At a gathering of friends some years ago, each of us described our dream vacation. I spoke of a rustic cabin on a lake in Alaska. I’d have come by float plane with a summer’s worth of food, books and a computer I could power with solar energy. I’d be there alone and write all summer. “Aha!” declared Doug, “You’re a closet recluse.”
I accepted that judgment. Although I knew I’d never be able to actually live my dream, it lurked through the years as I tried to make time to do some serious writing. I certainly didn’t want to leave forever. But I thought it would be wonderful to be alone for a little while (bears were not part of the dream).
Then Gary spent Christmas Day until Tuesday in Lakeview Hospital. I hung out with him most of the day, then came home to my empty house. It seemed huge. The Christmas decorations that had seemed cheerful and festive were meaningless. I could do whatever I wanted, so I went on Face Book. And stuff. I went to bed before my usual hour without having to consult another soul.
Somewhere between that years-ago dream of suiting myself, I’ve lost the verve for it. Yes, I’d like to work on my novels, but spending the cold winter evenings reading before the fire, I toasting in my chair, Gary in his lounger, becomes more attractive–maybe only habitual, maybe age, maybe just fifty-three years together. But we are going everywhere together, even to the doctor–especially to the doctor because I have to know what’s going on with him.
I have thought that I would just be fine as a widow, since I am very self-sufficient and have a busy life. But maybe not anymore. How did I get so attached this way? Surely we really are not “joined at the hip.” We are still very different personalities. But I quote Gary and often know what he thinks before he says it. I’m including a sonnet I wrote probably 30 years ago. How much of it is still true? It’s easy to think of widowhood when you are in the prime of life, but it’s different when you’re approaching your eighties and, yup, maybe “joined at the hip.”
I Will One Day Be a Widow, Love
I will one day be a widow, love;
Statistics cast that solitary role.
A wind will catch your reaching boughs and shove,
Ripping entwined roots from our shared soil.
From sharpest winds I shelter in your lee
And drink the rain that slides from your cupped leaves,
Yet your trunk’s strength is doubled beside me;
Your pollen turns eternal in my seeds.
Not like the twining ivy, borrowing height,
That heaps upon the ground with the tree’s fall,
When your support is gone, I’ll still use light
And sway with circling seedlings and grow tall.
I’ll branch the gap and find the seasons sweet,
But miss you, miss you, never quite complete.
By Penelope Moody Allen. PMA