[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!]