By Terri Schlichenmeyer
You never paid close enough attention to the “part” part. You were young (too young!) and in love when you walked down the aisle, nervous and sparkly eyed. “For richer, for poorer” were just words. “For better, for worse.” Marriage has its ups and downs; everybody knows that. No problem.
Then … “In sickness and in health, until death do you part.”
Whoa. That’s a long way away, right?
For author Becky Aikman, it wasn’t. Blindsided by the early death of her husband, she explains how it takes a small village to raise one’s spirits in the new book “Saturday Night Widows.”
Life was not supposed to happen that way.
Becky Aikman’s husband, Bernie, was supposed to become an old man one day. They were supposed to retire together, travel together, spend weekends sharing a newspaper and watching the sun set.
He was not supposed to die young.
But he did, and once the shock had softened a bit, Aikman tried finding support at a widow’s group. There, she learned she was decades younger than those peers and they seemed to resent her. She was uninvited to return.
Years later, once returned to normalcy and newly in love again, Aikman decided to learn more about herself and her widowhood. She asked around and found five young widows, all who agreed to Aikman’s “plan” to support one another for one year.
“We would share our stories, and we would share one story,” said Aikman.
Widowed just months, Denise was raw from her loss and would need the tenderest support. Dawn was “pure confection,” a beauty with two small children to raise. Homebody Lesley was starting a relationship that gave her hope. Marcia, a lawyer, “never cracked.” And Tara was holding extra hurt about her husband’s death.
For one year, through tears and giggles, spas and shopping, “zingers” and memories, the five women leaned on one another, tiptoed together through a minefield of dating, met milestones, and helped one another heal.
It was only a year, but it was time enough to learn that “sometimes things turn out exactly right.”
Often desperate, sometimes feisty, partly hilarious, and warm as a fleecy blanket, “Saturday Night Widows” is a surprisingly feel-good, girl-bonding, which-role-will-Meryl-Streep-play-in-the-movie kind of a book. And I loved it.
Though there are a few continuity confusions, author Becky Aikman tells a story of sharp loss, fog, love, and fighting one’s way to a new normal. She does it through a year spent with five onetime-strangers who were also “too young” to be widows, their separate situations, and their emotional repair. Along the way, Aikman looks at scientific studies on grief here and in other cultures, and how both genders deal with loss.
Did I mention that I loved this book? I did, for its humor, its help, and for its heart.
This is obviously not a dark memoir, and I daresay it’s not for your widowed granny, either. It’s sad, it’s happy, and, in fact, once you start “Saturday Night Widows,” you won’t be able to part with it.
Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with two dogs and more than 9,500 books.