DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley Hale at her wedding with husband Chris and father Grandpa Tom
New Perspectives

No One’s Looking at You

A few days before our wedding, my dad called me to chat. “Well,” he started, “I tried on my suit, but the pants have holes in them!”

I laughed. My dad used to dress only in suits, but he’s gotten rid of a lot of them since he retired. “Dad, it’s time to buy a new suit!”

“I don’t need a new suit!” he said. “The jacket is in good shape, and I found some pants that are just fine. They’re both blue. They’re not exactly the same color, but who cares!”

I imagined my dad standing in his mismatched blue suit at the wedding. “Well, Dad, remember you’ll be in all the photos, and you’ll be the one walking me down the aisle.”

He laughed. “Heck, Marjorie,” he said. I could feel that he was smiling from the tone of his voice. “No one’s going to be looking at me! They’re all going to be looking at you!”

He had a point. Plus, I actually cared very little about what my dad wore. I just wanted him to be there, with me. With us.

When the day finally came, he showed up in his not-perfectly-matching blue pants and blue jacket and really, I don’t think anyone noticed. Honestly, I didn’t even notice. My dad was right – no one was focused on what he was wearing that day, even though he was the father of the bride!

Because he’s right. Most of the time, no one’s looking at you.

The thing is, there are times in your life when everyone is looking at you. When you have a tiny baby. When you’re the bride or the groom. When you’re so pregnant people think you might go into labor right then. When you are graduating or having some other major life event.

And also, when you’ve just become a widow.

It’s the oddest feeling to go from a relatively anonymous elementary school parent to someone who everyone knows. “That’s the lady whose husband died,” they said. How do I know other people said that about me? Well, I guess it’s because I remembered when I said it, a year prior, about the only other widow I knew. “Can you imagine?” I said to my friends, and they nodded. It was too horrible to conceptualize.

And then it was me.

For months, every time I showed up anywhere, I felt the room shift. I felt so many eyes on me. Maybe it wasn’t that bad, maybe everyone wasn’t paying attention to me, maybe it was all in my head. But wow – it really felt like everyone was looking at me in the early days of widowhood.

It’s something I both loved and hated about new widowhood. I loved the recognition, because it validated my feelings that I’d had something catastrophic happen to me. But I hated it, because that kind of attention gets old really fast.

It’s hard to know when things shifted, but they did, eventually. Maybe it was me or maybe it was other people, but either way, I became just another normal parent and teacher and person in the world, at least most of the time. But that feeling – the one where you think everyone is watching you because maybe they are or maybe they aren’t – it’s one that sometimes I still imagine exists.

Maybe this is why I’ve been reflecting on my dad’s words so much right now. Yes, at our wedding, everyone was looking at me and Chris. That’s what you do at a wedding! But now that I’m settling into our life together, I’m getting used to the idea that (most of the time) no one is paying attention to me.

There’s a kind of freedom in that. It means you can wear a not-perfectly-matching suit and know that all anyone will notice is the huge smile on your face.

Image Credit: Sharyn Peavey Photography.

6 Comments

  • Leigh A Peltier

    First, Congratulations. Wishing you a wonderful future together. I love the picture. The genuine smiles on all your faces tell me that all of you are so happy. You certainly give me great hope and promise that my future can be bright. And I’m certain that is the case with other widows.

  • Vida B

    Love the pants story and your picture that is filled with joy! You’ve articulated so well what I’ve been feeling about “eyes on me”. I lost my husband very suddenly 1 year ago and am just now seeing a lot of people for the first time (due to Covid). Thanks for the reminder that the spotlight feeling will pass…I’m ready for that to happen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *