How did I become a widow? It started in the basement. One night my husband fell asleep in his recliner watching TV in his man cave and sometime soon after he and his Dewar’s bottles took up residence downstairs. He was a high functioning alcoholic – which is a clinical-sounding way of saying no one knew he drank scotch before breakfast. He was living the life of a happily married university professor by day and a passed-out drunk at night. A close circle of friends and family were helping me help him. His doctor and therapist never said anything about Robert being deathly ill. Never. Then suddenly he spiraled a few months after his 50th birthday and was given the diagnosis of having two weeks to live. All the frustration and anger of living with an alcoholic was suddenly transformed into devastating heartbreak. Nineteen days later, Robert was dead. My story doesn’t end there; my new life began.
My memoir – Last Call: Surviving an Alcoholic – explores life with an alcoholic, widowhood and second chances. It traces my transformation from trusting wife to prohibition officer, how our happily-ever-after days got hijacked at the bar, eventually revealing the ugly underbelly of our often admired marriage. If my life was a passport, I saw the pages stamped: “Married to an Alcoholic,” “Survived an Alcoholic.” Turn the page, where would I go next?
Last Call speaks volumes about life unexpected, love, loss, romance, dating and second chances. From shopping for a coffin at Walker Funeral Home to buying better bras at Victoria’s Secret. Negotiating with the stonework supervisor at the Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn to allow a Wizard of Oz reference on my husband’s headstone to writing my Match.com profile. (Dating is a lot more fun than dealing with a dead spouse, though not without its glitches and middle-age angst.) Unlike Carole Radziwill, widow author of the beautifully-written What Remains: A Memoir of Fate, Friendship and Love, I didn’t pick up the prefix Princess when I married and I don’t have a Kennedy connection – I’m like you. And as you turn the pages of my memoir and read my blog posts, you will be nodding your head in agreement, finding peace and comfort in the camaraderie of grief and survival, crying ugly and laughing uncontrollably. Don’t miss the publication date of my book; click here to keep informed.
As Joyce Carol Oates wrote after losing her husband, “for all who are grieving, there is no way to survive except through others.” Here at Widow 2.0, you’ll find sisterhood in widowhood – noteworthy sites, books to read, movies that move us, blog posts and comments from other widows, information to share – but mostly a community that understands what it is to be a widow. The Year of Firsts. Silent phones and quiet homes. Half beds. Long nights. Empty seats. Fresh tears erupting with new condolences. Life unraveling like a video rewinding. Feeling guilty? Feeling angry? Feeling alone? Bring a cup of coffee to your keyboard in the morning or settle down at the end of the day with a glass of wine. Whether you share or read, keep connected. Eventually we stop surviving and start living.
My name is Paula Ganzi Licata and I was widowed in 2009. I am an award-winning reporter and essayist, a member of the American Society of Journalists & Authors, and hold an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Hofstra University. I’ve contributed to Newsday and The New York Times for years, and was a featured columnist in the Times’ Modern Love column with an essay about designing my late husband’s headstone. As a writer I’m a professional observer and found myself documenting the transformation of my life – at first the discovery that I was living with an alcoholic, then the wicked spiral of Robert’s devastating 19-day hospital stay, and finally navigating my way through widowhood. A feature article in Newsday (“When We Becomes Me”) chronicles the change from wife to widow. In an essay in The New York Times (“When I Was Left to Speak for Both of Us”), I’m romancing the stone, doing everything I can to perfect Robert’s gravestone. And an essay in Newsday (“Life-At-A-Glance”) takes a glimpse at our life through my day planners of the past decade. I live on Long Island and am very much in love with the man I met two years after becoming a widow. Life does get better.