Pizza For One

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.

All I Have Lost

Grief seldom visits me anymore, but last night, I couldn’t keep the tears from falling. I thought I’d gone through all the firsts — first Christmas after Jeff died, first birthday, first everything. But there was one first I hadn’t expected.

I’d gone to a women’s club Christmas dinner, and it turns out that husbands were invited. In all the years since Jeff died, although I’ve often been in the company of married women, this was the first time I’ve been in a group with mostly couples. I had no idea that such a first would be a problem. But it was. Since the couples wanted to sit together, I got shunted toward the end of the table, between two husbands, both of whom were faced away from me.

I didn’t know any of the men at the dinner, barely knew the women, didn’t know any of the people they talked about, didn’t understand any of the local issues they discussed, so there I sat . . . alone. Toward the end of the evening, a couple of women made the effort to talk to me, so I was able to keep my tears in check, but as soon as I got home, I started crying.

I thought I was over this part, this feeling out of place in a coupled world. I’ve been spoiled in that most of my new friends are widows (or once were widows). There is no feeling of being a third wheel or fifth wheel or any sort of wheel when I’m with them, so the feeling of being superfluous hit me hard. I’m still feeling sad and unsettled. In a little over three months, it will be ten years that Jeff has been gone. It doesn’t seem possible that I’ve lasted this long. It doesn’t seem possible that I can still feel so bad and for such a silly reason.

I’ve been doing a good job of looking forward instead of back, of not lamenting all I’ve lost, but last night, it was simply too much. I wanted go out into the dark and scream about the unfairness of it all, wanted to wail, “But I didn’t do anything wrong.”

But death doesn’t care about fairness. Death doesn’t care about rightness or wrongness. Death came ten years ago, and sometimes, like last night, I can still feel the cold winds of grief it left behind.

Part of me feels as if I’ve been playing a game, playing house, playing at being sociable, and I was suddenly brought back to the reality of my aloneness. Luckily, there’s nothing I have to do today, so I can find my center again before I once more put on my smile and act as if this life is what I wanted all along.

Don’t get me wrong — it is a good life. But sometimes, oh sometimes, I can’t help but think of all I have lost.

***

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.