26 February 2013

The Merry Widow, Part 2

Welcome back. Today’s blog post concludes last Friday’s guest post by Miriam Biskin on her thoughts of widows and widowhood. 

My Husband’s Death

After my husband passed away, I signed the thank-you notes with both our names. “You aren’t facing reality,” said a well-meaning friend, to which I responded, “The man never signed his name to a thank you. I am just continuing the job I’ve had for 63 years.”

At the Social Security office, the clerk questioned the name on my birth certificate as being different from that on my Social Security application. I had to assure him that I wasn’t born married

Example of a traditional ketubah,
the Jewish marriage contract.
(from www.ketubah.cz)

When I was asked for a copy of our marriage license by Veterans Affairs, all I could find was our ketubah, the traditional Jewish marriage contract. The VA did not appreciate a document written in Aramaic, though it was eventually cleared by an army chaplain.

The date on my husband’s birth certificate was different from that on his discharge papers, so I had to get notarized statements from his siblings as proof that he was born in July and not May. I now have two different birthdays for my file.

One of my husband’s notions was that very few people would attend his funeral, but he was wrong. The crowd would have brought a smile to his face.

More About “Widow”

Widow, a word meaning a woman who has not remarried after her husband has died, dates from the 9th century and was spelled in various ways, such as wudowe, widu, vedo and wydow.

Although there have been wealthy widows in literature, many Bible passages ask help for fatherless children and widows. In a French play, translated as The Widow of St. Pierre, the word veuve (widow) literally means guillotine, maker of widows. Somewhat akin, the Germans called the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter aircraft a witwenacher, which is also a term for a grenade launcher.

The widow of the House of Clicquot’s
founder’s son, with her great-grand-
daughter. (multiple websites)
For champagne lovers, there is the story of the House of Clicquot, taken over by the founder’s son’s widow in the early 19th century. She shipped wines under the label Veuve Cliquot throughout Europe during the Napoleonic wars. In the 19th century, a British author spoke of a “good luncheon and a pint of widow to wash it down.”

We find the term widow’s walk in the title of a British mystery movie, and the term is also used to describe a fenced-in spot on the roofs of seamen’s cottages, where the seamen’s wives could watch for their husbands’ return from sea voyages.

There are lethal black widow spiders, black widow murderesses and the Avengers’ Black Widow, all equally dangerous. Before Scarlett O’Hara married Rhett, she wore very elegant black widow’s weeds. She also had a delightful widow’s peak in her hairline, a triangular bit to enhance her beauty. The widow’s peak was deemed very charming and even affected by such screen heroes as Robert Taylor and Cary Grant, Chris Noth of TV’s Sex in the City and the losing vice presidential candidate, Paul Ryan.

And there is also a time-worn joke of the man who married a widow, then stood at her former husband’s gravesite, sobbing, “Oh, why did you die?”

Thanks for stopping by. Your comments here or via email about The Merry Widow posts would be greatly appreciated. I’ll certainly pass them to the author.

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