Part 4: Being Alone
Bob’s death was sudden and unexpected. He had had some typical aging ailments. His hearing loss was frustrating for him and he was never satisfied with his hearing aids. Being a perfectionist, his sight and the fit of his glasses were another annoyance. He took a few pills for blood pressure and thyroid, but nothing too serious.
The Sunday before he went to the hospital we had gone to watch our twelve-year-old grandson play soccer. If you are a soccer watcher, you know how many fields you usually need to cross to get the right game. We had happily done this besides carrying two folding chairs.
It All Happened So Fast
Two days later, it was time to get our boarding passes for our trip to Buffalo, New York for our grandson’s wedding. That day Bob was not feeling well, lying in bed dozing. I suggested we cancel the trip and I wasn’t surprised when he refused, saying he was just tired. Later that day he was shaking in bed and our doctor advised the emergency room. Since he couldn’t get out of bed on his own, I needed to call an ambulance. Three days later he died in the hospital from a lethal bacterial infection, Sepsis.
It all happened so fast. Our children, with the exception of the mother-of-the-groom, miraculously managed to say goodbye to their dad before he died. A few weeks later, we all assembled for a beautiful memorial service at our Senior Residence. My new friends were a wonderful support for me. And life went on.
Death is expected as we age. That was in our minds when we chose this place as our Last Stop. These are very rational plans. I have now learned that no one can prepare oneself for the pain of a loss like this. Bob and I had been married since I was 20 years old, and I missed him tremendously. I still do.
I Had Never Lived Alone
I continued living in our Cottage. Until Bob’s death, I had never lived alone. I loved the Cottage. I had turned our guest bedroom and bath, which were adjacent to the front door, into an office and established a part-time psychotherapy practice there.
Since I had few contacts in the community, most of my referrals were from insurance companies and they kept me busier than I wanted. Two years after Bob’s death, I moved from the Cottage to the Lodge and finally retired after being a psychotherapist for 45 years.
With Bob’s death, there were a few day-to-day life tasks that I needed to master; not serious, but disconcerting when I couldn’t do them. The first one happened immediately. The cork just wouldn’t come out of the wine bottle. Opening wine was Bob’s responsibility. A helpful neighbor rescued me; I had my evening glass of wine, and the next day I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond to buy a corkscrew that I could manage.
Then there were those child-proof pharmacy bottles. Now I’m OK if I let the pharmacy know my limitations when I order, but I don’t always remember. Prior to our move I drove my Subaru, which I loved and cared for, but since we didn’t need two cars anymore, we had sold the Subaru. Bob and I used his car, a SUV Toyota Highlander. It was his car and I just used it. Now I needed to worry about maintenance and insurance for a car that I don’t like.
Taking Care of Myself on My Own
One day I woke feeling quite ill and since I would be flying to Minnesota for a grandson’s college graduation in a few days, I knew I need medical help. I would have asked Bob to drive me to the doctor’s office, but I didn’t have that choice. So, do I bother a friend, a neighbor, my daughter, or do I master this on my own?
I slowly ventured out for the 15-minute drive and returned home, not feeling any better physically, but more confident in my ability to take care of myself on my own. And yes, I did recover and fly to the graduation. That’s another life adjustment. I travel light with a small carry-on case and stand in the aisle in economy class waiting for an offer of help to lift the case into the bin. People are extremely helpful on planes.
Personally, my life is very busy, maybe too busy, but it seems to suit my needs. I write, I play duplicate Bridge, I work hard trying to keep the old body in shape with two intermediate exercise classes, two yoga classes and a Zumba class. I walk on wonderful trails that adjoin our property. I regularly attend a monthly book club, the writers group, and a Great Decisions discussion. I was elected to the Residents’ Advisor Committee and served as Chairman. I usually eat my evening meal in the dining room with friends.
Preparing For the Next Stage of My Life
I have adjusted to being alone as well as one ever does. How fortunate I am to be 15 minutes away from the home of one of my daughters, her husband and three children. They are all my good friends and we have lots of fun together. And they are always there if I need them.
My other three children and their families, who live throughout the United States, are most attentive with visits to me and invitations for me to visit them. Two of my children bought the unsold family home in Snowmass Village and are currently using it as a second home. It’s a great place for family members to gather and a chance to meditate on the mountain where Bob’s ashes were distributed by the wind.
After living in my Cottage for two years after Bob’s death I decided it would be wise to move to the Lodge. It wasn’t because I didn’t love my Cottage life, but rather the reality of preparing for the next stage of my life.
Moving has its challenges; look for my column next month.
Written by Margery Fridstein, an author and retired psychotherapist specializing in child development. Margery currently lives in a continuing care retirement community outside of Denver, CO. She is chronicling her senior living experience in the monthly series, “The Last Stop With Margery Fridstein.”