Having a bit of a cry tonight. I have home hosted three people over the last five weeks, my third cousin and her cousin on her mother's side (for two weeks) and his wife who stayed on. The two women spent a lot of time talking about their relationships, one with a husband the other with a partner of 20 years plus. It is hard to listen when I now have nothing to contribute to the conversation. Tonight it hit me that when they get on the plane and go back "home" to England on Friday when they land they will both have someone waiting for them. When I stepped in the door tonight the house was as usual empty.
I do have friends, well more a lot of pleasant acquaintances really, the sort who are pleased to see me, will stop at coffee shops for cups of coffee with me but then go back to their own lives. I can count on one or two to visit me occasionally or phone me but that is all. It was always this way when I was married, at first we had couple friends, then family friends and before Ray's strokes one or two couples we saw on a regular basis. The kids when teenagers brought their friends home so we sometimes had a house full. Ray had his first stroke when our youngest was fifteen so that was one of the points where life altered. No more parties or BBQs, we still did a little entertaining but not as we had done on the previous scale. I can't say I missed it that much, I was far too busy at the time, but as the slide came, strokes, TIAs, then dementia, fits and seizures that ended so many of our relationships.
If you saw me down the street or at a meeting you would think I really had my act together, that I am over it, moving on nicely. But it isn't so. My life is like a dress cobbled together with temporary stitches and sometimes I feel a break in the cotton and I have to mend it again. The break at present is an old one, 17th March, St Patrick's Day, was my Dad's birthday, he died in January 2000. I didn't have time to mourn him as I was looking after my Mum with Dementia and my husband who had just got out of hospital whee he had been for 4 1/2 months after two major strokes. I remember it was May that year before I had time to start to mourn him. I was sitting on a beach in Queensland where we had gone for a week's holiday and suddenly it hit me, no more taking home a present for Dad, he was gone and I cried and cried. I cried tonight, not only for Dad but for Mum and Ray and all the important people in my life who have gone, never to return.
Do you ever get over this sadness, this wanting them back, this wanting to change the ending? I have new friends, those I have met since the strokes and Ray's death. I have different people I see regularly, a man I have lunch with once a month, another I have morning tea regularly with but neither really contacts me in between and it is always me that makes the arrangements. I do have women friends and colleagues from church and the other organisations I belong to. I am not playing "Little orphan Annie" here and know many who read this will be the same, still not really having a new life. They are dressed in garments just like mine with a few stitches coming loose. And if that is where you are up to in the grief journey that has to be okay. I have acceptance in a lot of areas now but relationships is not one of them.
I want to renew old friendships that I thought dropped off because of Ray's illness, but after a few attempts I am not so sure that was the only reason as maybe being caregiver changed me a lot too. I know it would be better to make some new friends or pleasant acquaintances but do not have the years to invest in them that I once did. I recently posted a picture on Face Book that says: "You don't know the new me; I put the pieces together differently" and I think that sums my life up really. I am different to what I used to be. if you liked the person I was twenty 25 years ago I am not her now. I am slower to judge, quicker to jump in and try to help, older, maybe wiser, certainly still as loving and kind but in a different way. I have seen way too much sorrow to be light hearted now. I don't gossip as I know that leads to pain and heart ache. And there is enough of that in the world already.
So onwards as usual. No time to sit on the pity pot for too long. What is done is done. I have to make adjustments and go on. But it is hard putting on a bright face when women are moaning about their husbands and I want to say : "Lucky you, you have one."