Aloneness

Each time I leave my mother’s home, I feel keenly that it could easily be the last time I ever see her. She is turning 92 and in relatively good health but she is turning 92 and is frail as one is at that age. It is a subdued kind of sadness as the inevitable approaches.

Each time I leave my mother's home, I feel keenly that it could easily be the last time I ever see her. She is turning 92 and in relatively good health but she is turning 92 and is frail as one is at that age. It is a subdued kind of… Click To Tweet

My father has been gone quite a few years and I miss him still although he wasn’t much of a dad; he was interesting though, and taught me to appreciate tools and their use. But as usual I digress.

When they are both gone it will seem odd, and we are a very small family. So I have been reflecting on this special kind of aloneness. If the world turns the right way, it will happen to us all; children are meant to bury their parents. While we will always miss them, it is the natural order of things and doesn’t feel wrong; life fills the spaces. And we, the children, are meant to become those that we have buried. Parents fervently pray never to have to bury a child, it is unnatural and a kind of aloneness that cannot ever be remediated.

And as I was leaving my mother’s home most recently, for the maybe last time, I learned that my son and his fiancee, who have lived with me for quite some time, will be gone in a matter of days. I was married for roughly twenty seven years, I have been single for roughly three and one half years, during all of that time my son has lived with me. My son’s dog has lived with us. And of late, my son’s fiancee. I have not lived in an empty house for approximately 30 years and it is odd; not necessarily bad – just odd.

Having retired about eight months ago, and just now settled into not travelling, I am at home during the day for the first time in fifty years. My life seems slightly alien, as if it is really someone else’s life and I am just playing at living it. The house is silent now if I don’t play music or turn on the TV. I have become extremely aware of small sounds like the icemaker, the dishwasher and the cat wheezing softly in his sleep.

This all sounds rather pathetic and sad but really, my life is full of people and things to do. I teach, I sing, I write, I deal with my mother’s business, I listen to people talk on the phone, I go to lunch, I take care of my home. Etcetera. I have a full and beautiful life, I am just not used to what it feels like now. But I am moving into my own life, a day at a time. This is aloneness that has remedies. And my son calls.

Home ~ What Is

There are many, many versions of “what is home”.  It is where you hang your hat; where your heart is; where your dog is; where they have to take you in (thank you Robert Frost). And so on and so forth.  If you were to google quotes for “home”, I am sure there would be a whole lot of them.  But what is it really, beyond the trite cliches; whatever seed of truth they may have.

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I recently had a taste of what a truly empty nest would be when my college student son, who is getting ready to leave home for good, was gone for about ten days.  The background here is that I separated/divorced about two and a half years ago, after roughly twenty seven years.  At that time my son had come back home to finish college after having left for two or so years.  His presence was and has been a blessing as I have travelled through this weird and unexpected transition.  But when he was gone for those ten days, the emptiness of my home struck me, hard.

As I worked through the feelings I realized that home, for a long time was the place I created for others.  Now mind you I am a nestbuilder, having lived almost nowhere for more than five years in my entire life, but that is an analysis for another time.  For twenty five years give or take, home is the place I created for my son, for my husband, for a family.  Now the son is leaving (and taking the dog), the husband is gone.  So home has to be what I create for myself.

Home is about habits and routines.  And for just me, the habits and routines are very different than they were for family.  I eat at different times, I sleep at different times, I do laundry at different times, I grocery shop at different times.  My life is no longer circumscribed by family life, only by work and my own wants and needs.

But that realization wasn’t immediate.  What was immediate was the awful feeling of coming home, for the first time in almost 30 years, to a dark and empty house.  No other car in the drive, the outside lights not on to welcome me home, no dog wagging a stump so happy to see me, no other living soul.  The house had a very different feel despite the fact that I have lived here longer than anywhere ever and it is very familiar.  I cried.  Not sure why or for what.  And each day it got a little easier, a little more “normal”.  I could park in the middle of the driveway, not worrying about leaving space.  I remembered to put out the trash.  I grocery shopped for just me.  And each day it got a little easier.

My son is back, but working on his own transition and will soon be gone.  I am thankful for the crazy cats, they still greet me and are happy to see me, mostly.  But I know when he goes this time, it will be a little easier, a little more familiar, a little more “normal”.  I know that home, now, is what I create for myself, finally.

Things I Want My Son To Know # 17 ~ Build Yourself A Family

Ok, you may have noticed that our house has always been full of people. There are lots of reasons for this, some complicated, some not. You may also have noticed that we are a small family. Something you may not think about is that we are older than most parents of eighteen year olds. Unfortunately, there will come a time when we will be gone and you will probably be much younger than many when they lose their parents. This is not morbid, it is just a fact. Hopefully you will find a wonderful life partner that makes you happy. I dearly hope you will have children, you will be a wonderful father. That’s where your family will begin.

Make sure you cherish your relationship with your cousin Jax, you are close in age and you are the only ones. And your uncle Bev ~ with any luck he will be around a lot longer than we will. You have two little cousins that will need to know you; don’t forget them.

But in addition to those few family members that you will have, you must fill your life with people that make you happy, inspire you, challenge you to think, tell you the truth and are just plain available. Remember that none of us are perfect; if you strive to have perfect friends you will have none. But different people will fill different needs for you throughout your life.

Your partner will not fill all your needs and that’s ok. Your very best friends are the ones that will tell you when you are being an ass; and you are willing to listen. Some friends will be the best for lively conversation and challenging thought, some friends will just make you laugh and some will be there when things go to hell.

Build yourself a family, fill your life with people who love you and who you love back. Don’t waste time on high-maintenance people, they are not really friends and life is too short. Find family in your Temple community, at least you know you will fit in. Just build yourself a family however you can.

CHURCH REVIEWS??

I was listening to public radio in the car the other day when an essay came on about a new trend on the internet. When people who are church goers are moving from time to time or town to town they can look up the local churches on these web sites. Now these are not the web sites of the actual churches, these are “comment” web sites where anyone can leave a review. This is a weird concept, to say the least. It is weird on a lot of levels. My first and most visceral response to this is the idea that you would choose a house of worship by going on line. I mentioned this to an acquaintance who said that it might eliminate some and make the search easier. I even think that is weird. In some fundamental way, a house of worship is not just a spiritual home but also a family of a sort. To me, it is the sort of thing that you have to experience; first hand. Your immediate actual family you don’t get to choose, the other families you create throughout your life, you do. How do you choose a family without meeting them, hugging them, laughing and crying with them? At least you might want to have a sense of them, a real sense, not a virtual sense. How do you find a spiritual home without praying in it, listening to its leaders, its clergy? But ok, let’s assume you don’t mind finding your spiritual house on the net. On the show I listened to (at least one side of the story) they talked about what a great service this could be, making transitions for folks moving, with an emphasis on military families. What credibility do these “reviews” have? Who are the reviewers? What if the writer is someone with a personal ax to grind against a particular clergy person, or institution? Or its lay leaders? What if the writer is a hater of a particular religion? And regularly spews hate on the local representatives of it? How do you choose a religious home, or a spiritual family based on the opinion of strangers? The show likens the choice to that of choosing a hairdresser, grocery, family doctor, mechanic, etc. While I am certainly not likely to denigrate the importance of the right hairdresser, I’m thinking that the choice of a religious institution might be slightly more important, especially if you are a parent (keeping in mind that your kids really don’t care about your hair). If you are religious in the sense that you look to your house of worship to reinforce your core values and help you teach them to your kids; to create that “family” that acts as extended rold models for your kids, then its influence may extend beyond even that of the family doc in the long view of things. Do you really think it makes sense to allow anonymous (ok they might put their names) folks with their own agendas to drive this decision? Maybe you should choose your dentist on facebook.