They rarely mean to be cruel.
I hope, anyway.
When I was newly widowed, an old friend traveled across five states to help me with the post funeral stuff.
He cleaned, and did yard work, and helped sort through the pity lasagna.
I love the phrase “pity lasagna.” I read it in a book. It fits perfectly. Why is it that death attracts pasta, of all the easily frozen foods? No one ever sends meat loaf.
And I am in a position to know, because, in a two year period, my mother, husband, favorite sister in law, father in law, and another sister in law all died, of unrelated things.
That’s a lot of pity lasagna. And house plants. Lots and lots of house plants.
So anyway, my friend, sorting the pasta and putting it in the chest freezer, said, “When the novelty wears off, you will still need help.”
Which has proven to be very true, and exponentially sad. Newly widowed, with a five year old, I had lots of pity lasagna. Two months later we had eaten the food but I was still widowed, and had no child care, no more yard help, no support of any kind. (PS Old friend went virtuously home to his wife. Pass the popcorn.)
Two years later, the IRS decided I should have found a husband by now, and said I could no longer claim a tax status of “widowed.” I had to change to “head of household,” which is not much more expensive but still a slap in the face.
The overused but accurate phrase “perfect storm” is my social situation. I really don’t know anyone quite as isolated. I of course know some single mothers. But none with no parents or in laws. I know people whose parents died young. But none of them is also widowed.
I get left out of a lot of things that only couples get invited to. And I hope and pray that the only reason is that I am not in a couple. I hope that it is only that I am not in a couple, because I don’t want to face that people hate me that much to leave me out, knowingly.
My two best friends moved away shortly before the torrent of family deaths happened. And the phone, the internet, are not a substitute when you saw people every day. The perfect storm of isolation continues.
When I turned 50 the doctor told me I had to get a colonoscopy and told me to make sure my husband picked me up after. So I didn’t get one.
You’d think I could find the bright spot of isolation—which would be privacy—but society or fate or something laughs at my trying to find that. For example, since I am the only adult in the house, I repeatedly tell doctor’s offices or stores where I have placed orders that they can go ahead and leave a detailed message on the answering machine.
They won’t. It is beyond conception that no one else hears the message. I have now told my pharmacist six times to just leave the message when the order is ready, that no bad guy is going to break into my house and play with my answering machine. Nope. They waste my time by saying “call for information.” For fux sake. They keep telling me that “for my privacy” they won’t leave a message.
Believe me, assholes, I have privacy.
Isolation can be expensive. I was in my therapist’s office complaining of the financial stress. I am lucky enough to have a professional job and that sometimes means business trips. Normally a parent who must travel has the other parent to take care of children. When that is not practical there are usually two sets of grandparents. Because none of those people is available, when I go out of town I have to hire someone to move in to my house to care for my child. I was complaining to my therapist about the extra expense, and how I can’t refuse a business trip because I need that job, being the sole support of two people, and she said, “Oh, that is so sad.”
My god. I know it is sad. No one knows how sad it is as I do. But it is also an expensive pain in the ass.
The year after my husband died, no one remembered my birthday. Of course they didn’t. There weren’t a lot of people alive to remember, and, in the previously mentioned storm, my two best friends, and my boss, whom I had known half my life, also forgot. Since my husband had died two weeks after my birthday that previous year I had a good memory of a house full of cards and food—everyone was sad that he had died, but a year later no one was happy I was alive.
I idiotically—I was so sad I had to tell someone—mentioned this to a friend from High School, that I saw at my work. She said, so puzzled, “Oh. You handled all you got with such grace I had no idea you were hurting.”
It is not, of course, anyone’s job to fill the voids for me. No one will come and be my mother or father or husband now that they are dead. No one will, and I admit no one should, fill those voids just because the voids exist.
I am well aware that if my only problem is loneliness I am streets ahead of those in poverty, or those facing deadly diseases, or gang violence. I maintain that I am allowed to own my feelings: Isolation stings. I hate it. I am allowed to.
(If you are interested in why I don’t have a partner, I have several Match.com entries. Briefly, for some reason it is true: Men seek women twenty or even thirty years younger than themselves. I didn’t believe this until I experienced it. And not only will I not date a man twenty years my senior because it is sexist bullshit, I have already been widowed. Once is quite enough for this.)
But you’d think someone would bear in mind, when planning things, that I have no one. Other people who get snubbed at party invitations can weep with their partners or parents or in laws. All of mine are gone. Does anyone ever think that leaving me out hurts many many times more than it would for someone who HAS people?
Therapists pretty much tell me it sucks to be me, that there is no way to FORCE the world to give me the support that so many people take for granted. There is no fix to it. I will continue to be alone, because I am alone.
It goes the other way, too. I mean, being isolated in joy also has its sting. I received an honor, one I worked for, and received it in front of three hundred people.
And I went home realizing I had no one to call.
I had no one to call.