EDITORIAL NOTE: Due to a technical glitch (read: Ronni screwed up), Peter Tibbles’ Elder Music column did not go out via email and rss feeds yesterday until evening. If you missed it, please do check in – it’s worth your time.
After accounting for 16 years of childhood, one six-year marriage and a four-year relationship – all of them long ago – I have lived alone for 45 of my 71 years.
I am good at living alone and I like it. Some others want people around much of the time but not me. I don’t believe I have been bored for a moment in my life. There are books and music and cooking and projects and exercise and movies and writing and friends and the internet and the cat and – sitting quietly. By myself.
The bigger problem is finding time for all the things I want to do, especially all the things that piled up during the 50-odd years I worked and had no time for them.
Plus, I can eat whatever and whenever I like without wondering if the other person will be happy with just soup tonight. And when I decide a pint of Haagen-Dazs will be dinner tonight instead, there is no one to chastise me.
I can slum around the house in my ugliest old sweats all day without brushing my hair. There is no one to see me while my denture soaks, or to notice my balding pate. I would hate that.
My home is arranged to suit my sensibilities. No compromises. No world’s ugliest chair because it’s his favorite; only my own. And no one with whom to grapple for the TV clicker. You can accuse me of selfishness about such things as these and you would be right. That’s okay; I don’t mind the label.
I can go out and decide not come home all day or even overnight without worrying that someone wonders where I am. And there is no one to offend if I’m feeling grumpy and don’t want to talk – or listen.
I realize that for people married a long time most of this is not a burden and that, probably, those who become widows and widowers have a terrible time adjusting to what is comfortable for me.
My house never feels empty because aside from serial cat companions, it always has been empty. That is as normal to me as sunrise and has pleased me for more than four decades.
Except, just recently, for fleeting moments now and then, it pops into my thoughts that it would be nice – more than in the four decades past – to have someone to love, someone besides me and the cat to care for day in and day out.
And that’s a hard truth about being old. Whether, like me, you’ve been single most of your life or are newly so, it is likely to remain as is for the rest of our lives.
It is in this situation (and some others that arise) when it is easier to see how strong and brave and resilient old people are – you and me and every elder. We keep on truckin’ whatever our circumstances and most people we meet never know what aches in our private hearts.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Marcy Belson: Higher Than a Kite