Emergency contacts

I had my first doctor visit of the new year today as a follow-up after becoming quite ill on Christmas day. Sadly, a new year means new paperwork. And new paperwork means new answers to old questions. And new answers mean new realisations. It was inevitable, I suppose, that those simple check-boxes would bring tears.

Note: This post was originally shared on my “widowhood” blog, “Frances 3.0: Still in Beta”.

Marital status? Single, separated, divorced, married, or widowed. It’s a factual field. There shouldn’t be any emotional anguish in choosing which box to tick. You can only be one at a time. It’s not complicated (and don’t get me started on people who use that term as a relationship descriptor) it’s a fact. You’re this, that, or the next thing. Only, I don’t want to be what I am. Still, through the tears welling up in my eyes, I marked widowed. At 35 years old. 

Who do you rely on for transportation? Me. And me alone. There is no husband to take me, no husband to make sure I make it to the doctors on time. And if I’m so sick that I can’t drive, well, I’ll probably miss that appointment because there is no public transportation where I am. No taxis, no busses, no high-speed light rail. Sure, some neighbours would take me to – or pick me up from – the doctor’s office if needed, but would I ask someone to make a 50+ mile round trip? Probably not.

Emergency contact? For as long as I can remember, this person was always my father. Until I married Paul. I remember the first time I got to update my emergency contact information after our wedding. It was such a sweet pleasure to be able to put Paul’s name down – and “husband” for our relationship. I was so giddy with excitement. After all, how many women still use their father as their emergency contact after starting their third decade of life? Not me, not anymore. I was 31 years old and finally had someone other than my dad’s name listed. And there I was today, at 35 years old, removing my husband’s name and contact information and replacing it once again with my dad’s. With tears now streaming down my face.

I wonder if it will be easier when I repeat the process at the optometrist and dentist’s offices. I wonder where else those questions will appear, and if I’ll be able to keep my composure if they crop up unexpectedly. I wonder if there will ever come a time when I get used to the idea that parts of my life have taken a step back in time. I wonder about so many things. And I suppose with time, I’ll know the answers…

Funny, before I ever met Paul everyone (including me) thought I’d be single for life and that I would happily (or acceptingly) go through life checking the “single” box and that, one day, I would trade Dad as my emergency contact for an adult niece or nephew who took on the role of caring for their spinster aunt in exchange for unconditional love and the privilege of the sole heir to my (meagre) estate. But now, one chance encounter nearly eight years ago has forever changed the way I’ll look at those simple little check-boxes.

Join the conversation!