Then, Too...

The Sequel to
An Endling and a Beginning

Ellie S. Thomas

Copyright © 2014 by Ellie S. Thomas

Photo of a woman alone on a bench.

After weeks, months, of harsh mourning and grieving I began to think that just maybe I was going to survive, that things were going to go all right, perhap I could cope but then, I really am naive. After the first month's grace period, I was introduced to reality with the news that I'd lost $1,000 a month with pension and social security re-apportionment. That was a blow but I thought I could handle it because I had no desire to go anywhere anyway, had plenty of clothing, and my needs were very small but I congratulated myself too soon because that wasn't the last of the bad news. Within a month, I received notice that I must find another group health insurance plan by the end of the year!

Finding another health plan was difficult as I'd never been aware how the current one worked. I had no idea what we'd been getting, what we'd been paying, how much the employer was kicking in; there was nothing to compare it to. I called The Office For The Aging (which proved to be an invaluable tool) and they began to work with me. They checked things out and were able to inform me of certain advantages if I went this way, or what might happen if I took another path. And they were able to open doors that might not be quite so speedy about opening for me. Later on, when I worked through other problems, when the final bills rolled in with demands for IMMEDIATE payment, our senatorial office was a major help. One mention of that magic name and everyone was more obliging.

We'd had cause to know how valuable these advocates could be when my husband, a veteran of WWII and the Korean War was unable to use his health card provided by Social Security to even get a flu shot! We and they spent many months trying to correct his identify which someone had messed up by transposing the numbers of his birth date. Luckily, Senator Bill Owens was able to get the problem straightened out just weeks before the death. It boggles the mind to think how I'd ever got those final bills taken care of had the files not been corrected in time. It's very encouraging when you find a friend or advocate somewhere close by.

I had been trying hard to do for myself but realized that I was functioning like a robot. The oddest things became my bitterest enemies. I had always cooked for a large family, then as the childen left home, I re-learned how to cook for two. Now, fixing for one is a different matter.

I not only had to learn how to cook for one but how to SHOP for one also. And that isnt easy. We'd never been ones for frozen dinners and that sort of convenience food. And most natural foods seem to be packaged for more than one person. While it may be easy to divide meats and re-package them, fresh things like a cabbage doesnt lend itself to being divided. And many stores still dont offer eggs by the half dozen. I was unable to purchase plain generic yogurt in less than a two-pound container and how do you purchase a couple slices of cheese, or bacon? I resorted to the deli where almost everything cost more but I could buy what I wanted. They were also great at cooking a piece of fish for me with seasoning of my choice. It cost a bit more for the fish, ( the cooking and flavoring were free,) and it was so-o convenient.

I felt like I'd been eviscerated and had little left to work with. I found myself talking with my dead spouse more and felt comforting and eased the feeling of being alone. Others may have noticed my non-functioning, or mal-functioning, and thought I was losing it but until you've been there, don't judge. And God forgive me, I had been one of the harsh judges in the past.

The approach of fall and drawing in of the days only accented my emptiness. Many times I felt uneasy and wished I had someone to be with. The house was so dark and echoing and face it, our lives are filled with horrible things done to the innocent for no good reason. Now I realized why so many older people move in together.

I had been one of the crowd who said what an awful thing this was, indecent, and tut, tut, but after many visits to a nursing home where so many elderly have to be hauled out of bed, lifted into a chair, their unbending bodies assisted in so many ways, common sense told me that there is little romance in old age. Older people get together to avoid being alone! Where one's memory remains intact, the other's vision may be better; where one continues to hear well, a friend may be more mobile. These things put together may spell the difference between expensive nursing care or the ability to remain in the home just a bit longer..and what's better than that?

I felt that I, too, wanted a protector; not that my frail old mate would have been much protection for some time, still, having a warm body in the house was so comforting. Having someone say 'did you take your medicines today?', someone to bounce the days' happenings off of, someone who CARED would make all the difference. But co-habitation could have its drawbacks, too, whether same sex, or bisexual.

If one moved in with a partner who had children, would they look at you with a jaundiced eye, wondering what YOU were after? Would they suspect you were after some more property? Or might they be after YOURS? And would the partner's family wish to visit and bring along a string of noisy, destructive grandchildren? Would the new friend be congenial or a garrulous someone who would take over your quarters, leaving a string of possesions in his/her wake? There would be plenty to consider.

Surprisingly enough I felt the need to talk, make people see what had happened. I wanted to ask: Why did things go on as usual? Why did so few take note of my husband's absence? It seemed that a happening of such epic proportions (to me,) should have brought everything to a crashing halt but the world went blithely on. There were few callers and there were no cards, or calls. The world of lending a shoulder and bringing the funeral meats was long gone by. I was truly on my own.

I internalized the old time mottoes and eternal platitudes and tried to keep busy, tried to get out, meet people but suddenly a snatch of a favorite song would grab me by the throat. The sight of a memo in the loved one's writing would prove my undoing. I sat through church services with tears running down my face but I got through another day.

Much of my own advice comes to haunt me now as I learn a new way of living but what can I say? We are not Stoics, we are by nature and culture, Romantics and love for each other is what makes us what we are. It kept us together for 68 years and I wouldn't change it now.

I hope to stay in my own home as long as I possibly can but time is running out. I am fortunate in having a loving family and they assist me all their busy lives permit but THEY are not young any more and there is always something. There's the recall on the car, the shingles off the roof, the sputtering appliances.

Summing up the lessons of a long life, I guess I have been extraordinarily lucky after all. There have been good times and there have been bad times but after getting knocked down, I've learned to bounce back up. I must not let circumstances defeat me. Who knows what lays in store for me? None of us know that from the day we are born so- bite the bullet and forge ahead. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof!  

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