Alone…So So Alone…
The holidays are always tough for me (and for many others with whom I sympathize).
When my second husband died, on New Year’s Day, 1986, it was as if I sat in a minefield, smoke clearing all about… stunned I was still alive. It had been a terrible two years….two years that tested me more than any other period in my life.
Oh, nothing had been easy before. I divorced my first husband who was abusive and lacked all sense of responsibility. At the age of 25, I left him tho’ I had no job…no money…and an 8 month old baby (Note—Nobody does that if she can help it.). I went home to a father who was none-too-pleased with my decision. He made me painfully aware of his displeasure for the 5 months we lived with them.
In September, I got my teaching job back (I’d been on maternity leave) and hired a full time caretaker for my year-old daughter (my mother did not wish to babysit). My baby and I moved into a 2nd floor apartment devoid of all furnishings except a mattress on the floor for me and a crib for her. I bought a kitchen table and 2 chairs at a 2nd hand shop. I couldn’t buy a couch and chair until 3 months into the year, when I saved enough from my teacher’s pay. To say we lived frugally is an understatement.
My car was a Chevy Malibu that broke down often. Cars in the day weren’t expected to run with 150,000 mileage on the odometer. It would be spring before I saved enough money for a down payment for a new car–a matchbox Datsun, the least expensive model.
Over the next years, I dated only infrequently. It was just too hard to have a relationship (or even meet anyone) while I single-parented a young child.
Six years later I married again– to another man I’d discover had “control issues.” After the marriage ceremony, I got schooled in how it would go: I’d be subordinate to him in all ways. His temper insured I got that message.
We’d be married a total of 8 difficult years. Following 2 years of illness, he died on New Years Day 1986, at the age of 53. At 41, I became a young widow.
My best friend and chief support lost her husband at this same time. He’d died unexpectedly when they were on a 2nd honeymoon to Italy, where he had family. She’d brought his body home and then, for two weeks, she had non-stop relatives at her house, bringing casseroles, platters of food, wine, etc. They wrapped her in comfort.
Thinking it would be the same for us, she came over the night before my husband’s funeral (we’d had the wake in the afternoon). As she pulled up in her car, she asked “Where is everybody?” I said “Who?” She said “Your family?”
I said “They’re at my mother’s house (in West Warwick). My Mom had stopped in earlier in the day, when I scuttled around, trying to get a babysitter for my younger daughter who was 5. It was at that point Mom told me she couldn’t watch her, for she “needed to get home to vacuum before your brother (from Connecticut) comes.”
My friend was stunned.
The next day went thus…We all went to the funeral; I had a small reception at my house; friends stayed away because they thought my family would be center stage.
The sad reality? Everyone left after the reception and my girls and I stared at each other in a now empty house– from early afternoon on. There’d be no comfort foods…no casseroles…no embracing arms. We were alone.
Our only accompaniment? The many floral arrangements the funeral director left, heavily perfuming the air.
My 2 girls and I persevered, pretty much alone, over the next many years, through dogged determination. But our training ground was a tough one.
Why do I write of these times? To give others hope that no matter what seems like unending trials, you can get through…even go higher. In the process, you give your children important life lessons along the way.
***From Colleen Kelly Mellor’s not-yet-published autobiography, “In the Shadow of Princes.”