled my eyes – amazing what happens to one’s perception of people you don’t care for when you get a chance to talk to them.
So I find it ironic, of all the amazing people I met at camp widow, I am most grateful to a married couple who came to Myrtle Beach for a wedding. For the short three days in S.C, we shared a connection I cannot explain - friendship at first cab. We genuinely cared for one another on how our weekends were going. A kinship I assumed I would share only with other widows.
I left Chicago not knowing what the weekend held in store, but was hoping I would come home with some positives. I did. To my new friends in Pittsburgh, where ever you are, thanks for helping make the weekend great.