I am embarrassed to admit it, but my first thought was that she would be alone. All alone.
I should be embarrassed; maybe I should even be ashamed. I know that I cultivate, have cultivated, will continue to cultivate relationships. I know that I create friendships, relationships, a sense of other in my life. But my first thought, when I heard that he died in that accident, that it was so sudden and unexpected, that he was dead, my first thought was that she was all alone. She had no one now.
I should know better. I should believe better. That will be me that one day.
It’s just. . .well, look. Frank* and Cassandra didn’t ever have children. I don’t know why, I didn’t ask. I know he had children from his first marriage, but after 15 years they didn’t ever have them together. And suddenly, quite young, he was dead. There she is with a house and travel plans and 2 cars and all of the trappings of togetherness and she’s alone. There’s a life time of shared memories and no one to share them with. We hold on to the good times and make sense of the bad times by sharing stories. Very often our partner is the closest participant in the best and worst times of our lives.
I cannot help but think, when that partner dies, we lose part of our story.
One day Mr. Spit will die. Statistics tell me that he will likely die before me. He is older and male, and right now as a woman I am apt to live longer.
One day I will be Cassandra. It could be any day, really. If I have learned nothing in these almost four years, I have learned that tragedy can strike without warning, arriving into any life.
I like that song, Live Like You Were Dying, but the truth is, you can’t live like that. Real life intrudes. You can’t live each day as if it were the last. Living life well actually requires that you believe your life is an ongoing concern. You pay your bills, buy groceries for next week, put money aside for trips and plan celebrations. You live as if you have a future. You plan to make more memories, to continue the story together.
One day Mr. Spit, this man who is my comfort, my shield, my laughter, my joy, my companion and my delight, will be gone. I will still be here. I will live without him. When he is gone, he will only live in my memories. I know that when he is gone, I will follow. Perhaps shortly or perhaps many years later.
It’s not the following part. It’s the in-between. The time I am here and he is not. I would wish that I could go first, but I think that simply replaces my pain with his. It doesn’t make me feel any more at ease to transfer my sorrow to him. One of us will be alone.
So what? The experts tell me that those of us who are childfree develop friendships and relationships to help us as we age.
Isn’t that a bit calculating? Think, just for a second. Shall I walk up to a woman like me, a woman without children and ask “Will you be my friend? For now, but also when I am old? Will you be my friend because at some point bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh will die, and I have no children and I will need a friend? I am a good friend and I am willing to do this for you as well?” And shall I find a man, a man who is handy and shall I tell him that I put a hole in my finger with a cordless drill and I cannot use a hammer to save my life, and will he be my friend? I will bake him cookies and knit him the odd pair of socks and remember his birthday and have no expectations other than a sincere wish that he understands the inward mysteries of toilets. Shall I go looking, calculatingly, for others to tell my story to, when Mr. Spit is gone?
Is this what people do? Perhaps they are not so calculating, perhaps they do not engage in my tendency to think everything out to the nth degree.
Cassandra is alone, Frank is dead, and one day so shall my husband be. The story, the memories, all it will end.
And I will be alone.
Do you worry more after the death of your child, about what happens when your partner dies? Do you agree that our partners very often share the closest parts of our story? Do you wonder who will keep the good and the bad parts of the story, the closest memories of what made you, you?
*It is always a struggle when you blog, to write your own thoughts and stories and deal lightly with the places that your stories and thoughts intersect with the lives of others. The story is true, but I have altered names and circumstances, choosing to deal lightly with a person in grief.