Sunday, 24 September 2017

Afterwards - 4th and final part

I am settling into my new life, strange though that is. I rarely cry. I am often very sad, lonely and still lost, but the raw emotion is lessening. I don’t suppose I will ever stop missing Beloved. I still speak to him, still ask what he was thinking of when he decided to leave.  Old and lonely people supposedly speak to themselves; yes, I can confirm that. I pretend it’s Millie I’m talking to but really it’s me. My conversations with myself are by no means interesting, for the most part they are questions like ‘now where did I put that key,’ or 'what did I come in here for’. So far I haven’t fallen prey to doing that in public, like a mad old woman mumbling to herself, the kind that carries a huge, shabby bag around with her. Today there was a charity concert in the Church towards the installation of loos in the annexe which included the sale of raffle tickets as well as the modest entrance fee. I paid for entrance, bought my raffle ticket and promptly forgot where I’d put it. When the raffle was held at the 'tea and cakes included’  bit in the Church hall afterwards I frantically rummaged through every single pocket asking out loud where the ticket could have disappeared to in the space of a mere hour.  My table neighbours, being understanding and forgiving, simply found that funny.

I noticed that it was dark outside at 8 pm. I dread the coming winter evenings. I’ve never felt happy during the dark months, I fear that I shall feel even more unhappy on my own this winter. Books and TV are a great help but I must try and connect more with other people. If only I were a joiner. Valley’s End has endless societies, clubs and organisations, very few of them appeal to me. I suppose I could join the more interesting ones, the wildlife and local history groups? Rejoin the gardening club? And write about them and their members? If I could get back into my slightly acid mode of writing? Would that help?

It’s very difficult to change direction midstream. It is also very difficult to change attitude. One evening not long ago I had a special supper, opened a bottle of wine, and put my feet up in front of the TV. There was a programme on I had been looking forward to all day. I sat in Beloved’s very comfortable chair, leaned back and felt strangely happy. Here was an evening which was all mine, to do with as I pleased. All evenings have been free like that for months now, why should I feel particularly happy on this particular evening? Then it came to me. I was unencumbered, not answerable to anyone, with the house exactly as I wanted it.

On two separate occasions recently I had had family staying. My son had come to help out, drive me places, assist with various tasks around the house, none very arduous but necessary. He had brought his wife along. Those two tend to spread themselves and their belongings, leaving things out overnight and carrying on the next day where they left off the evening before. Their conversation is very limited. They are Seventh-day Adventists whose world revolves around their Church, almost to the exclusion of all else.

None of that is blame-worthy. True, I don’t share their beliefs, but we all have our own way of getting through life.

I have mentioned here before that my daughter and I have been estranged for many years. We exchange birthday and Christmas cards which has been the sum total of our contact. I felt I needed to send her an email asking whether she wanted to be involved in what is called my ‘end of life’ arrangements. I also wanted to ask her the Big Question, would she be willing to help me to achieve a dignified end if the need arose. One can ask these questions and make these arrangements when there is no immediate need, when one is fit mentally and physically. I am now on my own, without any close confidante or family, no friends I would wish to burden with undue responsibilities.

I had assumed that my daughter would reply yes or no, and that further contact would continue by email. But no, she wrote to say that she would come and we could discuss things in person. I was very pleased if a little apprehensive.

In the event the visit went reasonably well;  my daughter spent a lot of time recalling the many hurts she had received during her childhood as well as her marriage to her previous husband. I hope it helped, it is always good to clear the air and dispose of burdens and grievances one has carried around for years. I hope that future contact will gradually improve; we have actually exchanged very friendly and chatty emails.

But, and here I get back to my strangely happy evening: neither visit had been emotionally uplifting for me. There had been some stress involved, even if only because of my slight OCD tendency on the one hand and apprehension about possible points of friction on the other. Perhaps I was asking too much, perhaps I was wishing for genuine warmth, less of the dutiful attitude, more of the “you’re not such a bad old stick, we like doing things for you now that we’re the do-ers and you’re the being done-to”.

Howsoever that may be, I realise that my attitude all-round will have to change, from grumpiness at not getting what I had hoped for to expecting nothing, accepting gracefully what is given and otherwise enjoying my freedom, my independence and the years ahead.

Wise words, here’s hoping I will turn them into deeds. And that there will be more of those strangely happy evenings.


  1. I am so pleased to read that the first steps to a new relationship with your daughter are underway.
    And hope that strangely happy becomes your new norm.
    Good luck on the joining front too - something I find very, very hard.

  2. Will this be the final part of your blogs about life afterwards? I hope not. Families are strange things, estranged we may be but never true strangers. Yet sometimes they appear to be more strange than strangers. One thing is for sure - we don't have a choice and they are part of who we are. It is something we must learn to live with. Do keep blogging....It is always a very rewarding and enjoyable one.

  3. Grumpiness and loneliness and peeps saying: U should be over this by now ... and church meetings stirring things up if u so desire, friend Friko ... but don't count on of this 2 help you out much, okay? ... Because it's You that counts in Your life ... grief, disbelieve, anger, denial, acceptance do not come in ant given sequence and then it's over with ... hallelujah peace and all that ... I f you have not cried much by now ... mark my words ... you will at some point break down and cry, because of a seemingly minor random sight or thing or smell ... like a stain on the shirt of some man or a late autumn rose trying to out run winter ... and after experiencing, that you will feel peace ... Love, cat.

  4. Strangely happy is a good thing as is your daughter's return. A person must feel what they feel and there is not often a choice, but you had a good day and will have more. I can always learn from others and especially you, so thank you for sharing the things that you do.

  5. Those sound like wise words to me too, if a bit too resigned....but, like you said, we all have our ways of getting through life. I hope you and your daughter can patch things up. My mom and I are somewhat estranged too. It hurts.

  6. That events of a slightly positive nature are coming back is good to read. I have folloerd you for ages and am always impressed with your ability to inform your readers with things that ho;d them to you, fans. I am one. I look forward to every post and hope you will continue.
    Last week I had to journey to Hannover and I suspect it may be my last ever. It was a bittersweet trip.
    And I am happy that Merkel made it today for another term. What do you think about that?

  7. When those moments of happiness come -- as they will, increasingly -- simply accept those strangely happy days and nights for what they are: gifts. Find what gives you pleasure, and then do it -- no matter what others may say. It may take some experimenting to find those things that bring comfort and ease, but it's important for you to find them for yourself, and not to take other's prescriptions for your own.

    I say all that so easily, I suppose it could sound like a bromide. But I'm a bit of a strange duck myself, and I know, for example, that some of my hyper-social friends think my taste for solitude is weird or pathological. It isn't, of course. It's just that many of the things that give me the most pleasure tend to be solitary pursuits -- and I won't give them up to fit in anyone's mold.

    So there! You know who you are, and what you need. Don't be afraid to claim it.

  8. You are sounding more positive. I think it would be the day to day trivial conversation with my partner that I would miss the most. Just walking in the door and having someone to say to, its freezing outside. Did you check the mail? I saw such and such in the lift today, so they haven't moved.

  9. I wish you more happy evenings and happier days. Your adult children are doing the best they can, so you all have that in common. I hope you find things that ease and give you some happiness even if they are solitary.

  10. I hope you have more relaxing happy evenings! I do hope your sense of humor comes back too:)

  11. Although I am not exactly old at 49 1/2 years, and definitely not lonely, I sometimes talk to myself. When my cat was still alive, of course it was her I was talking to, but now there is nobody but me in this flat most of the time, and I remind myself of something I meant to do or give myself a little scolding for doing something daft such as dropping the knife while cutting bread.

    I know what you mean about the long dark winter nights; I am not looking forward to them, either. I can dress against the cold and take an umbrella when it rains, but with the darkness, all I can do is try to catch at least some daylight every day and retreat to my warm rooms when it gets dark.

    Your son and daughter-in-law should be a little more considerate when they are house guests. Spreading one's things beyond the guest room is a totally no-go for me. Even when I am at O.K.'s, I try to be as minimally invasive as possible, keeping my stuff to the side of the bed that is "mine", and my bathroom things in my toiletry bag in the bathroom.

  12. My mother asked me recently, over the phone, if I would be responsible for 'pulling the plug', as it were, when & if the time came. I said I would, we chatted briefly & that was that. We're not exactly estranged, but we're not terribly close either. It's a tough talk to have, I should think, made all the more uncomfortable by the loss of your beloved.

  13. Hi Friko - well that was brave to have contact with your two children ... I'm glad they came and I can understand the limitations re your son, while your daughter I hope can develop a more positive take on life as it's easier to deal with, even if underneath she feels hard done by - we can't turn the clock back ... so to face the world positively helps.

    So pleased you had your lovely comfortable evening with your wine, some good tv and Millie by your feet. Perhaps attending a few of the local events during the coming months will help the winter pass more easily ... by the middle of January I've had enough ... but the light is starting to return.

    Please don't stop your posts here and that acerbic wit is a delight to read. All the best - cheers ... Hilary

  14. Oh dear . You've now hit the "If you're unhappy , you should do something about it " phase .
    People don't mean to be unkind , they forget that grief is draining and doesn't always stop on schedule .
    And as for talking to yourself , why not ? You're just as interesting as everyone else you'll meet today ...

  15. You are in charge of your future. What you choose will probably be difficult but It is your life to make. Time goes by quickly, do what makes you comfortable. The road less traveled awaits you.

  16. well, I talk to myself, always have. I call it thinking out loud. it is good to read of your progress, the finding of yourself and your new normal. I agree with shoreacres.

  17. I hear you loud and clear though my estranged daughter has not made contact. I cherish evenings such as you describe. For instance, my overnight tourists just left. They are the last tourists I will host and I felt enormously and immediately free.

    I relate to you on so many levels.


  18. I read your post with great interest. I hope you continue with your blog and sharing your life. I am glad your are reconnected with your daughter.

  19. Such great progress in this new stage - how brave to contact your daughter and great that she responded - it takes time to reconnect on a more loving level - enjoy your sense of freedom and acceptance.

  20. Again I am deeply grateful to you for sharing so honestly. I adore you and feel that very deeply. After moving to N. Calif from Hawaii, I too was saddened by the long dark. Consider getting a Light Treatment Box as I did on Amazon. It helps. now I'm wondering when to begin it this year. I wish you all the comforts your deserve.

  21. Strangely happy is a good thing. Surface relationships with family are better than none at all. No one will ever feel as close as Beloved, but surface is okay. Do whatever makes you happy. Period. :) :)

  22. After my father died, Mom spent hours each day talking to him. Sometimes she yelled at him, other times she recalled things they had done together. She talked to herself, too. "Now where did I put the keys?"
    You are loved, have been loved, and will always be loved.

  23. Here's to your moments of being "strangely happy"!

  24. I hope that the 'strangely happy' moments become 'frequently happy moments.' Take them as they come, unbidden, like gifts.

  25. thank you for this your broadcast provided bright clear concept..

  26. want to say comforting words
    and difficult to fin.
    all your going through takes time, my time different but 40 years of being alone and
    sometimes one daughter brings up 50 years ago. oh my, I have learned to just let them vent and I make no comments. we do the best we can wherever we are at that stage of life. Your life will go on and a lot will heal with a scar and some may never.
    I am 82 with 40 years solo with wonderful educated children and grand children.
    much they do not understand and now it does not matter. most does not matter at this time. I like not being a joiner, like my company, something good to eat, glass of wine, music I like, my garden, books and little dog, trips to the market and I am content. do not like like crippling arthritis that is escalating - I want to move
    faster. if I could I would hug you. Just be you, takes a while to find out who we are. I finally like me and accept me - does not matter about anyone else )

  27. My father used to say that if you talked to yourself at least you would get a sensible answer....
    I cannot say that my mother is my best friend...or anywhere near it...but we have come to an accommodation over the years that makes communication possible, so at least your daughter has opened the door....
    Best of luck, dear Ursula, from another non joiner...

  28. An evening like the one you describe is one to savor, and it's a puzzle, even at the best of times, how simple it seems to achieve yet how elusive. Your description of less than fulfilling interactions struck a chord. I've been trying to do my bit locally here (very local, town elections) after living here 10 years and ignoring everything about the place (except the pretty surroundings) and getting down to NYC as often as I could. Now I'm up to my neck in interactions with local people, very good people too, I might add, and interesting to get to know. Yet one afternoon, as I was waiting for volunteer canvassers to arrive to be set up knocking doors, I took out my kindle and read an essay by the poet Susan Howe on the subject of Wallace Stevens. It was the most peaceful, enjoyable moment I'd had in days, and it would have struck everyone I've been meeting as utterly strange. Fond wishes from both of us to you, and Millie too.

  29. I am so very grateful that you had your "Happy Evening," quiet and peaceful in the way you so needed it to be. I hope it is the first of many. And grateful, too, that you and your daughter have reconciled. Those reconciliations can be very tough -- I'm glad the ice has been broken and I hope that now that the grievances are aired you two can move forward.

    I laughed about you and the ticket. Don't think you're alone -- I do that more often than I'd like and I think I'm a little younger than you. (I also mutter to myself, in public and private, but then I was an only child. I grew up with imaginary friends. And a pet.) I've been looking ever since I cleaned the house for book club for a get well card I painted -- a portrait of the ill cat of a blog friend. (And two paintings of Quebec, one of which was a real pain int he butt to do.) I'll find it someday, but it was faster to do a new portrait.

    Sometimes it happens.

    I hope you find the right group to join -- or start one of your own. How about Wednesday Wine with Friko? A different wine or two each week and some good conversation. (Have people contribute!) Might be a silly idea but there are loads that aren't and you'll find it all in good time.

  30. Thank you so much for your blog. I appreciate your frankness, your sincerity, your sharing of your thoughts as you navigate through troublesome times. Many of us have already, or will in the future, be dealing with similar circumstances. Your words help the rest of us. May you find peace and a measure of happiness on the road forward.

  31. I think about those things that you are dealing with often. I dread and worry about the day I will have all to myself in this house alone, but then I think that like you, I too would be happy to sit in the comfortable chair with a glass of wine in my hand thinking that the house is either just how I left it or at least how I want it. We must make the most of what we have, but I just do not want to be alone all the time as I have seen my mother choose that route. She seems perfectly happy, but I would not be.

    I'm glad you were able to have a degree of resolution with your daughter. I admire your take charge attitude. You had some risk involved when you wrote. I admire that you were open and honest in asking just what role she wanted to play.

    I lose things all the time in my silly purse that has too many pockets. My head just isn't always in the game. If we have friends that laugh with us, that makes the different.


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