I'm crying again, okay I watched a sad movie but that is not why I am crying. I guess the movie had elements of what my life has - loneliness, having to make decisions alone, rebuilding a life alone. That is what being a widow or a widower is about: rebuilding your world on your own. Of course I have a family, children and their partners, grandchildren but a lot of the time they seem remote, busy living their own lives, so I am still struggling to learn to live mine and I am still doing that as best I can. It is just that some days it seems too hard, too lonely, too isolated. I live in a busy neighbourhood and winter is approaching and I know that soon the curtains will be drawn, the doors will be closed and the nights will be longer and darker and that is when the feelings of being alone increase.
A lot of my neighbours have young families, I don't, all my children are in their forties. My neighbours are good people but they live in a different world, a world with a family, a job, a house to pay off etc. All of them are in that generation that talk about having their own lives to live. I don't come from the same generation, my life was about family, my Mum and Dad, my in-laws, my husband, my children, I gave up working to raise our family and support my husband who had a job where he was on call so me continuing to work would have been impossible. We still talked about "duty" when I was growing up, including our duty to God and to our neighbour. That puts me in a very small category in this day and age.
I actually went back to work when our youngest was in High School. My life still revolved around what was good for them, how I could be a better wife, mother, citizen. Before I started working I did community work because that is what stay-at-home mothers did. It is strange looking back there and realising that we gave up so much for our families. It seemed so important back then. The part time work I did paid next to nothing but I still felt it was a contribution to the household but had to still do everything else. We still thought in terms of a "woman's place is in the home", of course it was a false picture as women had always had to work if they were single or had a husband that could not support them. I just took it for granted that it was true.
Working outside the home expanded my universe, so did joining Lifeline a telephone counselling service where I could do my shifts plus be a group trainer while I worked as a Tupperware demonstrator. I gave both up after my husband had his first stroke and I went back to a technical college to improve my work skills. I knew I needed to be employable in case I had to take over as the breadwinner. I became a public servant, my husband had a 8am - 4pm job by now so it all worked well. We were both home weekends and to outward appearances we still worked as a team though massive fatigue syndrome from his first stroke meant he spent a lot of the weekend sleeping. In the next eight years two of our children got married and when Ray had the major strokes in 1999 our daughter announced she was pregnant, giving us both something to look forward to - our first grandchild. I gave up my job to look after Ray so to a certain extent I went back to being a stay-at-home, this time as a full time caregiver.
I was reflecting on that tonight, how life goes in circles, from looking after kids to looking after an invalid husband in my case. I wish I could see the pattern, the pluses and minuses, the good things that came out of it as well as the bad, including the final outcome, his death in September 2012.
What is it about Sundays nights? Why at the end of the weekend do I think about taking up of the burden of the week whether as a worker or a volunteer. Reflecting on that makes me think hard about what I am doing with my life. I ask myself what my life is all about now, where am I going with my life? The answer is really just going on from day to day, hoping that what I am doing is what I am meant to do. Hoping that my interaction with others, in my work for the church as a pastoral care worker and in the community in other capacities is beneficial to those I encounter. Unfortunately there is no way of measuring that. I wish I could be given a score of 8 out of ten for a good visit and an extra star for effort. Any kind of reward would make a difference.
As part of today's sermon the preacher mentioned that for young people in prison it is very popular to be trained to bake bread. It is a job that is hands on and very strenuous but at the end, in a relatively short time, there is a reward, trays of fresh loaves of bread. I can relate to that, working for a good outcome. I wish my life was like that. Imagine turning out fresh people with a brighter attitude towards life, even a happy smile on a face that had not smiled in a while. If I am lucky some nurse will tell me I make a difference when I visit or she was glad to see someone I am visiting smile or laugh or just seem a little more responsive. I know I should do this good work expecting no reward but I am human and I do want to be thanked for what I do, not all the time but occasionally. I do want to think that what I do means something.
And that is the downside of the widowed life for me, there is no-one to debrief with, no-one to tell me I did good, no-one to give me a hug or a smile or make me feel special in some way. And that is why I was crying, Hallmark movies may have a happy ending but real life does not always have that.