As I was leaving the house this morning to walk to the library (in nineteen-degree weather!) it suddenly struck me as strange that no one cares when I leave. No one cares when I get home. No one cares if I stay home or stay away. Obviously, I care, at least to an extent, but for the most part it doesn’t matter because wherever I am, there I am.
A lot of people care, not just about me but also that I am safe and well and that we can visit occasionally, but for the daily comings and goings? No one.
I’m surprised it took me this long to realize the strangeness of this situation, though it really shouldn’t have been a surprise. The first couple of months after Jeff died, being alone didn’t seem strange, just so very, very sad. I couldn’t stand coming home to an empty house, not because it was empty, but because I forgot it was empty. I’d unlock the door as always, ready with an “I’m home!” and then it would strike me . . . again . . . that he was gone, and full-on grief would slam into me.
For the next few years, I took care of my aged father, and when he was gone, I was so busy clearing out the house and getting it ready for sale that I didn’t really notice that no one cared whether I came or went. When the work was done, that huge house was so empty that I noticed the echoes but not much else. Also, by then, I was involved with dance classes, so my dad’s house was mostly a place to spend the night.
The years after I left my father’s house were spent traveling or renting rooms in other people’s houses, and I was blogging about my activities, so I didn’t notice that no one was around to pay attention to my comings and goings.
When I bought this house, it was such a new and wonderful experience — both owning a house and making a home in a new place — it didn’t really strike me that no one particularly cared about when I left the house.
But now, it’s been almost three years since I bought the house. Although the thrill and the feeling of being blessed isn’t gone, I am more aware of being alone. (Not lonely. Just aware of aloneness.) That awareness could be why I talk to Jeff’s picture, and why I tell the photo when I am leaving, but a photo doesn’t care.
Now, almost twelve years after his death and all the moves I’ve made and all the things I’ve done, I’ve suddenly realized how strange this living alone is. It’s nice, of course, being able to do what I want and go where I want without regard to anyone else. But it’s also . . . not sad, exactly, but . . . strange.
Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.