Wednesday, 22 February 2017

In Limbo

I always thought I’d be fine being on my own. After all, I spent many years more or less on my own, with the children, admittedly, but very little adult company, except at work. It’s always been on the cards that Beloved goes before me, that’s how it is when you marry someone much older. It’s not a surprise when it happens. But, by golly, it’s strange. And hard.

I find myself sitting around uselessly, staring into space, not doing anything. I start on jobs, like clearing out cupboards, decluttering, by fetching out empty boxes ready for filling, And that’s usually as far as I get; empty boxes are piling up but cupboards and chests of drawers remain full. I have taken a few things to charity shops but I’ve hardly made a dent.

It’s hard to know what to dispose off. It feels as if I’m clearing Beloved out of my life and this house before he’s even dead. I find programmes of special occasions at the Opera House and foreign tours. Should I keep programmes of Royal occasions, like Charles and Diana’s wedding? What for?  Piles of sheet music, who wants it? Ancient photographs, loose and in albums, any takers? Notes and written records, in a painstakingly small and neat hand, beyond my eyesight now, what relevance do they have now? A large stack of original vinyl, whole sets of symphonies, operas, ballet music, some of them conducted by the composer. Perhaps there’s money in them. I hear vinyl is fashionable again; internet, have you any ideas? Photographic equipment, bags of pre-digital cameras, lenses, etc.; you can’t even give it away.

So there I stand, picking up this and that, flicking through, and back it goes on to the shelves.

And then I go to my china and glass cupboards. For years I collected things, we had such fun going to antique markets. I also still have stuff I took away when I cleared out my mum’s flat, some of it going back to her wedding. Here too I sit a box on the floor and stare into the shelves. Is there anything I really still want? Everyday stuff lives in the kitchen, yes there are dinner and tea sets. which I will keep for now, but really fancy glass, silver and my willow pattern collection, presents received over the years, bits and pieces picked up here and there, keepsakes for the future, I thought. The future is here and I can only stare at the stuff, feeling paralysed, unable to even formulate a coherent thought, much less carrying it through. There’s stuff which is actually valuable, so not really meant for charity shops, although the things might well end up there eventually.

Some of the boxes will be filled when I can bring myself to do so, there are a few things our assorted children will want, but not many. “We don’t have the space”, they say. What they really mean is  “We don’t have the space for your mouldy old treasures.”

I’m in limbo. Utterly unable to rouse myself. People and self-help columns tell me I must socialise, get out and about, meet people, talk. I had some tea in a little coffee shop this morning. I met an acquaintance in the street yesterday who hailed me and wanted to know everything about Beloved and me. As well as tell me about her husband who is in hospital at the moment. “Why don’t we keep each other company and have a drink at The Maltings tomorrow”, she said. I couldn’t think of a good enough excuse to turn her down and agreed. It wasn’t too bad, I talked, she talked, then a chap joined us who talked a lot. Quite a lot of the talk was about mental illness in the elderly. Apparently one in three of us will eventually lose our marbles, if we get old enough. Earlier, I had been for a blood test at the surgery. Very soon the nurse launched into a detailed account of how dementia had changed her mother. There is hardly a person I meet who doesn’t have a tale to tell. Many details are instantly recognisable, the saddest part is when the sufferer no longer recognises you.

Beloved is not there yet. Although he is changing day by day, he still knows me. At least I hope it will be so when I next see him. Our country road has been closed for roadworks and going to the Care Home requires a long detour until it is reopened Friday. I confess I haven’t seen him since Sunday. He didn’t wake up at all then and I left again after only 45 minutes, reading my book, sitting next to him.When I rang the Home to tell them I wasn’t coming they said, “about time too” “Take some time off for yourself, if there’s a problem we’ll ring you.” They haven’t, which means all is OK, or as OK as it can be.

Visiting him every day at least gave me something to do. It also gave the other patients the opportunity to fuss over Millie. Millie too seems unable to settle to anything. She clings to me and gives me a huge welcome when I return after leaving her for even just a very short while.

Having family around would help, but that’s not to be. Beloved’s younger daughter visited him, coming via a long train journey. But no one else has visited. Soon it’ll be too late. My son is coming next month to help me with things around the house, let’s hope I have an idea by then what needs doing. And while he’s here Beloved and I will have our 30th wedding anniversary. I never thought we’d make it that far. I hope we will, it’s a nice round number.





39 comments:

  1. That's hard to read, Friko, never mind to live through and my heart goes out to you.

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  2. Such a sad, and sadly common, tale. I fear many of us will experience this in the next few years. I'm already looking at all the things we've accumulated and wonder why it seemed so important to do that.

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  3. It's a rough, lonely road; please just know that our thoughts and prayers are with you.

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  4. Dear, dear Friko ~ All you can do is take each day as it comes. My heart aches for you.

    Love, hugs & prayers ~ FlowerLady

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  5. I think you will make it to your 30th. You are on the road ahead of me. All's fine now and hopefully for a long while. But I suspect we shall all be where you are so I read these with great compassion and a sense of future.

    I understand the frustration of getting rid of the things. I'm trying to do that now for no other reason than I have too much and I really need to get it under control. Here are a couple of words of encouragement for you:

    1) It doesn't have to be done today or tomorrow. If you can put two or three things in a box today and another two or three tomorrow, soon you'll have one box. Then two. And you may end up putting in more. And you are allowed a day off. Pretty soon you will not want to trip over that box, fill it faster and then on to another. Or not. It will happen as it does. Don't agonize. Or if you feel you must do this, and maybe it is therapeutic, set a timer. One half hour. Then walk away guilt free for you have done something.

    And second, what you do with things is, of course, your choice. But you are right when you say some things have great value to others. There are those who collect vinyl, antiques of all types. Even programs and memorabilia (I know because I have a big Royals collection of programs, magazines, china, tins, you name it). And programs for the theatre. There are sites -- I'm not sure what all you have in the UK but Ebay is here, Craig's List. If you decide you want the money more than donation, there are people who can and will help you, even if it is selling to an antique shop. Don't underestimate the value of your stuff to others, especially if the proceeds would be helpful.

    Meanwhile, just keep on keeping on. Trite, I know. But it's what we do.

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  6. We are sharing sorrow Friko. I tell people it is moment by moment. I can be ok and then suddenly sad. Treat yourself gently, pamper yourself when you can. Hugs, Terra

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  7. This is so hard. Is there a reason that the house must be cleaned out just now? Could you wait a bit on it? It seems that you may have a clearer idea of what you'd like to keep when you aren't in the throes of the situation.

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  8. Thank you for sharing your story. Best wishes to and I hope your see that rounded number of 30.

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  9. It has to be one of the hardest times of life. Just keep moving forward (or sideways) one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. I am so sorry.

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  10. The very sad part, as you say, is when he no longer recognises you, but for him, at that point his confusion will be gone and he will be more relaxed.

    Whatever you do clear out, keep the handwritten things, letters, photos. You can just leave things where they are and let someone else worry about it in the future.

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  11. Such an isolated and lonely road. Matters not that it's not uncommon. Just yesterday had a chat with a good friend whose husband passed last week. She said what makes her cry is the unexpected little things. I told her crying is fine.

    My thoughts are with you in this brand new time.

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  12. Dear Friko, This post is sadder than the rest. It seems to me this is a period of grieving, even though beloved is still there. Grieving for a companion lost. Heavens, when we lose a dog, we allow ourselves a time to adjust. Please don't beat yourself up about an inability to be brisk and organized at this time.

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  13. Thinking of you from afar.

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  14. Ah tis so sad. I feel for you. As to practicality: dig on line for music afficionados sell sites when ur up for it. It demands cataloguing and that might keep you occupied and savouring Beloved's past.

    Big hugs.

    XO
    WWW

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  15. I am so sorry, Friko. You are suffering great loss, and giving yourself the freedom and time to grieve is important. Hugs and prayers.

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  16. All the stuff -- we have the accumulation of many years and several families and our children don't want but a few things. I'm not facing any immanent changes but I keep telling myself I need to clear out some of this mess that means nothing to others. It has to be done in small doses, I find. The burden of sorting through a lifetime's memories can become overwhelming. A drawer at a time maybe -- a cupboard or closet if you're feeling strong. Blessings to you, Friko.

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  17. Thanks for sharing with us. What to do with the stuff? There's so much ado lately about decluttering. I wonder how much it really matters.

    One in three of us. I had no idea.

    I wish you all the best in this difficult time.

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  18. Grief is so hard especially when we must do it alone. I was relieved to hear that your son will be there for you next month.

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  19. It's hard getting rid of stuff. It's like throwing your life out. I tell my daughter I'm going to leave all my junk for her to clean up. She says that will be fun, "I'll haul all of it to the dump." In other words she doesn't want any of it and who else would want it.

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  20. All here are listening, dear lady. We are feeling with you and for you. You are doing all of us a huge favor by opening your mind and heart to us. If we had never been told to enjoy the present while we have it, you have certainly brought that message home. We are all traveling the same road. It helps to be aware of what is around the bend, even though we face it with foreboding. I would so love to be able to give you a warm hug you could feel. Words fall so far short.........

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  21. Like English Rider said above, this is grieving. Yes, your Beloved is still alive, but he is not the man he used to be and you are grieving for what he once was, and what you were to each other.
    What you describe about starting something and then drifting away without any real sense of purpose is exactly how I felt when my husband died. The days immediately after his death, I drifted around in my flat, not knowing what I went into a room for, picking something up, starting to do something and leaving half way through. Also, I had trouble remembering numbers and my Mum had to give the undertaker my postcode and phone number when we were at their office.
    I hope having your son around for a while will ease some of the sadness and pain in your heart.

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  22. Dear Friko - sad to read, yet part of life for those who stay on at home. I guess I'd say don't rush, do a few interesting things, mull things over - which I'm sure you're doing anyway. There will certainly be people who will enjoy having some of your things - I'm sure there'd be people in Ludlow, who could guide you ... the Hospice is a good place, a quality music shop, and a reasonable antique shop ... all thoughts of places to look to ... perhaps a school ...

    I was thinking of you ... so am glad you've posted - and congratulations on the very happy 29 years and then perhaps something very personal with a couple of friends and/or family for the 30th ... with much love and many thoughts - Hilary

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  23. I have heard it said that it is not a good idea to rush into clearing things out or to make any big changes at all. If you can wait--wait. Because, like you said, right now it feels like nothing much really matters anymore so you might make decisions you'd regret down the line. I'm glad your son is coming. He might be good to bounce decisions off of if you value his opinion. Huge, huge shift. You really do need to take some me-time to let it all sink in, to relieve some of the constant stress, to give yourself time to grieve the loss of your former life and slowly adapt to this new one. The better it was, the harder the loss. You are lucky to have someone you loved fiercely and sweetly...and that he still knows you right now. Love and hugs!!

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  24. Just take your time....you have a lot of adjustment to do.

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  25. Very honest. I applaud you for that and for your forgiving all of us who share our experiences with this. The staff at the home have seen this thousands of times and try to help those who visit realize they must change their lives. There was a rather funny news story here with a message to elders, the them being nobody wants you precious junk. I gave away to the thrift shop a whole set of dishes and flatware a few months ago, as I was tired of having so many dishes in the house. It felt relieving. You can contact historic societies, museums, libraries to see if they want any of the stuff. They mostly do not, but you may have a treasure or two.

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  26. change comes whether we like it or not, whether we are ready or not. you needn't be in any hurry to clear things out. you're still adjusting, finding your sea legs. we all like to tell ourselves that we will be fine alone and I suppose we all will but it will take time to find a new routine, a friend to do things with. in the meantime, don't be too hard on yourself.

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  27. Be gentle on yourself . Don't beat yourself up, just do a little bit at a time or do nothing .Vinyl records can be worth something, they are back in fashion. I can just imagine how you feel. At our age we ar forced to make changes , that's why it is so difficult.

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  28. You are grieving. Please take things slowly and do be kind to yourself. Hugs!

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  29. Good Morning Friko,
    Sunny here near Vancouver BC but still cold - around 5C. I notice that my garlic is peeking through and the snowdrops are nodding their heads. I think spring may be around the corner!

    It is difficult to shed your history which is represented by so many of the collections you have gathered through the years.

    I found it was easier to give things away if I found the right place for them. For example older towels and sheets could go to an animal shelter, china to a consignment store, hotel toiletries to a homeless shelter. Small steps but helpful to clear the weight of decisions on the items you are uncertain how to handle.
    All the best.
    Regards Janine

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  30. thinking of you
    with gentle thoughts.
    some of us will have to go through this
    eventually.
    go slow, one day at a time...

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  31. It doesn't have to be done right now , unless it makes you feel more in control .
    The staff is right about visiting , you need to take the odd day off , before you become exhausted . But most important to remember ... there is no wrong or right .

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  32. Friko, I'm just catching up with your news. How stressful for you. Don't do too much clearing out of stuff just now. Your mind needs to adjust to the big change of your Beloved being out of your home. I'm glad you have Milllie. She demands her share of attention, and she's company for you. It doesn't seem as though your Beloved will know if you miss a few days between visits. You write from the heart - take care of yourself please. Hugs from CO.

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  33. Quite a huge change in your life. Be kind to yourself and don't rush anything.

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  34. Thinking of you, friend Friko .... me too is married to a much older man ... we took to traveling together
    and enjoy while we can ... but I know the day will come, when the bodies and/ or minds will fail. Am not looking
    forward to that. Thank you for sharing your thoughts as they are very valuable to me ... Love, cat.

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  35. I have no words. Your sorrow echoes in my heart and your words haunt my mind. Treasures suddenly become meaningless when the Treasure greater than all those other reminders of days gone forever is no longer a part of all that gave life such joy and meaning. Great grief can create such a feeling of "I must do something even if I don't know just what it is I must do." Living in limbo land is part of the process of grieving I have learned. Take care, dear Friko. Take life moment by moment.

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  36. I am very sorry. This is something mostly we women must face alone even when the ages aren't far
    apart and even when the illness is not dementia. My husband died and I moved three years later, so I'm familiar with decluttering. Ultimately it feels good to be rid of things you never use or enjoy, but take your time because I made a few mistakes, I wish I'd kept. Millie will be a great source of company for you. I feel for you.

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  37. Dear Friko - haven't visited your page for a while due to illness - so was devastated by your news - Limbo is such an apt title to this one - there is no easy way to get through Limbo - just plodding on one day at a time - but there will be an end and you will be able to look back and know you did your best for your Beloved and know that he will know that also. Take care of yourself

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  38. What you are feeling and experiencing is oh so typical.
    When we are in limbo the first inclination is to try to get out of it as soon as possible. I advise not trying.
    Painful as it is, be still. After awhile the fog will clear and you will know what direction you do for the first step. Good luck.

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  39. I have to echo the advice to not rid yourself of too much, too soon. It's not uncommon for people in your situation -- or those who have lost a partner in another way, such as divorce -- to want to get rid of the pain by getting rid of material things that hold memories.

    Unfortunately, it never works. Even worse, in the future, when such items could be a source of comfort and solace -- when they become warm reminders of the good times again -- they're gone. Do be careful.

    I think of you daily, and despite sometimes being a bit of a laggard in commenting, always look forward to your posts.

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