Tuesday, March 29, 2011

On Being a Disqualified Widower

So I’ve finished my taxes for another year. (Stay tuned or scroll down if you’re looking for non-tax-related info.) You’d think that after four years of filing on my own, I’d get used to this. I mean, it’s really the same old pattern. I plug in the information, the computer spits out a number signifying the amount I can expect to receive in a check (okay, so it’s really a direct deposit) and that number is significantly lower each year as inflation rates, gas prices, and the general cost of living seems to be increasing. Not a pretty pattern, but a predictable one at least, right?

Wrong. This year the federal government had a dirty trick up its sleeve.

That’s right. I have now been widowed long enough that I can no longer file as a “Qualifying Widower”. Now, to be fair, I knew this day was coming. But I had forgotten and seeing this reality on the screen before me was unsettling to say the least. Not to mention that my old friend TurboTax tried to tell me I should file as “Single” when it was clearly a better choice to file as “Head of Household”. I’d like to know what gives the federal government the right to decide how long I can be considered a “qualifying widower”. Does being widowed longer than three tax years mean I am somehow a less-qualified widower? If so, that would make me an “unqualified widower”. But I would contend that if anything, I am a more qualified widower. At this point I have endured and learned to handle more than most people who are forty years my senior.

So instead, I’ve decided that the government regards me as a “Disqualified Widower”. I can be a widower as long as I want (or at least until I choose to remarry), but I’m going to have to do it on my own terms, and will warrant no special tax title from the IRS. I’m not unqualified, I’ve just been disqualified as far as the government is concerned. I know it’s all semantics really, but aside from the linguistic aspects, that loss of title cost me about a third of last year’s refund!

Now on to the non-tax-related things I alluded to above:

I spent a couple of days last week sick. I think I’ve mentioned this here before, but it is really scary for a child when his/her single parent gets sick. My daughter has gotten better with the headaches and sinus infections I tend to get (love Spring, hate pollen!), but I took a day and a half off of work last week, which is unheard of for me. I have often said that if I wake up and don’t care if I see my school that day I am really sick (did I mention I took a day and a half off last week?) This time it was food poisoning followed by a headache of almost-migraine proportions. Not fun, but I bounced back quickly. My daughter had a difficult time adjusting to the idea that I wasn’t going to work the first day, but was noticeably more accepting the second day. There was a special event at her school that night, so I came home and rested between and made it a point to be as “up” as I could during the event, which helped, I think. Hmm, I think that sounds like something a “qualified widower” might do, Mr. Government Official…

We managed to make it through another February. For those of you on my FB page (if not, see sidebar) and who are long-time readers, you know that February is the longest month on the calendar for me. It was not an easy month, as I don’t expect it will ever be, but here we are now, more than twenty days on the other side of it. My daughter has become quite the good little writer at the tender age of (now) seven and I am amazed at the times she will write about her feelings and I will find the pages only after she has gone to bed. Thankfully she is also still very willing to voice them, but I fear as she grows older she may turn toward her writing more (which I know is normal, but it eliminates a need for talking to Daddy about it and I will miss that. And yes, now I know how you feel Mom…)

I have often thought that one of the reasons God allowed my daughter to be born in the month of February (five weeks early, but healthy) was to give me something to look forward to during that month. This year was no exception. All of my daughter’s grandparents were able to make the journey for her birthday this year (they are still of the age that work obligations might keep them from coming, rather than health issues). She knew they were coming, unlike years’ past when it has been a surprise, but I don’t think this diminished her joy any. She had a wonderful party and a great weekend with her grandparents. And I think that’s all any parent can hope for, single, widowed, or otherwise.

In keeping with my promise in an earlier post, I wanted to mention that I have started dating someone. I have thus far held to the pattern I used in my last relationship regarding how quickly to progress, how soon to involve my daughter, and things of that nature. The one big difference between this time and last is that my daughter knew the first woman I dated and was able to see the connection we were developing and she was not a part of that this time around (due to where/how we met, not because I tried to do anything differently in that regard). In fact, when I told her we were going out, she finally admitted that the reason she was less-than-thrilled was that she didn’t feel like she knew her (she had only met her once at that point) and wasn’t sure she would like her. I reassured her, but also told her that I would remind her of this in a couple months when she did meet her and DID like her, which I have found myself doing over the past couple weeks. It’s already evident that they like each other. She is a school-based employee as well, though not at my school, and is, as my friends put it, “more age-appropriate” than the last woman I dated. I won’t get all mushy at this point, but I will say that this relationship has definite potential.

Now, for those of you who remember back a couple months to my last post, you might be wondering why I would even entertain the possibility of dating someone when I thought I was dying. It is a valid question. The only reason I opened the door to getting to know her better at all was that I wanted to live as if I wasn’t dying (at least not yet). It was a risky move for this non-risk-taking widower, but it proved to be a good one. I did not ask her out until after I got the news from my doctor that I had a completely manageable condition, but I did spend quite a bit of time getting to know her through e-mails and phone calls. I weighed my options and decided that if I was as sick as I thought I was, she would lose a friend with a mutual romantic interest. But if I wasn’t, then by not getting to know her, we might both be losing the possibility of something long-lasting. I can’t say that it will definitely go that direction. But so far, I’m confident I made the right call.

On Thursday, I am scheduled to have my periodontal work/surgery done (the 31st). It’s not something I’m looking even remotely forward to, but when I still have my own teeth in thirty years I’ll be grateful I did. I’m having all of the work done in one day (12 teeth total – yikes!) so it’ll be all soft foods and pain killers for me for a few days. I’d appreciate any and all prayers as that time draws near – both for me as I endure the procedure and whatever pain it entails and for my daughter as she has to see me endure that pain for a few days. (On the bright side, Grandma is here to play with her and keep me medicated).

Thanks for bearing with all of my “updates” and for your continued reading, no matter how few and far between my posts become.