What has changed, what is still the same after six years? I still live in the same house with very few changes. I have changed the white goods as age took it's toll on them so new refrigerator, new freezer, soon to be new washing machine. I drive the same car, but that too needs changing. I think the biggest changes have been forced on me by my own health problems and probably the ageing process. I know now I could never keep up with all the things I could fit into a day six years ago. And my mind is in a different place.
Two hundred and fifty people came to Ray's funeral and outside of my own friend group I have probably seen about forty others since. Surprisingly after five years I had a few of the cousins recontact. Maybe a few people suddenly remembered that I was their friend as well as their cousin's wife. I have made an effort to keep up with the cousins I was particularly fond, one of my sister-in-laws and an ex sister-in-law. So I have a reasonable selection of Ray's family to share memories with. For me that is important. I never wanted to wipe out the past just to build my own memories onto it. A widow has to become a person in her own right, no matter how hard it seems.
I didn't really want to leave the past behind as far as having been a caregiver so I still belong to a couple of stroke groups and keep up with the friendships I built up because of being a caregiver to my Mum and Ray. For instance I still go out with three other women whose mothers were in the Dementia Care Lodge at the same time as my Mum. Because Mum died two months after Ray their deaths will be forever linked in my mind. The other three share some of the same problems I do so we still have plenty to talk about.
Another thing that changed after Ray died was the family break up as all three of our children and their families moved away.The two boys divorced three years ago and so there are new partners and new patterns of living. I don't think Ray would have coped with that so I am glad it happened after he died. I can fly out to Broken Hill and sleep in my caravan and enjoy the heat and dust and pioneer country town, I am sure Ray would have found it hard to adapt to the really hot days especially with his eating and sleeping problems. But I love the rugged beauty of the place and put up with the heat on my summer visits.
The changes as we age are tough on all of us. I was hurrying down a long hospital corridor yesterday and realised the 20 and 30 year old were effortlessly overtaking me. Yes, not a good long distance walker these days. And like all those born in the '40s or earlier it takes me all day to do what I once did in a couple of hours. So I couldn't be looking after someone the way I once looked after Ray. We would be two older people who both needed looking after. At the moment I can look after myself but who knows how long that will last?
Am I content with the life I have now? Not really but it is a constantly evolving and changing time of my life. If I am able to live it one day at a time it goes better. So I have a tendency to take it slower now, be mindful of my limitations and more mindful of passing hours. I have certain routines and rituals and that keeps me in tune with my universe. Regular activities like those provided by the organisations I belong to like Lions and church provide some stability and job satisfaction. And I enjoy my social contacts too, I am lucky I have a range of pleasant people to associate with.
If no new adventures present I will just go on doing what I am doing now. Of course things will change year by year but I have survived six years widowhood and I guess can survive some more. I have made a reasonable life for myself. It is not what I planned, it just is what it is.