The prompt at last week’s session of Thursday Writer’s was “Time Alone.” Steve, the sheepishly grinning facilitator apologized, “I wrote these prompts a long time ago.” On the Zoom meeting, I saw knowing smiles, heard laughing and groaning. As usual, I did some writing, not my best, but I kept my pen going. Since then I’ve contemplated the prompt—what is time alone?
In my multiple adult lives—wife, mother, executive, volunteer—I recall relishing ‘alone time.’ Sometimes it was just being able to go to the supermarket without four young children wandering in different directions. Another time it was simply driving my car from my home in Palos Verdes to Los Angeles, or Pacific Palisades. I did some of my best thinking alone in the car and when I got to my desk program ideas, responses to correspondence or newsletter articles flowed easily. It’s similar now, when I walk each day, I sniff the fresh spring air and return to my computer ready to write/create, just as I’m doing with this blog post.
I live alone. For the first 73 years of my life, I lived with others, first my immediate family including my Orthodox grandparents. I was married in 1962 from my parent’s home in Brooklyn. Marv and I became a couple. The first few years of our life together I missed the tumult of my natal home, my parents and brother, my aunt and uncle and four kids who lived upstairs, and my Zayda’s booming voice. Cooking for just two people presented a challenge, and often brought leftovers went to my aunt’s house I knew they’d be devoured by my hungry cousins.
Marv to teased me, “You have a khaki-colored cookbook that says ‘US Army.’” It proved to be a good thing eventually since we expanded to a family of six, and it was not unusual to have one or two neighborhood kids at our dinner table most evenings.
Marv, as most of you reading this know, was a reserved and quiet person. One of my friends once asked, “Does he ever talk to you?”
Of course he spoke to me, all the time. In the last twenty years or so we had desks side by side and worked quietly together. Those were times of comfortable silences, something I miss now that I live alone. Still we spoke constantly about our mutual interests, hopes and dreams, and especially our grandchildren.
Mostly we were joined at the hip but occasionally made separate forays elsewhere, especially to the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Marv attended classes by himself and sat quietly listening to the lectures and discussions. One day a new acquaintance cornered me and asked, “Where have you been hiding him?”
I smiled. She went on to say, “We had lunch with Marv and he has a great sense of humor and is a very smart man.”
I couldn’t have agreed more, of course…others were finding out what I knew about him for more than forty-five years. He was my best-kept secret that was now being revealed to the world.
For the first few weeks after Marv’s too soon passing, the silence was deafening. After the seven days of shiva/ritual mourning, I reclaimed my kitchen, the phone stopped ringing, I had to remember to eat. I was alone, but not lonely. I had my memories, a meager estate, and bank matters to attend to, and one day I put one foot in front of the other and started to build a life as a single woman.
In the last seven years the solitude has become a gift. It’s given me a creative voice I didn’t know I had, and led me into a community of writers that has brought satisfaction beyond measure. Time alone/solitude is a blessing to me—to just throw off my shoes, put my head back, contemplate my navel, and just be me.
Here’s a poem I wrote that will be in my forthcoming debut volume of poetry, “Words Bursting In Air.”
HERE AND NOW: MY LIFE TODAY
I loll in bed
check e-mail and news.
No lunches to pack,
no places to be.
just me in pajamas
contemplate the day.
My disorderly life has order.
Eat when I want
what I want.
Walk on the beach,
work out in the gym.
See friends, perhaps
My time’s my own.
You call my son,
afraid I’ll fall.
I like my solitude,
content in my nest,
mementos of my life
surrounded by pictures,
that comfort me.
You call and ask,
Are you all right?
Still in pj’s, I say.
Relax, someday I’ll die
with my boots on,
or in workout tights.
I love that you care about me
and I’ve loved being your mother.
But I don’t like you being mine.