Guest Blogger 2007: Ellen Lee
Guest Blogger 2007: Marian Van Eyk McCain

Guest Blogger 2007: Deejay

[EDITORIAL NOTE: While I am away, several excellent elderbloggers agreed to fill in for me as guest bloggers.

Deejay, who blogs at Small Beer, is here today with a story titled Man Alone. Please make him welcome with lots of comments and visit his blog too.


There are many music albums I count among my personal favorites. One of these is A Man Alone, a 1969 concept album recorded by Frank Sinatra and written especially for him by poet-songwriter Rod McKuen.

A curious amalgam of songs (some of which were really tone poems) and spoken narrative, the album was not a commercial success. The theme running through it are the reflections of an aging single man looking back on his past loves, lost loves, and life's little irritants that taken individually are minor, but cumulatively can be destructive:

I sometimes wonder why people make promises they never intend to keep.
Not in big things, like love or elections, but in the things that count -
The newspaper boy who says he will save an extra paper ... and doesn't.
The laundry that tells you your suit will be ready on Thursday - and it isn't

While A Man Alone has grown in personal significance for me with time's passing, the nature of that significance has changed. When I was younger, it was a melancholy companion when I would be drowning my sorrows in a glass of something potent following the breakup of what I had believed was the Love of My Life (I had many such - in fact, at one time or another I guess they all were).

My stepfather was a traditionalist when it came to male and female roles. While he gladly indulged my mother's every desire, he never allowed her to have a paid job, for he felt having a working wife reflected badly on a man.

Dad once told her he worried about my seeming inability to maintain a relationship because, "When he gets old he'll need a woman to take care of him." I never quite understood that; I guess it was a generational thing. In fact, most of my past involvements seemed to work the other way around: I usually fell for very independent careerists for whom a man might be a desirable accessory, but definitely an optional one.

I was 60 when my last relationship ended, but somewhat to my surprise my life didn't follow its usual post-breakup pattern of wallowing in alcohol and self-pity.

Instead, I began making plans for what I concluded would be permanent bachelorhood. Did I want to continue working? (No.) Could I afford to retire? (Yes.) That settled, the next step was to decide where to retire.

I decided to stay where I am, except for moving from a large house in the suburbs to a condo apartment in the city, where nearly all of my life's necessities are nearby, often within walking distance. I also began laying out a life pattern centered around being A Man Alone.

I have always liked to cook, so I spread the word among relatives that when they might be seeking gift suggestions, remember that kitchenware, small appliances and cookbooks were always welcome. I told the building managers that unless I had told them I was going away, they had my blanket permission to enter my unit when there were telltale signs something might be amiss: mailbox full, no one had seen me around in a while, newspapers piling up at my front door, etc. (I get most of my news from TV and the Internet, but I subscribe to the local paper anyway, as a cheap form of insurance.)

Also, at her suggestion, I send an e-mail every morning to my daughter in another part of the country..

I have a feeling of security, and something I read years ago has proven to be true: the older you get, the less frightening the prospect of being alone becomes. And that's just as well, for in my latter-life bachelorhood I have acquired some bad habits that would probably make me anathema to a lady: I eat in front of the TV, drink milk straight from the carton, and – probably worst of all – have fallen back into the habit of leaving the seat up.

A Man Alone remains one my favorite albums, but while I had earlier thought that my theme song from it would be:

In me, you see a man alone
Drinking up Sundays and spending them alone
A man who knows that love's not always what it seems
Only other people's dreams

Another song from that album has taken its place:

I have been a rover
I have walked alone
Hiked a hundred highways
Never found a home
Still in all I'm happy
The reason is, you see
Once in a while along the way
Love's been good to me

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ronni Prior recalls a high school contest probably more clearly than she cares to in a story titled, Reach For The Top!]

Comments

Deejay, I can really identify with what you have written here. It's really a wonderful commentary.

Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There was a time when I was young when I could identify with this sentiment. Maybe I could again. But I'm glad i have a partner in life now.

What a beautiful and moving post.

I have always been a Sinatra fan and could just hear him singing those lyrics. Am familiar with the songs you mentioned but never heard of that album.

I could idenify with a lot that you said because I was single for a long time, was married and am alone now.


I love living alone! Maybe it's a reaction to living with an abusive alcoholic for 2 decades, but I truly love being able to do what, when, how, and why I want to. Up til 4 a.m. catching up on blog posts? Every dish in the house dirty? Every scrap of clothing dirty and in piles on the floor? So what? I feel freer than I have since childhood. No one else's expectations (except bosses, which I hope will soon go away), and no expecting anything in return. Quite liberating.

Not quite spinsterhood, I do get out and about, but whatever the feminine equivalent of bachelor may be. Let's make up a new word.

Thanks, Deejay, for affirming the good life lived alone. Now, Sinatra, never cared for him much, but he used the best material, for sure.

I've enjoyed Sinatra's singing as he became older. I've heard recordings of him singing some of these songs. He does leave the impression he is emotionally infusing his life experience into his delivery which is what has made his voice attractive to me.

Glad you've evolved into enjoying your life alone. So much better than always seeking another I think. I have no difficulty sharing the house with just myself and have always welcomed some time alone.

Hmmm. A life centered around lyrics from the album, A Man Alone. Hmmm. Upon what song's lyrics would I say my life is centered?
Probably in the early days (pre-kids) it was "Rollin Down the River." Then (kids) it may have been "I Will Survive." Now (after a decade of paying college tuition and within one semester of paying the last) I find myself humming the lyrics to "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!"
Anyone know of an album with all three of those melodies?

Like Kay, I can identify with your post. My husband died nearly 23 years ago and I have lived alone ever since. It is, indeed, liberating; I do what I want when I want.

Sinatra didn't have a powerful voice, but he sang with an emotion that speaks to the listener. I always loved his renditions. I often sing his "My Way" because the lyrics become my lyrics.

My initials are DJC and I use deejaycee as a sign in name on some accounts. Maybe we have a conflict because sometimes when I try using that I find it's already taken. Are you the culprit? (Just kidding).

I, too, can relate. I was happily married for more than 30 years, but after my husband died, I began to enjoy the freedom to do anything I wanted again (I'd lived "single" before). I moved to a condo, traveled to China and elsewhere, and most important, became a writer. I always had a career and never was any good at housework or cooking (I hired a cleaning service, and my husband learned to cook), and I have no nursing skills, so why would any man my age (over 70) want me? I'm doing just fine alone, thank you.

Marlys (Seniorwriter)
Woman Alone

Thank you for sharing this, DeeJay!

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