I came across a commenter somewhere who claimed that pizza for one is the loneliest meal, and I had to laugh. For that person, I’m sure the claim was true, otherwise they wouldn’t have thought it, let alone said it (unless they said it for effect), but it certainly isn’t true for me.
The loneliest meal I ever had was the Thanksgiving after Jeff died. I was at my dad’s house, hosting my brothers and their wives. My dad was at the head of the table, and I was at the foot, closest to the kitchen, so I could easily get up and fetch whatever people needed. It felt in so many ways that I wasn’t even there — I was still feeling removed from life because of grief, and I had been more or less forced into my deceased mother’s place. Perhaps my family thought they were being kind by having me sit at the foot of the table, but I felt more as if I were a stand-in for her than as if I — as myself — were present.
After dinner, my brothers and their wives left, two-by-two, and I stood there with my dad, watching them leave. My dad went to watch television, and I continued to stand there, completely immobile in my loneliness.
The second loneliest meal I ever ate was a Christmas dinner shortly after I moved to this town. I’d joined a women’s club, but that particular meal was for the husbands, too. I sat across from the woman who had invited me to join, but then someone came and said they needed to sit in my seat since it was easily accessible. So I moved down one space. Then the husband came, and they asked me to move down another space. Then another couple came and said they needed to sit by that couple. By the time everyone was seated, I was at the far side of the table, one husband next to me, with his back to me so he could talk to his wife, and one husband across from me, also turned away from me.
I didn’t really know any of those people, and up to that point, no one had said anything to me except to move down a space. I desperately wanted to leave, and I might have except that I had caught a ride, and it was too far for me to walk home in the dark. I tried to get involved in the discussions, but they were talking about people and things I had never heard of. So I sat there, totally ignored. (I quit that club. I figured if they weren’t interested in me, I certainly wasn’t interested in them. Luckily, this was the only truly bad social experience I’ve had since moving here.)
Next to these experiences, pizza for one is a treat. Actually, I eat pizza so seldom, perhaps once a year, that pizza really is a special treat. And anyway, I generally prefer eating by myself, accompanied only by a book, though I do occasionally have a meal with someone else. Yesterday, for example. Another widow and I have been getting together for Thanksgiving, not so much that she really wants a Thanksgiving dinner, but more for her (and me) to have an excuse to turn down invitations to other families’ meals (no matter how well-meaning and kind the people are, being a third wheel at a family feast is a very lonely experience).
Whatever the reason for us to get together, it was nice sharing a meal and the cooking. (I contributed the turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, she brought corn muffins, cranberry sauce, seasoned corn, roasted brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes with ginger, and desert. We both contributed a bottle of sparking apple juice.)
She goes away for Christmas, otherwise we’d probably get together then, too, but I’m just as happy spending the day by myself. I didn’t do anything last year that I remember, though this year I might treat myself to a special meal.
Pizza for one, perhaps.
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.