Image of door to represent DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley wanting to greet her husband Shawn
Things That Suck

Running to the Door

When Shawn and I met in Japan, he had a girlfriend back home in Canada. He liked her a lot, that was clear, and so we were just friends for the first year we knew each other.

But eventually time and space meant that they broke up. “Why?” I asked him the night he told me.

“I never called her,” he said. “When I finally called her yesterday, she cried and said I obviously didn’t care about her if I didn’t ever want to call her.”

He paused, thinking about it. I can still remember his face – he was contemplating his own actions.

“She’s probably right,” he said. “I mean, if I still loved her, I would be calling her all the time. She just called me on my bullshit.”

I remember thinking how reflective this was – and also how totally pissed I would be if I was his girlfriend. (As a side note, the day before he died, Shawn got an email from this woman, maybe for the first time since this call in Japan. She told him he had been a good friend and that she was thinking of him. Or something like that. I don’t truly remember what it said but I remember he showed the email to me as we sat in the living room. It made him smile.)

After Shawn and his girlfriend broke up, we spent more and more time together. We had a blast, and I would laugh harder with him that anyone else I’d ever met. When he left for the summer, he wrote me all the time from various spots in Asia. I remember getting one postcard – maybe from Thailand? – and I wondered, “Does Shawn like me?”

We both returned from our travels that fall, started a new school year, and found ourselves hanging out most days in the evenings. The sexual tension was palpable, and eventually, we found ourselves on a beach for an entire night. We watched the sun rise and rode our bikes home. A few days later, we went to a party, and ended up back at my apartment.

He never left.

For real. He stayed for the entire weekend. We barely slept, so giddy over the fact that we had decided to move our friendship into something more. “That was the best weekend of my life,” he said to me as he left on Monday morning for work.

We were never apart. He would show up at my apartment immediately after work and I’d always drop everything and run to the door. Isn’t that crazy? I mean, once we settled down and had jobs and kids, we still greeted each other at the door, but for that entire first year we were together, I literally ran to the door when he showed up. I ran. He would scoop me up in his arms and we’d sometimes make out in the doorway. If I came home later than him and the roles were reversed, I could always hear him scrambling to come and greet me.

If I close my eyes I can see that hallway now. I can smell the tatami mats. I can feel what his face felt like on mine. I can remember what it felt like to be loved like that.

I’ve been thinking about this specific memory lately as I’ve tried to start dating again. I know, it may seem strange that dating is what has made me think about these moments again with Shawn. But it has. Since this fall, I’ve had a few times where I’ve wanted more than a first date with someone. I’ve felt that first pull of attraction and I’ve wanted more.

Sometimes, there have been second dates. Sometimes I have felt a man’s eyes linger on me, and I have felt desired again. Sometimes being around someone else has provided a bit of salve on the open wound of loneliness.

But no one is running to the door to greet me when I arrive.

“Don’t get too involved,” I say to myself. “Don’t show too many emotions. Don’t admit that things could ever evolve into something real. Don’t get hurt.”

But, God, all I want is someone to run to the door when I’m there.

Maybe it’s because I had the kind of love that bordered on the obsessive in those early days. Maybe it’s because I knew that Shawn had nothing else he loved in this world like he loved me, at least until the kids arrived. Maybe it’s because even after years and years of marriage, we still greeted each other at the door.

Whatever the reason, I now expect that kind of attention. Not on a first date, but eventually. I expect that if someone is dating me, even for a somewhat brief period of time, that person will want to run to the door when I arrive.

And no one wants to. That much is very clear. I can catch a man’s eye and I can make him laugh. I can be witty and fun. I can drink margaritas until the sun comes up and I can laugh at all of his jokes.

But no one is running to greet me. I want that kind of love in my life – God, I want it so badly – but I can’t just snap my fingers and make it happen. Maybe this means I need to recalculate how I approach dating, or maybe this means I need to figure out how to live in a world where the men I meet aren’t going to think about me in that way.

And yet, I want it. I want that obsessive love again and it’s killing me that I can’t have it.

I don’t just want someone who brings me chocolates. I don’t just want someone who smiles when I walk into the room. I don’t just want someone who laughs at my jokes.

I want someone who runs to the door when I arrive.


  • Mary

    Oh, sweetie…happy and sad all at once! How lucky to have had that kind of love. You will find love again…it may be wonderfully all-consuming. But it will be different. It’s important that it is, I think.❤

    • Marjorie

      I appreciate the encouragement, I do. But I’m starting to think it might not happen for me – or it won’t happen at the same kind of intensity. Only time will tell. But this time period does not feel hopeful in that area.

  • Melissa

    At this point in my life, (I’ll be 72 in June), I don’t think I will find anyone who can know me, really know me, like my husband did. How do you duplicate 42 years of learning what makes the other person tick and the deep understanding that goes along with it? He could just glance at me and he would know that I needed to eat or I would get a migraine. He knew my whole past history from my first marriage, and I his. We both loved animals and had more rescue pets than most people would find advisable. He told me almost every day that he couldn’t believe how lucky he was to have a pretty wife like me. (Which I usually laughed off, but I would love to hear that again from him.) Before he died, he told me he wanted me to have a companion and a happy life. Right now I’m just going day to day with my life, neither happy nor unhappy, and it’s hard to imagine any kind of companionship in my future.

    • Marjorie

      Many months ago, I was talking with a fellow young widower, and he said to me, “I envy your dad. He has made his choice about never getting remarried and now he is past that time in his life and can just focus on his family. We don’t have that same certainty.” Now, I’m not sure I totally agree with this entire comment, but I do think that if I was older, it might be easier to accept that I’d had a great life with someone and I just wanted to remember that. Instead, I have decades, probably, ahead of me and thinking of them ALL ALONE is terrifying.

      • Melissa

        With me, I haven’t made a clear cut choice never to remarry or be in a relationship like your dad has done. I think it’s just that the odds are not in my favor. To be honest, there are more older widows out there than there are available men. And the men who are available tend to want women who are younger (sometimes by a lot!) than they are.

        I can appreciate how looking into the future is scary for you right now. But I can offer this: when my first husband and I divorced, he didn’t think anyone would be in the market for a 30-year-old divorced mother of two so he thought he could come and go as he pleased. But a wonderful man, the man I lost this last year, came along (he was one of my instructors in dental hygiene school) and…what do you know?…it turns out I was just what he was looking for since he was divorced with two kids too. It had been about 4 years since his divorce and he’d been in a couple of relationships with women who had never been married or had kids and he knew he needed someone who understood what that was like. And that someone was me. Keep your spirits up, Marjorie. Sometimes a good thing can happen when you aren’t looking and least expect it.

  • Cathy LaFrance

    I hear you. I’m in a relationship with my late husband’s best friend (somewhat comically pre-arranged by my husband), but It. Is. Not. The. Same. I miss the amazing connection I had with Tom, and the way we were just so completely in tune with one another. I miss our feelings of mutual adoration — we were high school sweethearts who broke up to go to different colleges, and lost contact. We reconnected at our 10-year high school reunion and were married a little over a year later, married for 15 years and had two kids…. but I digress. I don’t know what things would be like if I didn’t already know the man I’m seeing. I applaud your courage and honesty. Trust your heart! It’s possible to honor your late husband and also begin something different with another person. Hearts expand to love more. <3

    • Marjorie

      I love this – especially the part where your husband pre-arranged your “Chapter 2” (as some of my widow friends would call it.) This is so beautiful and trust me – if I could have it like this, I would. But no such luck. Instead, I’m stuck with online dating or trying to meet men in bars – none of which has been successful at all.

  • Jen

    To be loved like that and it’s reciprocal is the best feeling in the world. It being taken away…….there really are no words.

    I also agree that dating sucks.

  • Melanie

    Marjorie, two of my friends whose husbands died ended up in good relationships. However, it wasn’t through online dating or bars. They were, interestingly, men they already knew. My friend Barbara was contacted two years after her husband died by someone who used to teach at her school. 8 years later they are still together, traveling all over the world, going to the theater, movies, and dinners and having a blast. My other friend, Jen, is in her early 40s. A year after he died a few years ago, her high school boyfriend, now divorced, got in touch with her. They’ve been dating ever since. Interestingly, both have said they’ll never marry these guys, simply because they’re so independent now and don’t want to get tangled up financially, plus Jen has twin teenagers to deal with. The relationships are quieter with these men and don’t have that intense infatuation they had with their husbands, but they love these guys, just in a dfferent way. I think we’re so changed by the loss, the stress, and the adjustment that future relationships can’t help but be different. I just have a feeling that someone’s going to come along for you who might be right there in front of you right now, and you just don’t realize it. It might not have the excitement and crazy, obsessive infatuation turning into love that you had with Shawn, but it might be just as beautiful…only in a quieter way.

    By the way, as long as Phil could drive which was about 2 weeks before he died,, and I knew he was on his way home, I would always watch at the window until I saw him pull into the driveway and then wait for him by the door. Seeing him come home was the warmest, best feeling ever.

    • Marjorie

      Yes, I think this is the most common way that widows find someone new. Of the younger widows I know who’ve met someone, they almost always knew the person before. I don’t know one widow who met her “Chapter 2” online! I’m sure they exist but I think it’s tough. Love your memory of Phil.

  • Pete

    Hi Marjorie, still love your work. Your honesty to write about what’s happening in your life after Shawn is refreshing and brave (I also like your writing style). Anyway, I’ve been thinking about dating again recently. I’ve started to feel the nascent pull of attraction (that will happen when you’re watching Nigella Lawson cooking shows). I probably have a number of decades left in my life and I’m not terribly keen on spending them alone. To start with, I’d like some company other than my children and “our” friends who see me as “the widower” (and all the baggage that entails). But what I’m really after is someone to love madly and who loves me back in the same way. One thing that I keep in mind is that some things take time (sometimes a long time). But I’m confident it will eventually happen, possibly when I’m least expecting it. All the best and good luck with your search.

    • Marjorie

      Oh my goodness, I get that feeling of wanting something more than kids and the friends who see you as “the widower.” My dad has always said that the most important thing in life is “reciprocated love” and I agree.

  • Mary

    Hi Marjorie, you don’t know me (though we met once through my twin sister, Katy) but I follow your blog and am genuinely interested in your journey. And while the circumstances around how we’ve both landed at this place in our lives are wildly different, I can very much sympathize with what you’re feeling. One perspective I’ve developed recently (and you touch on this, though not in words exactly) is that expectations are, in a sad way, disappointments waiting to happen. I’ve had to really train myself to live in the moment. It sounds so cliche. But I don’t want life and experiences to pass me by and go un-enjoyed because I’m too focused on the inevitable “Where is this going? What will it be? How will it work?” That line of thinking almost sabotages my ability to embrace the now and present. It’s hard work and requires breaking habits and accepting some discomfort, just sitting with it. But there is immense beauty and growth in that. And I won’t settle, won’t settle for ‘good enough’ or ‘almost’ – I have more to offer and receive than that. And so do you.

    • Marjorie

      Thanks so much for connecting – and yes, I remember meeting you Mary! I love what you said at the end of this comment: “I won’t settle for ‘good enough'” – that needs to be my new dating mantra. I actually recently told a friend that I was worried I might get too lonely and settle – it’s a real fear of mine. But for now, even figuring out how to date is the problem. So I guess one thing at a time!

  • Jeff

    Hi, long term reader, first time writer

    I’ll start off by noting that you’re a very good and very, very honest writer.
    Second, we’re of similar age. My situation is different, but I too am returning to dating. I dislike it, but the shrink says, If you don’t, then *yes,* you *will* end up alone. Obviously, that is not what I want, so that is why I get emails from Match and have Coffee Meets Bagel on my phone.
    Third, this will strike you as quite random, but my favorite post of yours was, We’re all going to go watch Kung Fu Panda. Don’t ask me why, but that just smacked of “family” to me. (Have you ever seen The Descendants? – both it and the book are *amazing.* Anyways, that movie too has a scene which is somewhat similar and also smacks of “family.” (Don’t want to spoil!))

    • Marjorie

      Oh, I loved this. I went back and read that post and remembered how much I loved it. In fact, those same neighbors took my boys yesterday when I went to play in my soccer game.

      Also – I have to tell you that the fact that you wrote, “long term reader, first time writer” made me feel giddy. And famous! Ha! It’s seriously amazing to me every day that people I don’t know read my blog but I’m so glad they do. It makes me feel like I’m making meaning of my life.

  • Kate

    I recently had a discussion with my Dad about this topic. He is the person that I most confide in and I value his advice. He told me that I will probably never have what I had with my husband because my circumstances are different. I was very young when I met my husband and it was a whirlwind and adventurous romance. Everything was new and different. We had no children, we traveled and we sort of grew up and into each other. I’m older now. I have a career, a child and responsibilities. I am too young to stay alone, but I know that I will never have what I had with my late husband. This type of love takes time. It takes time to grow, to develop and it will be impossible to duplicate. In a way it makes me sad because I long for some of the same things that you mentioned. My biggest fear is also that I may be tempted to ‘settle’. It will take effort on my part to get out there some day to perhaps find someone to connect with. I am not ready for this yet. But, I do try to look forward to other things in my life and to make some plans for things that I love to do. Tomorrow is not promised and I also want to live NOW. And I’m grateful that I had this love for all these years .

    • Marjorie

      Exactly. It’s hard to imagine re-doing the love story I had with Shawn because, well, I’m a totally different person now in a totally different stage of life. So yes, the danger of “settling” is real. But I want to fight against it! I am also grateful for all the time we had together.

  • Niki meiners

    I’m a new widow at 46 after 21 years of marriage. No one can replace my husband and the magic we shared. However, I’m not looking for a replacement I’m looking for a new adventure with new activities and traditions. You don’t need someone to run to the door for you. You need a new something special to the two of you. A new tradition of you as a couple.

    • Marjorie

      I’m sure that would help – in fact, I’m working on a blog post about this very topic. What do I do if there isn’t ever another love in my life? Because that could be my future and I still need my life to have meaning and joy.