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Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Alone at Last!

By Lyn Burnstine

In my first 17 years, my only time alone was spent outdoors, with an occasional retreat into the bedroom to read when I was home sick from school or my sister was outside gardening - an ardor I did not share with her. Still, she would sometimes bribe me or threaten me into helping her do yard work.

Our family was small - two parents, two daughters, one grandmother - but they were always home. Even my father worked at home in his photo studio ‘til I was nine, and since neither my mother nor grandmother drove, they never left the house unless we all went together.

At 17, I went away to college, living in a bustling dormitory where the temptations of an instantly available social life took a decided toll on my schoolwork and music practicing.

After two years, I married and not only was my husband around a lot (his work day was short), but a couple with whom we shared our rented house and, on week-ends, a motley collection of single buddies and couple friends. For a brief time during my first pregnancy, I did have some time alone during the days, although surrounded by coffee-klatching neighbors.

The universe decided for us that it would take 10 years to complete our family of three children. No one pointed out to us the fact that you’ll then have a child at home for at least 28 years! To further complicate matters, just as our youngest entered full-day first grade, his father spent six months at home with a leg injury.

The following year, our eldest talked the high school into allowing her to pioneer a semester of independent, AT HOME study during her senior year. Shortly after that, my husband and daughters left and I opened our house (and hearts) to - count them - 40 roomers over the next 12 years. (I retreated to my bedroom a lot during those years.) The headcount included both daughters, one nephew and my precious first grandson, all of whom came and stayed for varying periods of time.

I made some half-hearted investigations of communal living but finally, in 1984, when I was 51, I sold my house. I lovingly informed my son - then 20, with a job, a girlfriend and two-and-a-half years of college under his belt - that he would have to fend for himself as I could not afford a two-bedroom apartment.

Alone at last I discovered, to my amazement, that I did not suffer any empty nest syndrome - perhaps because I was the one moving and making a new life.

During those first years alone, while loving the solitude, I briefly entertained the possibility of a live-in or marriage arrangement. That, however, was during my last romantic liaison (and I use the word “last” in all its many meanings). When I moved to my present apartment, I began to introduce new visitors to “my final resting place.” I sealed my fate when I moved to this tiny senior apartment - I don’t even have room to hang anyone’s coat in my closet.

For every moment of loneliness - few and far between - there are thousands of moments of blissful solitude. On those rare occasions when I want company and my old friends and family aren’t available, I need only to walk down the hall to one of my many neighbor-friends in this close community. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Solitude is greatly underrated these days, but it's one of life's greatest treasures.

Lyn - Nicely written!

This sounds like one of your fellow performers, Audrey Hepburn, who once said, "I don't want to be alone, I want to be left alone." - Sandy

Your blissful solitude sounds enticing.May you be blessed with peace and joy the rest of your life.

I find it interesting that for most of your life you were surrounded by people and activities and were happy with that arrangement. Now that you are an elder and alone - that too is peaceful and comfortable for you. How nice it works out that way. Thanks for a story that points out the values of solitude.

I think the first necessity to living alone happily is to like your own company.

Thanks for all of your thoughtful comments.

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