Denise Day Spencer

May 8, 2010

Pronoun trouble

Filed under: Personal reflections — denisedayspencer @ 8:10 pm

It’s true; on the internet you really can find just about anything — including the dialogue to my all-time favorite Daffy Duck ‘toon. Daffy, Bugs and Elmer are standing together, Elmer (of course) holding his hunting rifle.

Bugs: It’s true, Doc; I’m a rabbit, alright. Would you like to shoot me now or wait ’til you get home?
Daffy: Shoot him now! Shoot him now!
Bugs: You keep outta this! He doesn’t have to shoot you now!
Daffy: He does so have to shoot me now! [to Elmer] I demand that you shoot me now!
[Elmer looks at the camera, unsure if Daffy knows what he’s talking about. As Daffy sticks his tongue out at Bugs, he is shot. Daffy puts his beak in its place and pushes the tongue back in and walks back over to Bugs, gun smoke pouring out of his nostrils.]
Daffy: [to Bugs] Let’s run through that again.
Bugs: Okay. [deadpan] Would you like to shoot me now or wait till you get home.
Daffy: [similarly] Shoot him now; shoot him now.
Bugs: [as before] You keep outta this, he doesn’t have to shoot you now.
Daffy: [re-animated] Hah! That’s it! Hold it right there! [to audience] Pronoun trouble . . .
I laughed aloud the first time I saw this cartoon, and it still makes me chuckle to think of it. English teachers everywhere, take note. It’s an adorable example of the power of the pronoun. And now I find that I, like poor daffy Daffy, am having pronoun trouble.
You see, these days I’m having an awfully hard time changing from “our” and “we” to “my” and “I.” It’s perfectly understandable. For over 31 years I have been part of a “we” that I never dreamed would end so soon. So I constantly catch myself saying things like, “I was back in our bedroom when the phone rang,” or “Oh, yes, we have that movie, too.” I could make the excuse that the “we” is the dog, the cat and myself, but you and I both know that’s not what I meant.
I’ve been doing some talking with other widows. I know grief is a highly individualized process, but it’s interesting to hear what their experiences have been and still are. One dove right in and emptied the closets of all of her husband’s clothes relatively soon. I don’t know if she would have done that under other circumstances, but she is relocating so really had no choice. Another stopped wearing her wedding ring after four months. For her that was an extremely difficult step, but she felt that if she didn’t do it she would still be pretending he was alive.
One of these friends, widowed just a few months longer than I, still shares my feeling that her husband has just gone away for a while but he’ll be back. When she hears someone at the front door, for a split second she just knows it’s him. The other lost her spouse just over a year ago, but says daily life carries a sense of “dissonance,” and everything seems so strange. The third friend I talked with spoke of the profound loneliness she continues to feel three years after her husband’s death, and of how much she misses him today. “That hasn’t really gotten any better,” she confided.
And I am suspended in limbo somewhere between faltering disbelief and abject horror — disbelief of the reality of Michael’s death and horror at how alone I now feel. I know I am not alone, of course. I am still in awe at how good people have been to me throughout our personal tragedy. Relatives. Friends. Acquaintances. Total strangers. All have prayed for me and loved me through these most difficult of days. For that I am unspeakably grateful.
Yet they can never make up for the “we” I have lost. I see my neighbor give his wife a peck on the lips as he leaves the house. I watch married co-workers walk down the street holding hands. Sometimes I appreciated those moments when I had them. Other times I took them for granted, I’m sure. Either way they are gone now, never to return. Like Daffy, I have taken a direct hit. But unlike my feathered friend, I do not have the bounce-back resiliency of a cartoon character.
I will weep for the “we.” I will grieve the “our.” I will practice words that feel strange on my tongue, such as “I” and “my.” And I will learn, one pronoun at a time.


  1. “And I am suspended in limbo somewhere between faltering disbelief and abject horror — disbelief of the reality of Michael’s death and horror at how alone I now feel.”

    I can only imagine how this must be for you, Denise. If my husband was not here, the house would be too quiet and I think I would have to work myself up to keep things going like the gardens. It would not be the same if I could not share them with him.

    You have my sympathy, Denise, and I hope you find comfort in friends and family though I know it will never be the same without Michael. 😦

    Comment by JoanieD — May 9, 2010 @ 5:07 am | Reply

  2. Denise,

    Thank you for your raw honesty. We want to hear from your heart because we all love you and care deeply for you.

    Now we have a specific prayer to bring before Abba.. That He would heal you “one pronoun at a time”.

    Comment by JCC — May 9, 2010 @ 10:09 am | Reply

  3. I think if I lost my wife, as long as I lived in the same home I would still consider it “our” home and feel free to call it that, same with “our” possessions. So, unless the continued use of plural pronouns is evidence to yourself (as with your friend and her wedding ring) of a pretense that Michael is still alive, I think it is o.k. and should not worry you.

    Still praying for you as well as Noel (especially in view of her recent posting) and Clay, and so glad that the iMonk site is surviving. I look forward to Michael’s book, too.

    Regards from Vienna, Austria


    Comment by Wolf Paul — May 10, 2010 @ 1:11 am | Reply

  4. Denise, thank you for sharing. It’s good to hear others’ stories but you are right that everyone reacts differently, and your journey will be unique. I lost my wife to cancer 3 years ago…she was 42. I still have a hard time saying “my” house instead of “our” house. In my case, time and loving friends have done wonders, but there are still days I grieve for my old life. May God be with you on your journey.

    Comment by Rod — May 10, 2010 @ 6:10 pm | Reply

  5. Love those old cartoons. They don’t make them like that anymore. Now when someone is shot, falls off a cliff, or is disintegrated they are dead. Isn’t it more true the old way. They are not really DEAD if they go in Christ. They are just missing for a while. It’s the missing that will make the reunion so sweet!

    Comment by Judy Palmieri — May 11, 2010 @ 7:42 am | Reply

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