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Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Times Do Change

By Brenda Verbeck Mortensen

In 1973 I entered my graduate program at Yale University. At that time I lived with my husband of almost 20 years, three children, two dogs and three cats; approximately a one-and-a-half-hour drive from New Haven, each way – door to door.

It didn’t matter which route I took. It was always one-and-one-half hours. So given that my husband’s place of work was six minutes from our house and the children’s ages then were 10, 12 and 16, I had arranged to stay overnight on Tuesdays.

I stayed with a young woman in my program who had a small apartment right off campus. This gave me a whole chunk of time to spend in the library which was open until midnight. I arranged my classes for Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

One Tuesday evening, my young friend was out of town. She left me her key and there I was, ALONE. Having been married at 18 and not having lived on my own prior to marriage, this was unique. I was stunned and delighted to realize that for the first time in my life, NO ONE knew exactly how I would be spending my time.

Even though I’d just be having a bite to eat and heading for the library, it was heady stuff. It was a wow! And I thought, “No one anywhere knows where I am and what I’m doing.”

Flash forward to yesterday, late afternoon. After driving across the state of Florida from Tampa to St. Augustine and unloading the car, I found a half empty and delightfully chilled bottle of sauvignon blanc in the refrigerator, poured myself a glass and planted me out in the lanai.

After my usual feeling of, “I need to call my mother and let her know I arrived safely,” had passed, (a continuing although irrational need given that she died several years ago), the lonliness descended.

I really do have a good life but despite a wonderful family, caring friends, keeping busy, traveling and being engaged in all manner of things, that empty chair, especially when I first walk in, is like a knife in my heart.

And truly, no matter how busy you are, if you are a widow or a widower and even though you enjoy solitude, you know that when all is said and done there are some very lonely moments.

And so I sat there feeling somewhat sad and guess what I was thinking? “No one anywhere knows where I am and what I’m doing.”

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

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


Wonderful writing as usual, Brenda. Yes, I have experienced both--I wrote about it on here in November 2011, in an essay called "Alone at Last." Even now after being alone so many years, I do have my moments--fortunately few and far between.I know you will heal--but at your own pace. You have had an awful lot of loss, as have I. That is part of why we care so much for each other.

Gosh Brenda that brought back memories - I married at twenty and stayed at home because my mother was an invalid - by the time she died I had a family so it was not until my marriage died (sounds silly to say but it had been a good one) - that I found myself alone - I remember driving home one night and thinking 'I could just keep driving - no one will know I didn't go home' - it was both an exhilarating and frightening thought. Everything in life is two-sided, something we learn with age - enjoy the good and endure the bad.Thank you for a thoughtful post.

Brenda - Nice story!

Now-a-days one just fires up the Ipad and posts on Facebook. So your whereabouts are established.

The modern generation is continually texting, poking, etc. so they never experience loneliness, and thus have never developed the critical coping mechanisms with which we deal with loneliness! - Sandy

That's an astute insight... took me back my youth!

Brenda, I enjoyed your story, it made me think about my life. I'm going to appreciate what I have.

I spent a week alone last month. I love my family, but truthfully after spending so much time picking up after them, doing everything for them, it was a nice chance to take it easy.

Until I was 18, I was under the eye and care of my parents. After that I was under orders to Uncle Sam for 4 years. It was time for me to be my own man and be responsible for myself answering to no one. I was looking forward to it. I'd be my own man and enjoy the freedom. But she had waited for me and was ready for a wedding band. I said I Do and I Will. It was probably best. I would have gotten into trouble.

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