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.