Sydell Weiner, PhD

Moving Forward by Moving to L.A.

moving forward as a widow by moving to the westside

I’m trying to move forward after losing my husband, by moving   near my son and daughter-in-law.  They welcomed a 5th child into their family a week ago and she’s a beauty. Yesterday they all came over, along with my daughter and her family. The kids had a ball playing together in the pool, and we ordered in lunch. I’m so glad that I can see them more often than when I lived an hour and a half away.

But my house in Palos Verdes is on the market and still hasn’t sold. Last week it fell out of Escrow for the 2nd time. It is my nest egg, my safe zone, the keeper of memories that I shared with my husband Rex. And now strangers are traipsing through and picking it apart. I’m counting on the equity to pay the expenses of the overpriced house I’m renting in Beverly Hills. So now I’m scared. Will I have enough until my house sells? Will I be enough to handle this? Am I strong enough to make it on my own?

The house I’m renting is sweet, but it’s unfamiliar. I don’t know how to turn on the confection oven. The glass doors in the shower have sediment on them that won’t come off. I’m sure they’re more than 20 years old, and if I owned this house I’d have them replaced. I turned on the heater in the pool Saturday, and now I can’t figure out how to turn them off.

The landlord ordered a new dishwasher, and when it came 2 weeks ago it was the wrong size. I’ve been waiting almost 2 weeks for the replacement, but all I have is a big empty hole in my kitchen where the dishwasher belongs. It’s the hole in my heart that burst open when Rex died, and now it feels just a little more broken. I’m used to doing everything by myself, but now I have to wait for the homeowner (in DC) to talk to his mother (3 blocks away) and the right hand doesn’t seem to know what the left hand is doing.

My handyman from P.V. came here 2 days after I moved in. The HVAC system wasn’t turning on. It’s taken 2 weeks and now I’m promised a new motor this afternoon. But it’s cold at night, and I’m powerless to take care of it on my own. It costs over a thousand dollars to fix, and that’s not my responsibility. I feel helpless, like my 14 year old self, still in a daze at my mother’s funeral. I try to be brave, but sometimes it’s just too much to bear.

Oh, and did I tell you my iphone died last week? I had to drive to City Hall in P.V. to get a copy of a permit for the buyers who subsequently backed out. So I went to the Apple Store in Manhattan Beach without an appointment and was aggravated by the long wait. Maybe it’s because Mercury was in retrograde for 3 weeks, but it’s one frustration right after another. Normally I could handle a broken phone, but my resiliency is at an all-time low and everything feels like a crisis.

And here’s the reason why: My husband died two and a half years ago and I never would have moved if he were still alive. We’d enjoy a comfortable retirement in the house where I knew how everything worked. I wouldn’t have to read an outrageous Inspection Report, picking at every detail in our home–from missing spokes in the dishwasher to electrical issues to doorstops needed to protect the walls.

My sister tells me not to take it personally when someone doesn’t want to buy my house. I wish it were that easy. My emotions are too unstable. When I think someone loves the house we remodeled and lived in for 17 years and then they back out, it breaks my heart. My husband and I took so much pride in that house and made it look so beautiful.

Still, the criticism hurts; it feels like I didn’t do a good enough job of keeping things up. My fears turn into anxiety and I’m up half the night wondering if I did the right thing moving. I suspect buyers are being critical as a ploy to get a lower price. Or an Inspector is finding fault so he can show the buyers how smart and thorough he is. Whatever their reasons, it shakes my confidence and robs me of my resiliency.

Lately I’ve been calling it “Widow Shit.” Losing your husband is so much more than grieving for the person you’ve lost. It’s figuring out how to spend your remaining years. Should I move away from a community I love, because there’s nothing there for older, single women.? Will I be able to handle being a renter after 40 years of homeownership. Can I  navigate my way around a new community with steep underground parking even for supermarkets. What a cool adventure it would have been exploring a new community with Rex. We’d laugh at the underground garages and explore all the cafes together. I miss him beyond words, and moving brings that back to the forefront.

And yet, there are indescribable perks. Moving closer to my son means surprise visits at 6:15 am, while he’s doing his morning run. Thes’s comfort in being a mile and a half from five of my grandchildren. It’s my sweet daughter coming over with new beach towels and a tool kit fit for a woman my age. And having my son’s daughter telling my daughter that it’s her turn to live near grandma. It was lovely to have a spur of the moment pool parties in my backyard with the children (and adults) playing nicely together. And it’s reassuring to know that if I have to go to the hospital, it would be the one where my son is Manager of Spiritual Care, and I’d have excellent care.

So I have to put on my big girl pants and figure out how everything works on my own. I’ve figured out the pool heater and called a repairman to show me how to work the confection oven. I’ve unpacked in less than 2 weeks and have even hung pictures on the walls. I hired a plumber to install the new toilet that was left for me in the garage. I’ve connected with an old friend and colleague who I didn’t even know lived in this part of town. And my puppy and I are moving forward, enjoying the walks to the shops, right in our neighborhood.

When I remind myself of the good, it’s easier to practice gratitude. Breathe deep, Sydell, and look to the light. Be patient with yourself, for you are the only person you can always depend on. Remember to treat yourself as you would treat someone you loved–with kindness and empathy. You will get through this, your house will eventually sell, and you’ll enjoy more of the perks of living on the Westside.

So yes, it was the worst of times, it was the best of times. I’ve moved to the Westside and for better or worse, I’m moving on with my life. Wish me luck my friends, I will definitely need it!

Sydell Weiner