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.