Emergency room sign like that described by DC widow blog writer Marjorie Brimley
Things That Suck

Sometimes You Superglue It

The thing about breathing is that it’s essential for living on this planet, so when you start having problems with breathing, everyone freaks out.

It was small at first. I could run and breathe just fine, but I’d feel a tightness in my chest when I was drifting off to sleep. I’d be okay when I was teaching, but the moment I sat down to write I felt like I couldn’t take a full breath. I told my dad about it, and he listened to my heart and my lungs. “It’s nothing,” he said.

My dad always says, “it’s nothing.” One of the few times he said otherwise was just before Shawn was diagnosed with cancer.

But my issues with breathing continued, so I finally went and saw my doctor. She’s one of those awesome people that I feel like would be my regular friend if we had met in another way, and I trust her judgement. I told her about my inability to sometimes catch my breath, and she recommended a few different tests and scans. “I’m sure it’s nothing,” I said.

She said she hoped that it was stress-induced, but that it was important to be cautious because heart problems are often under-diagnosed in women. (Take note, widows!)

In any case, I got the tests. As I waited for the results, I thought, “what if something is really wrong? Who is going to take care of me?”

I realize this is an issue that many single people face, not just widows. I guess the difference for widows is that we’re used to someone taking care of us. We’re used to having a back-up. So when you wake up one morning and find yourself in pain, or slice your finger so badly it won’t stop bleeding all over your cutting board, or come home from work and realize that you are seeing double – well, when that happens you think, “shit, what am I going to do now?

Of course, I have my dad. He’s so wonderful. And I have my friends and my extended family who would do anything for me. But of course it’s not the same as having a partner. Not even close.

Here’s what made it all so hard – each time I found myself needing to sit down, count to 10 and say to myself, “breathe,” I was reminded of one thing:

How alone I am in this world.

I am lucky that all the tests showed that I am merely under a lot of stress. I strategized with a lot of people about how to do a better job at relaxing, I planned some trips to take, and I thought about the ways that I could de-stress my daily life.

But really, it was my dad who provided probably the best instruction about how to survive health problems after widowhood.

I was away for New Years, soaking up the sun, and my dad was home alone with the kids. Each time I’d text him to ask how things were going, he’d text back, “everything is fine.”

When I actually got home, he answered the door and I about fell over. He had a massive 2-inch gash that ran from the middle of his eyebrows to the top of his forehead. “What happened?” I almost screamed at him.

“Oh, I tripped on the steps outside,” he said, “and hit my head on the concrete. The kids were at school so it was no big deal.”

“Did you go to the hospital?” I asked him.

“Hell, no,” he said. “I just super-glued it.”

“Wait – what? You super-glued your head back together?”

“Yes,” he said. “It wasn’t that bad. I washed it off in the sink and held the wound together as the glue dried. No big deal.”

I looked at the cut. It was truly terrible-looking. “People at the kids’ school must have freaked out when they saw that,” I said. “You should have gotten stitches.”

“Luckily it’s cold, so I always have on a hat,” he said, “but really, it’s nothing that I couldn’t deal with myself. Sometimes things like this happen, Marjorie. Sometimes you have to go to the ER. But sometimes, you can just super-glue it.”

I laughed. “Well, it’s a good thing you don’t care about cosmetic issues,” I teased him, and he smiled. But it made me think. Maybe the best cure for my physical ailments is just a bit more of this mentality – the one that says that things will be okay, and that every little thing isn’t cause for alarm.

My dad should know. He’s been figuring out how to handle things like this by himself for over two decades.

Sometimes when you find yourself sliced open, you just super-glue it.


  • Marcy.

    A much needed laugh – thanks!
    I try to rationalize so many things since my Husband has passed away. I too have thought how in the world would I be able to handle needing help, should something happen. My Husband and I have always been 2 very independent people who’ve been very dependant on each other – this is what a relationship is, after all. Very grateful for my family & friends who also want to help, but just don’t know how to accept my “not yet” response. I will be sure to keep a stash of super glue on hand!

    • Marjorie

      I’m glad it made you laugh! My dad thinks it’s hilarious that I think it’s a big deal at all. He actually keeps saying, “this is no big deal, Marjorie.” Love him.

  • Phyllis

    This story made me laugh. My husband did the very same thing one day going into the hospital to make rounds. Never one to waste time he just dropped into the radiology dept and had his doctor friend super glue it. I saw him later at the office and was shocked. But he always took care of me with such gentleness and made sure I scheduled my mammograms, got a flu shot etc. I do those things now because I know he would want me too. I am glad all your tests came out ok.

    • Marjorie

      It’s funny, every medical professional I tell this story to agrees that my dad made the right call! I love your story, too.

  • Melissa

    Since my husband was a dentist, I know he had stories about people who tried to super glue a loose crown back on a tooth. Not recommended in that case! 🙂

  • Cindy

    My husband was a retired Silicon Valley computer genius. He took care of all of our devices. Now he’s gone, I get to take care of all of that myself. My family and friends can’t help! So when I found out I had to upgrade to Windows 10 I freaked. By myself? I did my own superglue-ing by making lots of phone calls, doing lots of online research, and asking myself, what would M. have done? And I did it by myself. It’s done. I am truly alone in this world. If my devices act up, I get to take care of them with paid expert help if needed. If I get sick, I get to take care of myself with paid help if needed. My new reality with no soulmate to look after me anymore.

    • Marjorie

      Yes, exactly, it’s so tough to do the things our partners used to do. Hang in there – we know how it is!

  • Rachel

    Hahaha, I love this- it sounds so much like my dad! He sliced his finger with a chainsaw helping me with yard work and quietly hosed it off and drove away without telling me, because, as he told me when I discovered he was missing, “I thought I could hose the blood off but when it wouldn’t stop I thought I’d better not scare the kids.” In this case he needed ended up needing many stitches, but it’s the same kind of attitude- no panic, it’ll be ok, kind of thing that I have to remind myself to try and emulate.

  • Robin

    Yes, this is a wonderfully funny story.
    My husband died in December 2018 of brain cancer. I too have thought about who will take care of me now. I used to get migrain headaches so bad and more often than not it would happen when we were traveling on business. My husband could always see it coming and take care of me whether it was in an airport or on the road. I can’t count how many times he watched me throw up or navigated me to some place where I could throw up without everyone else watching! One day this past November I woke up with an unusual pain in my left side and as the morning progressed it got worse and worse. My mother took me to the ER where they discovered I had a kidney stone. While I am grateful she could do that, I felt like a kid again, and really just wanted my husband there to take care of me because he could always make me feel secure knowing he would not just take care of me but all the things going on around us at the same time. This was my first trip to an ER, I’m normally the one who drives someone else. I think the kidney stone was from grief and tremendous stress during the six months he was sick and then his passing 11 months before. It still all seems very surreal. But yes, I also think about who will take care of me ….

    • Marjorie

      I think this is a super common widow worry – lots of people have expressed it to me. I have a few other in-person widow friends and we’ve all promised each other that no matter what, we will do our damnest to show up at the ER if someone is there. Because feeling alone in these situations is THE WORST.