Friday, November 27, 2009

Solitude after Fifty Two Years

(*My very own picture of my very own kids and my very own porch on my very own house. So... copyright Me 2010. Right?)

He stood on the porch, across the street, just staring into the day.

I was alive with activity. My girls helped me clean out the car, I took photographs of them playing on the porch. Bill came outside every now and then to nod and smile. All was right in our world.

It's an easy day, Thanksgiving. We cook up a few sides and drive all of ten minutes to get to my aunt's. We return to a clean house. It's one of the reasons I love this holiday.

As we put the food in the car my middle one said "What is he looking at?"

I looked up an noticed him, the man across the street.

I waved my arms and yelled, "Hello Lou!" He didn't see me. And I know he can't hear well, so I wasn't offended.... just concerned.

The girls were in the open hatch back of the wagon playing with dolls. "Don't get out." I said.

I crossed our narrow, one way street. "Hi Lou!" I said and caught his attention. "Happy Thanksgiving!"

"Fifty Two Years." He whispered through his throat (he's had a tracheotomy)
"I had her for fifty two years."

And then it all made too much sense. His wife died a few months ago. This was his first holiday without her.

Because there were no words I crossed the unspoken neighbor threshold and went onto his porch. I gave him a hug.
"Fifty two years is a long time." I said.
He wiped a man tear from his eye and nodded.
"I love my husband very much," I said, "I would be lost without him."
"Lost," he echoed.
We stood and looked across the street at my girls playing quietly. I saw my house from a new perspective. Young, full of life and years and hope. Full of the unmade memories of many more holidays together.

I said goodbye and he patted my shoulder. "You have a nice family."

"Thanks Lou."

Back on my side of the street I recognized the future. A gathering of days gone too soon. A time when I will be missed or be missing someone else.

I thanked my middle girl.
"Thanks Tess."
"What for?"
"For noticing."
"Noticing what?"
"Noticing Lou, all alone."
"Because it made me feel Thanksgivingy."
"Okay!" She giggled as she went back to playing with her dolls. And in my mind she was married and visiting and then gone... and it was so happy and so sad.

Fifty two years. And then solitude. I'm in no hurry.


  1. Nor is any of us. Sad that on a day focused on family, the poor man across the street had to deal with the dissolution of his.

    It was good of you to break the neighborly taboo. This called for it.

  2. Thanks Simon, sometimes you have to follow you gut.

    I did ask him also if he had plans, and he told me his children were picking him up. If not, I would have invited him to come with us, and he would have said no. Ah, life.

  3. Awwww, this made me want to cry. It is so sad. Poor Lou! Well, I suppose that it is good that he had her for 52 years, but it is still sad. However, I am glad that it made you feel grateful! Beautiful post Suzy! Hope that you had a good holiday. :o)

  4. You made me teary and remindful of those I love with this post. I proposed a toast to my mother-in-law yesterday. She's been gone a few years but was the one who always brought us all together. I miss her but feel her still in that house--and in my heart.

  5. You, young folks,,please don't forget the "now" but "double please" don't forget the future..That was a great observation you made there, Suzanne(ah)

  6. 52 years, or five years...someone loved is gone, leaving a bleeding sore, a hole where a tooth used to be. Glad you crossed the street. Oh, and for once, imagination and reality match. I pictured your house looking like that.

  7. Oh, so sad! I always have trouble enjoying the holidays because I know what a lonely time it is for so many people.

  8. I'm in no hurry, either.

    As I sat on our stained living room carpet playing Pet Shops and Bak-u-gons this morning, I thought, I'm in no hurry, either.

    Two year olds grow way too fast. As do six year old twins and their eight year old sister.

    Thank you for helping me feel Thanksgivingy, too.

  9. Oh, poor Lou! I bet it meant a lot to him that you took the time to go over. And very glad to hear that he had dinner with his children to look forward to. Happy Thanksgiving!

  10. Holidays are always very hard for those people who are alone or who have lost loved ones, thank you for being kind to Lou.....:-) Hugs

  11. Wow. That is so hard.

    How sweet of you to go over. I'm so glad you did. =)

  12. Your house is so beautiful and perfect. Oh and that poor man missing his wife - so sad. Your swee for going over to him - it's not always easy to do that.

  13. Thanks for the good cry. Sometimes you just need one.

  14. Oh Suzanne, so so so good! Thanks for hugging that old man. I wanted to hug him before you said you did and when you did I hugged him too. I am always up for a trip into your world. And that house. OH. WOW. I. WANT. ONE. :)

  15. I've only been up this Saturday a.m. long enough to let the dogs out and get a cup of coffee, and you've already given me my first cry of the day. I've had many this week, brought on by the sentimental thoughts that holidays always bring, and by petty thoughts of feeling sorry for myself that I no longer host the Thanksgiving dinners. Also because your house is the 'after' photo of a 100 year old house we bought in 1980, that we were going to fix up and make into our forever home, and then lost to forecloser five years later in an economy that had gone bust. The next owners did fix it up, but it's still, in my mind's eye, my house. So I envy you your house and your porch!

    But back to your post! Once again, you got to the heart of the matter. My daughter's 86yr old grandfather-in-law lost his wife a couple of years ago, and the loss at his age was so profound that it was palpable, especially at the holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. He, too, had children to fill the void, but I'm sure it is never the same.

    I always wonder how many people there must be out there, those who have no one to spend the holidays with for whatever reason, no spouse or children or friends - and the people who are unaware of the situation. Glad you noticed this one and checked on him! It would have been so easy to just pull out of the driveway and give a generic wave as you drove by.

  16. Brought renewed awareness to the cycles of life and the kindness of reaching out. Thank you for a lovely post.

  17. This was beautifully written. Full of emotion, but soooo very real.

    I love to read your blog. It makes me feel.


  18. You're a kind lady, Suzanne.
    I'm interested in how you depict how cyclical life is, it's how I've been feeling recently. And I need the reminder that this stage won't last!