There are many boring, yet distracting, things a widow must do: notify Social Security, notify any financial institutions, notify insurance companies, notify credit card companies, things like that. Our New York Times home delivery was in my husband’s name, therefore he got the e-mails of special events and special offers. If I wanted to get those, I had to call the paper, explain the situation, change the e-mail address, change the user name and password. Time consuming, yes, but it’s something concrete to focus on and separate myself the situation requiring it.
Today I went to the Social Security office. In order to claim my husband’s last Social Security check, which had been intercepted by the Treasury Department when it learned of his death but which I’d been informed I am entitled to, I had to produce the actual marriage certificate, his birth certificate, and his death certificate. Copies would not do; they had to be the originals. I actually had all these documents, and I didn’t want to send the originals off in the mail – they could get lost; they might not get returned. So I went to my local Social Security office.
When I entered the building, the security man at the door asked what I needed. I said, “I’m going to the fourth floor.” He asked what I needed to do there (to make sure I was going to the right place?), so I had to tell him, “I’m applying for widow’s benefits.” It’s getting harder to say it, not easier. He said the obligatory, “I’m sorry for your loss,” but he looked a bit taken aback.
Upstairs, there was a touch screen receptionist, asking my purpose and then spitting out a number, which was called about an hour and 45 minutes later. Fortunately, I had brought a book. When my number was finally called, I was directed to window 5, where, behind bullet-proof glass like you find in banks, say a young man who remembered talking to me on the phone two weeks before. He looked at my documents, recorded unknown bits of information on his computer (I couldn’t see his screen), xeroxed my documents, and that was that. I will get that extra check. I will get $20 more in my Social Security payment each month. Now on to my husband’s pension, which I will continue to receive.